The O-line tries to get back in line

The Boise State offensive line was supposed to be an area of strength this season. Boise State returned all five starters on its offensive line this season. It was supposed to be an area of strength for the Broncos. The O-line’s lack of dominance has been one of the year’s big surprises. BSU’s sack numbers are stratospheric—and we’re talkin’ the wrong stratosphere. Bronco quarterbacks have been sacked 19 times, No. 100 in the country. Four of them came last week in the rout at the hands of Utah State. Coach Bryan Harsin is quick to point out that some of it is on quarterback Brett Rypien, who needs to sidestep or move up in the pocket, as the case may be. But right tackle Steve Baggett doesn’t deflect responsibility. “I think overall we just haven’t been playing very well,” said Baggett bluntly. “We’ve just got to pull it together.” That’s the task tomorrow night against Wyoming.

On the periphery of the inconsistent offense are two more sore spots—Boise State is averaging only 3.91 rushing yards per carry, and its third-down conversion rate is down to 35 percent, 96th in the country. Wyoming was the polar opposite of the Broncos last week while winning its first game of the season, 28-21 over Nevada. The Pokes didn’t turn the ball over, didn’t allow a sack, and delivered a balanced attack with 272 rushing yards and 213 passing. Yet here’s one of those old wacky WAC-type point spreads for tomorrow night’s game: Boise State by 35 points.

Not to say that Boise State wasn’t mentally tough last week at Utah State, but it was not the Broncos’ most focused effort of the season. They were very different last November in Laramie. Conversely, Wyoming coach Craig Bohl didn’t mask his disappointment in his team’s moxie in the 63-14 loss to Boise State that night. He thought the Pokes just played lip service to their “Cowboy Tough” slogan. “You’ve got to put your hand in the dirt and play that way,” said Bohl. Now that the Pokes know they can win, they’ll come out energized tomorrow night. But I’d expect a serious rise in concentration in this one from the Broncos.

This was announced before Boise State’s bad night in Logan—it’s even more timely now as we wonder what the crowd will be like tomorrow night. As of yesterday, there were 29,148 tickets distributed (that’s behind the pacing for Idaho State). The Broncos need to spur ticket sales for the three remaining home games of the season, and they unveiled a three-game mini plan for the Wyoming, New Mexico and Air Force dates. The package is $140 ($90 for juniors). North end zone single-game tickets are also available for $29. The athletic department had no doubt planned for this after season ticket purchases were required to get seats for the opener against Washington.

The Game of the Week in the Mountain West is obviously Utah State at San Diego State tonight. The atmosphere will be very different for the Aggies following the wild scene at Maverik Stadium last Friday. Attendance will be higher at Qualcomm Stadium, but 30,000-ish fans in a 71,000-seat facility can make things pretty sleepy. The Aztecs will have to get a great effort from their defense, because their offense isn’t going to score much on USU. Elsewhere, there are a couple competitive matchups, Hawaii at Nevada and New Mexico at San Jose State, while Air Force is a heavy favorite at home over Fresno State.

Bowl eligibility hopes have suddenly started to bubble in Moscow. Idaho, now 2-4, has 1-5 Louisiana-Monroe in the Kibbie Dome tomorrow for homecoming, and the Vandals take on winless New Mexico State next week on the road. Wins in those contests would even their record at 4-4 and create a mountain of momentum. Just past the halfway point of his sophomore year, Matt Linehan is about to climb into Idaho’s top 10 in career passing yards. Linehan has thrown for 3,838 yards—next season he should reach his dad, Scott, who is sixth in Vandal history at 7,018 yards. Linehan will be playing into Louisiana-Monroe’s strength tomorrow, though—the Warhawks are 29th in the country, allowing 187.2 passing yards per game.

It’s one thing to face a top five team—it’s another to take on the same one twice. The College of Idaho, which lost to No. 2 Southern Oregon 42-27 last month, faces the defending NAIA national champion Raiders again tomorrow in Ashland. SOU has won five straight games and has taken down Montana Western and Carroll College on consecutive weekends. Too tall a task? Well, the Coyotes defense has made tremendous strides since the first game between these two teams. The Yotes stymied one of the Frontier Conference’s top offenses last Saturday at Simplot Stadium, holding Rocky Mountain College to just 143 yards rushing and forcing four turnovers in a 38-17 victory.

I talked yesterday about the fall portion of the PGA Tour season being important to Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge in establishing himself as a tour player. Well, Aldridge is firmly established at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. He was seven-under through the 16th hole yesterday and was, in effect, tied for the lead when the first round was suspended by darkness—David Hearn, Michael Thompson and Mark Hubbard were in the clubhouse on top witht seven-under 64’s. At the other end, former Boise State stars Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt will have to surge to make the cut, as they’re tied for 113th after shooting one-over 72’s.

Boise State hoops fans get to see the men’s squad in uniform for the first time this fall when the Broncos hold their annual open scrimmage tomorrow at 6 p.m. James Webb III will draw some fans into Bronco Gym. A year ago, he was a 6-9 curiosity coming off a redshirt year. Now he’s a preseason first-team All-Mountain West pick. Other Boise State basketball news: no booze for basketball in Taco Bell Arena for now. The State Board of Education has turned down Boise State’s request to serve alcohol to invited guests at pregame basketball functions.

As Boise State men’s tennis standouts compete at the USTA/ITA Regional Championships in Albuquerque, coach Greg Patton is getting a new assistant settled in. Patton has hired Eric Diaz, a former player for perennial power Georgia, to be his righthand man with the Broncos. In fact, he’s the son of Bulldogs coach Manny Diaz, who has won four national championships. Eric Diaz is also a member of the Puerto Rican Davis Cup team that just won its first match over Costa Rica.

On the pro front, the Idaho Steelheads resume their three-game road series against Alaska tonight. The Steelheads’ Andre Bouvet-Morrissette is tied for second in ECHL scoring with five points, the last one coming on a game-tying goal Wednesday night (Idaho went on to win 4-3 in a shootout). And E.J. Singler, who was allocated to the Idaho Stampede back when they were a Portland affiliate, appears headed for Boise again. The Utah Jazz have signed the former Oregon star, and the plan—according to Salt Lake media—is to waive Singler so they can send him to the Stampede. The 6-foot-6 Singler spent last season playing in Estonia, where he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BACON…no slogan necessary—it’s Bacon!

October 23, 1976: In a 45-0 defeat of Navy in Annapolis, Pittsburgh running back Tony Dorsett breaks the all-time college rushing record of Ohio State’s two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin. Dorsett eclipsed the mark on a 32-yard touchdown run. On the day, Dorsett would rushed for 180 yards and also become the first player to run for over 1,000 in four different seasons. He’d go on to win the Heisman himself later that year.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.