Broncos football: Take what they give you

It was the epitome of bend-but-not-break. Boise State gave up those well-documented 317 first-half yards to Utah State Saturday morning while still shutting the Aggies out. USU had only 126 yards of total offense in the second half, and in the end, never got into the end zone in the Broncos’ 27-3 victory. The Aggies had runs of 41, 35 and 22 yards and rushed for 235 overall. They averaged 16 yards per completion and got out of some dicey third-down situations. But the Broncos gobbled up the red zone, collected three turnovers, and were helped by 13 Utah State penalties and one of the strangest fake punt calls you’ll ever see. It was the eighth time Boise State has held an opponent without a touchdown in a road game in the 21st century—but the first time in 11 years. And it was a brilliant bounce-back.


It was a complicated running game Boise State unveiled at Utah State Saturday morning, with offensive coordinator Tim Plough directing from the field for the first time after players requested it. It was a good move, with Plough able to keep his fingers on his game plan. Three wide receivers and two quarterbacks carried the ball on designed run plays, and they gained 84 yards on 19 carries, 4.4 yards a pop. The Broncos’ three primary running backs, George Holani, Cyrus Habibi-Likio and Andrew Van Buren, had 54 yards in 18 carries—most of it by Holani late. Tyler Crowe gained 20 yards in mopup, and two sacks of Hank Bachmeier netted minus-10. The 148 yards Boise State gained for the day was good, but the 3.5 yards per carry isn’t what it needs to be. The Broncos will take it, though.


Boise State’s defense has been pretty good in the second half since the UCF game. The offense has not—in any game with the possible exception of UTEP. At Utah State, while playing it a bit safer as they protected their lead, the Broncos totaled 199 yards after the intermission against the Aggies. The third quarter, of course, is what it’s all about after Boise State mustered minus-7 yards in that period at UCF and just three versus Oklahoma State. The Broncos gained 109 yards in the third quarter at Maverik Stadium, including 77 passing yards from Bachmeier and his first touchdown pass (to Khalil Shakir).


What can you say about Scott Matlock’s game? As Utah State was rolling up 192 yards in the first quarter, it seemed like a miracle that the Aggies were even having to line up for a field goal late in the period. Then Connor Coles’ 41-yard attempt was blocked by Matlock. In the second quarter the Homedale High grad delivered a sack on USU quarterback Andrew Peasley. The third quarter was rather pedestrian by this day’s standards, with Matlock adding one tackle. But then in the fourth, he pulled in a fat-guy touchdown on a three-yard pass from Bachmeier. Matlock lined up at tight end and snuck into the back of the end zone, wide open. Poetic in a game that saw Matlock help keep the Aggies from doing the same thing.


It’s going to be a controversial week as the showdown with Nevada approraches. Late Friday, Boise State issued a release that said in part, “According to preliminary results from an institution-wide survey, our campus (faculty, staff and students) vaccination rate is approximately 88 percent. Additionally, our campus positivity rate for the past week was 3 percent, a 46 percent drop since last week and a 64 percent drop from our peak. We will not require all ticket holders to provide a negative COVID test result or meet university testing exemption to gain entry to the next home football game.” Good for Boise State. But students will account for only 5,000 of the fans attending this Saturday’s game. What does this have to do with the other 30,000 or so expected to pack into Albertsons Stadium?


Fresno State must have been reading its press clippings last week (and there were lots of them after the win over UCLA). The Bulldogs were on upset alert Friday night before rallying past UNLV 38-30. But Fresno State benefitted from Saturday’s Top 25 carnage and jumped four spots to No. 18 in the AP Poll despite the scare. They’re No. 21 in the Coaches Poll. Elsewhere in the Mountain West, San Diego State ripped FCS Towson 48-21 Saturday night and is knocking on the door of the Top 25. On the “others receiving votes” list, the Aztecs are second in line to get in the AP rankings and third on the Coaches side. And Wyoming is 4-0. However, the Cowboys got there Saturday by coming from behind for a 24-22 win at UConn, one of the worst FBS teams in the land.


The best game by a former Boise State Bronco in the NFL Sunday came from Minnesota’s Alexander Mattison, hands-down. With star running back Dalvin Cook injured, Mattison stepped in and rushed for 112 yards against the Seahawks, exactly as many as he did last year in Seattle. This time, however, it was in a 30-17 win rather than a 27-26 loss. Mattison rushed 18 times for 76 yards in the second half, but it was more than just the running game. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins called on Mattison repeatedly on screen routes, and he added 59 yards on six catches. It was his best overall NFL performance.


Defense has emerged as the centerpiece of College of Idaho’s football season so far. It manifested itself again Saturday in a 24-7 upset of No. 11 Eastern Oregon in La Grande. The Coyotes held the Mountaineers to just 259 yards of total offense in their fifth consecutive win over C of I’s I-84 rivals. The aptly-named Tanner Sackman logged a pair of sacks for the Yotes, and Cade Flint recorded a quick pick-six, returning an interception five yards for a touchdown. The victory moved College of Idaho a four-way tie atop the Frontier Conference with Rocky Mountain, Montana Western and Eastern Oregon at 3-1.

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September 27, 1998: Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals hits his 69th—and, in his final at-bat—his seemingly impossible (for good reason, as it turns out) 70th home run of the season. By hitting five homers in his final three games, he finally pulled away from the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa in the home run race, 70-66. Both players had earlier shattered Roger Maris’ 38-year-old major league record of 61 homers in a single season. The American League home run champion that season was the untainted Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners, who clubbed 56 homers for the second straight season.

(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.)

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