These guys can shift on the fly

It was 41-14, the sequel. Boise State won by that score for the second straight week in dismantling a rebuilding Nevada squad on the blue turf Saturday night. The Broncos have shown a penchant for adjustment this season, perhaps a sign of developing chemistry on this coaching staff. It was evident again Saturday. The Wolf Pack came out with a six minute, 15-second, punch-in-the-mouth 75-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. The Pack pulled off another 75-yarder early in the second quarter to go up 14-10. After that, though, Boise State yielded zero points and 138 yards to a team that had rolled up some big numbers in October. The Broncos picked up three more interceptions and now have 11 for the season, four more than all of last season.

Boise State made a calculated decision to throw the ball in this game. And throw the Broncos did. Brett Rypien, Montell Cozart and Cedrick Wilson (yes, Cedrick Wilson) combined for 339 yards through the air. It was the second straight stellar week for Rypien, who completed 74 percent of his throws for 258 yards and two touchdowns. But what Rypien will be remembered for in this game will be his impressions. He went all Frank Caliendo, looking like Wilson on a spectacular sideline catch in the first quarter, taking the ball away from a Nevada cornerback. And Rypien did his best Cozart impression on a 14-yard quarterback draw to set up the final Boise State touchdown.

Eleven different players caught passes for Boise State. Challenge me on this if you like, but I’m going to declare that this is the first time in history that two Bronco quarterbacks have caught passes in the same game. And Cozart’s reception from Wilson was not your ordinary double-pass throwback to the QB. Usually you see the quarterback circle out into the flat on that play, but as soon as Cozart threw his backward pass to Wilson, he bolted right up the middle and gathered in the toss for a 31-yard gain. And we’ve gotta mention Jake Roh. The dagger 25-yard touchdown catch just before halftime was his seventh of the season, tying him for the national lead among tight ends. The seven TD catches also equal the most by a Bronco tight end since Jeb Putzier set the school record for the position with 12 in 2001.

With the victory comes the clinching of Boise State’s 20th consecutive winning season. How rarified is that air? It’s a longer current streak than Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Clemson, Oklahoma (need I go on?). Here’s the big picture. This is the 50th season of Bronco football as a four-year program, and there have been 44 winning seasons, one .500 campaign (at 5-5-1), and just five losing seasons in all that time. There have also been 22 seasons of 10 wins or more, and that is still in play this year despite the despair so many felt at the end of September. Suddenly thoughts of a 10-win season aren’t so outrageous. But there’s a lot of football to play, sports fans.

So what to make of the Mountain Division race in the Mountain West now that Boise State has improved to 5-0 in conference? The Broncos need two wins in their final three regular season games to go the MW championship game. That’s because Colorado State couldn’t preserve a 13-9 lead in the fourth quarter in snowy Laramie and lost the Border War with Wyoming—and the Bronze Boot that goes with it—16-13. The Rams, who had such high hopes for a title this season, are all but out of the race with two league losses now and look forward to taking out their frustrations on the Broncos this Saturday in their sparkling new stadium.

Man, Nick Calzaretta’s going to be fun to watch the next three years. The College of Idaho true freshman rushed for 162 yards and five touchdowns as the Coyotes thumped a ranked Montana Tech team 64-35 Saturday in Simplot Stadium. One of the fascinating things about a team that took 37 years off from the gridiron is the record book. Calzaretta’s five TDs tied a Yotes record that dates back to 1953. The 64 points were the most by C of I since 1961. Quarterback Darius-James Peterson became the first Yote with 1,000 yards since 1957. Now, at 5-5, College of Idaho seeks its first winning season since the return of football in 2014 this Saturday when it closes the season against Montana State-Northern in Caldwell.

When I wrote about Matt Linehan’s health Friday, I forgot Idaho has two bye weeks this season. The second one is this week, so the Vandals are holding out hope that Linehan can return from the injury to his throwing arm (or hand) he suffered at Troy in time for the game against Coastal Carolina a week from this Saturday. Linehan now has 10,772 passing yards for his career, 52 short of the Idaho career record held by Doug Nussmeier. There is no such hope for Eagle High grad Tanner Mangum. The BYU quarterback went down with a season-ending Achilles injury in the fourth quarter of the Cougars’ 20-13 loss to Fresno State at Bulldog Stadium Saturday night.

Dan Hawkins made a rather triumphant coaching return to the state of Idaho Saturday. In his first game in the Gem State since Boise State’s 27-21 loss to Boston College in the 2005 edition of what is now the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Hawkins’ UC Davis Aggies pounded Idaho State 56-17 Saturday in Holt Arena. His quarterback, Jake Maier, threw for 358 yards and three touchdowns as Davis upped its overall record to 5-4 and evened its Big Sky mark at 3-3. ISU had to play the second half without quarterback Tanner Gueller, who took one too many shots to his torso in the first half. Gunnar Amos, the Coeur d’Alene High grad who transferred from Idaho, came on and threw two interceptions, one of them an exclamation-point pick-six.

Pro wrap for the weekend—after falling 4-3 in overtime to Colorado Friday night, the Idaho Steelheads entertained a full house in CenturyLink Arena Saturday with a 7-3 victory over the Eagles. It was punctuated by a four-goal third period, with two of the tallies coming from Connor Chatham, his first two of the season. The Steelies took two of three in their series against the defending Kelly Cup champions. And Troy Merritt left some money on the table yesterday at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. The former Boise State star ballooned to a five-over 76 in the final round and finished in a tie for 51st, earning $16,003.

This Day In Sports…November 6, 1971:

Dan Hawkins and Chris Petersen were too young to think about playing or coaching for UC Davis, but Mike Bellotti, future head coach at Oregon, was already there. It’s called the Aggies’ “Miracle Minute” game. Trailing Cal State Hayward 29-14 in the final minute of the contest, Davis got a touchdown and two-point conversion to get within seven. Then the Aggies recovered an onside kick with 15 seconds left, and Bellotti scored a TD on the final play from scrimmage to make it 29-28. UC Davis went for two and got it, winning 30-29.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)