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Friday, September 6, 2019.
Boise State has had a 100-yard rusher in five consecutive games (Alexander Mattison four, Robert Mahone one). For his part, Mahone almost topped 100 by halftime of last week’s win at Florida State. Marshall has a streak of 15 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher and held VMI to 56 yards on the ground last Saturday. So it’ll be push-come-to-shove in the ground game tonight on the blue turf. Even if the Thundering Herd holds Mahone under the century mark, the Broncos have options. True freshman George Holani was impressive in his Bronco debut, rushing for 70 yards on 14 carries and making two catches for 33 yards, piercing the red zone on both. I’d say advantage Boise State.
Truth be told, there have been hints of success from Mahone the past two years. As a redshirt freshman in 2017, he was the only Boise State runner who had a whisker of success in the loss to Virginia. As a result, Mahone got the start in the next game at BYU. He fumbled on the Broncos’ first possession, though, and that opened the door for Alexander Mattison’s first 1,000-yard season. When Mattison was shaken up at Colorado State, Mahone came on and scored a touchdown during Boise State’s incredible rally from 25 points down. When Mattison could barely run going into the Las Vegas Bowl, Mahone filled in with 34 yards on 12 carries. Here’s a big key moving forward, though: Mahone got high marks throughout the Florida State game for pass protection from ESPN analyst Greg McElroy (who did a great job, by the way).
Well, we have our first sampling of Hank Bachmeier. The scary thing is how much better he can be. Bachmeier completed a pedestrian 59 percent of his throws at Florida State, but he was at 74 percent in the second half. His pass efficiency rating was 128.4, 79th in the country, but it masks the essence of his storybook debut. Bachmeier was sacked five times by the Seminoles. Some of those were on the offensive line, but some were on him. He’s gotta be aware of the blindside—and hang onto the ball. If John Ojukwu, who suffered a “non-season ending” knee injury at FSU, is out tonight on the offensive line, the young and enthusiastic Jake Stetz will be a crucial piece of Bachmeier’s protection at left guard.
There’s a deceiving number involving the Boise State defense—at least fans hope it is. The Broncos’ defensive pass efficiency rating is 177.6. That’s 117th in the country. The first half in Tallahassee tilted the scales, with Florida State striking for three plays of 30-plus yards, two of them touchdowns covering 75 and 58 yards. That was it for the game, though. Athlon warned in its preview of tonight’s game: “Boise State can be thrown on.” The team allowed 22 pass plays of 30 or more yards last year. But maybe we saw the real 2019 Broncos in the second half at FSU. One of the guys in the secondary during the rebound was Tyreque Jones, the primary fill-in for the injured DeAndre Pierce at safety.
MORA KNOWS HANK
KTVB’s Jay Tust interviewed ESPN analyst Jim Mora Thursday and came up with a couple of little-known facts. Mora recruited Bachmeier two years ago when he was head coach at UCLA and remembers Hank coming to games. And—Mora now lives in Ketchum, so he follows Boise State more than most. With that said, he has a unique perspective on Bachmeier. “The ability to overcome adversity—y’know, he took some serious shots early in that game,” said Mora. “There was a play late in the game when he steps right into the face of two rushers and delivers a strike over the middle.” Mora thought Bachmeier was the country’s best freshman last week. “I loved him,” Mora said. “To me, the newcomer that burst on the scene in the most impressive way was Hank. It was off the charts. It gives me goosebumps to see that.”
MW POWER 5 PROGRESSION, PART II
The Mountain West already has as many wins over Power 5 schools (four) as it did during the entire regular season last year. And prospects are good for at least two more on Saturday, as two MW teams play Power 5 foes at home. Hawai’i is the favorite over Oregon State, and Fresno State is only a slight underdog to Minnesota. I like the Bulldogs’ chances. San Diego State also has a shot at UCLA—if the Aztecs can figure out a way to score some points. They beat Weber State 6-0 last week. Nevada’s the one team that’s a definitive underdog to P-5 opposition. Oregon is favored by 24½ points over the Wolf Pack. A game of particular note out of the conference: BYU at Tennessee. Are the Cougars getting the Volunteers at a good time? Tennessee was shocked 38-30 last week by Georgia State, which was 2-10 last year.
IN-STATE ON THE GRIDIRON
Just as Idaho’s season can’t be judged on the rout at Penn State, Saturday’s home opener versus Division II Central Washington won’t be used as a barometer. Bottom line: the Vandals will probably come out 1-1. They’re expected to have last year’s leading tackler, Christian Elliss, back on the field. Elliss was suspended for the PSU game back in April after being arrested for shoplifting. Coach Paul Petrino never waffled, and Elliss was not in Happy Valley. College of Idaho, riding a seven-game winning streak, plays its first road game Saturday, visiting Montana Tech. The Orediggers thumped the Coyotes 36-16 last October, but the Yotes later stunned Tech 23-20 in overtime in Butte. This will be the ‘Diggers’ season opener. And in Pocatello Thursday night, Idaho State routed Western Colorado 38-13.
MATTISON, MARTIN & OUR FAVORITE ‘BACKER
Alexander Mattison is poised to make his official NFL debut Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings host Atlanta on Sunday. Mattison will be playing behind Dalvin Cook but should see considerable playing time. The former Boise State star rushed for 89 yards on 25 carries in the preseason and caught a touchdown pass. Elsewhere, Doug Martin is available to anybody now after reaching an injury settlement with Oakland. Martin was released Wednesday. He led the Raiders in rushing last year with 723 yards. And we can’t let the day go by without noting that Leighton Vander Esch begins his second season with Dallas on Sunday against the New York Giants. A sophomore jinx perhaps? Does anybody think that could really happen? Not on your life.
SOCCER PITCH AND HOCKEY ICE
Boise State women’s soccer star Raimee Sherle seeks her 50th career goal as the Broncos visit Idaho State today and host Utah Sunday in a key matchup at the Boas Complex. Boise State is 3-0 for the first time in 15 years and will go for its best start ever versus the Bengals. And Joe Basaraba, who was an Idaho Steelheads mainstay for two seasons from 2015-17, is back with the club for the upcoming season. The 27-year-old forward appreared in all 72 games in his second year in Boise, logging 21 goals and 46 points. Basaraba played last season in Great Britain.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!
September 6, 2014, five years ago today: With a team full of freshman, College of Idaho makes a triumphant return to football with a 35-34 upset of Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR. It was the Coyotes’ first game on the gridiron in 37 years. The game was decided with 22 seconds left when C of I’s Charlie Shepherd, one of those many freshmen, blocked a 25-yard Boxers field goal attempt to preserve the win. The catalyst from beginning to end was a junior college transfer, quarterback Teejay Gordon, who ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 195 more.
(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.)