SCOTT SLANT: Offensive progress (or lack thereof) report

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019.

The first thing you hear when Boise State coach Bryan Harsin talks about his offense is his frustration with red zone performance. I mean, you should get about four touchdowns or so out of 437 yards in total offense, which is what the Broncos put up against Marshall. There were only two TDs, of course. “It’s unacceptable,” said Harsin Monday of the 33 percent touchdown conversion rate in the red zone. “Who wants to be the great team between the 20-yard lines?” One problem is eight fumbles—not just the ones Boise State has lost, but the ones the Broncos got back with lost yardage. “We’re putting the ball in harm’s way,” Harsin said. “That’s undisciplined football. Two games tell you a lot about your team, and the red zone thing we gotta fix.” He said the unwritten goal is about 70 percent touchdowns.

Harsin does not single out true freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier in Boise State’s scoring struggles. Bachmeier’s protection has been suspect, as he’s already been sacked eight times. Harsin rues the missed opportunities on offense, though. “We had a few throws—we had a few runs that were there,” he said. The most visible missed pass came late in the first quarter when Bachmeier, under pressure, overthrew a wide-open Khalil Shakir on a sure touchdown. There’s not much to complain about on third down. KTVB’s Jay Tust found this: Bachmeier leads the nation on third down with 265 passing yards, 13 completions for first downs and nine pass plays of 15 or more yards.

FAMILIARITY BREEDS A COMMITMENT

Boise State got offensive lineman Nate Cardona of Yorba Linda, CA, up for an official visit over the weekend. And by the time it was done, the Broncos had a commitment from the 6-3, 280-pounder. Boise State true freshman defensive lineman Michael Callahan was a high school teammate of Cardona’s. Callahan gave him a bear hug during Saturday’s Bronco Walk. Cardona also had offers from nine of the other 12 Mountain West schools, plus Illinois and Army. He’s the sixth commit in Boise State’s 2020 recruiting class. Meanwhile, we don’t usually dabble here in who has scholarship offers. But this one is noteworthy: multi-faceted Borah High star Austin Bolt has been offered by Boise State.

THE HERD IS THINNER

Maybe something happened at halftime Saturday night—maybe it was after Marshall arrived back home in Huntington, WV. But the Thundering Herd has kicked running back Tyler King off the squad “due to a violation of team rules and policies.” King, a junior, had five carries for 16 yards and lost a fumble in the first half at Albertsons Stadium. He did not have a second-half carry. King had rushed for 75 yards on 10 carries in Marshall’s opener against VMI.

FCS DANGER ZONE

Portland State comes in this Saturday night for an 8:15 p.m. kickoff on the blue turf. Unfortunately, this game will have to pay the piper in the stands. Oh well. The Vikings will be the first FCS team Boise State has faced since Idaho State in 2015. The Broncos last faced PSU in 2005, escaping with a 21-14 win. Not to forget that Arkansas escaped just 10 days ago with a 20-13 victory over Portland State. And in 2009, Boise State’s last undefeated season, there were lots of routs. But one of them was not against FCS foe UC Davis. The Broncos and Kellen Moore posted an uncomfortable 34-16 win over the Aggies.

WILCOX BEATS COACH PETE AGAIN

Ah, the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. The last time Chris Petersen and Justin Wilcox were together as Boise State’s head coach and defensive coordinator, respectively. They met on the gridiron late, late Saturday night in Seattle in a game delayed by a thunder and lightning storm that many longtime residents will tell you was unprecedented. When play resumed with the game still early in the first quarter at 10:30 local time, Husky Stadium was all but abandoned. And lo and behold, Wilcox picked up his second consecutive win over his old boss. Cal beat Washington 20-19 on a 17-yard field goal with eight seconds left. Wilcox and the Bears edged the Huskies 12-10 last year in Berkeley. No coincidence that these were defensive sturggles.

THE REJUVENATED COUGARS

After Labor Day weekend, fans that got ahead of themselves may have thought Boise State would be a solid favorite at BYU next month. A week after the Broncos handled Florida State and the Cougars were handled by Utah, the playing field has leveled again. In Provo, they’re calling it “Micah’s Miracle” after BYU rallied for a 29-26 double-overtime toppling of Tennessee before 92,475 fans in Knoxville. Zach Wilson hit Micah Simon with a 64-yard bomb in the final minute of regulation to set up a game-tying field goal. The victory has completely changed the Cougars’ mindset going into this Saturday’s home test against USC. And it certainly adds to the intrigue of the October 19 date with Boise State.

SEAHAWKS HAVE TAYLOR ON SPEED-DIAL

When Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton threw for 418 yards on Seattle on Sunday, the Seahawks looked around for help in the secondary. They didn’t have to look far. The ‘Hawks released former Boise State standout Jamar Taylor on Cutdown Day, and yesterday they brought him back. Gregg Bell of the Tacoma News-Tribune called Taylor Seattle’s “best cover man during training camp.” Thing is, signing Taylor after Week 1 of the season means the Seahawks don’t have to guarantee all of his veteran contract. Bell notes that Taylor signed a one-year, $895,000 deal this spring, and by his math, the team saved $52,647 by dropping Taylor from the roster for the opener.

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September 10, 2004, 15 years ago today: By consensus, the biggest win to that point in Boise State history, although there were so many more milestones still to come. Before a national audience on ESPN, the Broncos recovered from a 14-0 first quarter deficit to rout Oregon State 53-34—their first win ever over a Pac-10 school. Korey Hall had three interceptions, one of them returned for a game-turning touchdown before a raucous sellout crowd in Bronco Stadium. The victory propelled BSU into both polls at no. 23.

(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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