SCOTT SLANT: No margin for error on D-line

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Thursday, September 23, 2021.

The first sign of Boise State’s “dependable depth” on the defensive line going out the window was Sunday, when B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press reported that backup tackle Divine Obichere was unlikely to play this week at Utah State. Combine that with Scale Igiehon’s ongoing leave of absence, and Broncos defensive line coach Frank Maile is in a pickle. “For me, it’s all about keeping fresh bodies on the field,” Maile said Tuesday. Obichere was backing up both tackle spots, with help from Michael Callahan. Who will Maile turn to against his old friends at USU? Fans have been anxiously awaiting the debut of redshirt freshman Herbert Gums, but he’s been dealing with a knee injury since last spring. If Gums still isn’t available, it might mean even more time for Callahan, a sophomore who has six tackles on the season.


A good performance Saturday morning is a point of pride for Maile as he prepares for a return to Logan, where he spent 10 years on the Utah State staff. Maile was a centerpiece of the Aggies program in recent years, serving as interim head coach in 2018 after Matt Wells left for Texas Tech, and in 2020 when Gary Andersen flamed out in his second stint at USU. Last year Maile tried to keep the team together the best he could. Then he was rejected in Utah State’s hiring process, leading to the Aggies boycotting their final game at Colorado State. Adding to Maile’s emotions Saturday is the fact that he was a four-year letterwinner for USU as a defensive lineman in the mid-2000s.


Maile didn’t get the Utah State job amidst the turmoil last December. Blake Anderson did. Now, Anderson is the first Utah State head coach in 102 years—since E. Lowell Romney (remember when it was called Romney Stadium?)—to win his first three games at the school. The Aggies struck gold with the hire, getting a guy who led Arkansas State to two Sun Belt championships and six straight bowl games after replacing Bryan Harsin with the Red Wolves. How did they land him? Recapping Anderson’s story: he lost his wife to breast cancer almost two years ago and needed a change. “It was time for me to hit the reset button and get away from some of the memories,” said Anderson. He also felt he could keep winning at USU. Anderson remarried just before spring football in March and feels eminently blessed.


There’s nothing like Treasure Valley walk-ons earning Boise State scholarships, and Skyview grad Tyler Crowe and Timberline alum Dylan Herberg have joined the club. “This has been my background pic for 2 years,” Crowe tweeted, referring to a rather negative scouting evaluation he shared. “This is what the max preps scouter had to say about me. I got put on full ride scholarship today. This wasn’t for him or any of the coaches that passed on me. I did this for myself. If you find that you’re in my shoes bet on YOURSELF.” Herberg, a junior who’s been a special teams mainstay for the Broncos, posted a photo of himself with friends and family, decked out in Boise State gear when he was a youngster. “This kid living in Weiser, Idaho can say he earned a full ride scholarship for the team he loves,” said the tweet.


We’ll have to hold our collective breath a while longer for an expansion of the College Football Playoff. The CFP board of managers will not vote next week after all on a proposed 12-team format, CFP executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN on Wednesday. The committee, which includes Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, met in Dallas on Wednesday and ran into “a number of issues that have been raised with the 12-team proposal,” according to ESPN. “Sources have said there is some support in the room to further explore an eight-team model.” With conference realignment churning again (and the SEC wielding more influence no doubt), the Group of 5 has no leverage right now.


Twenty years later, Fresno State is back in a major national spotlight—partly because of its No. 22 ranking after upsetting UCLA, and partly because of Jake Haener, its rock star quarterback. Haener is receiving massive publicity this week after leading the Bulldogs to a 40-37 upset of No. 13 UCLA in the final seconds at the Rose Bowl last Saturday. Chris Vannini of The Athletic notes: “As Haener prepared to take the field with Fresno State trailing UCLA in the fourth quarter, coach Kalen DeBoer walked up and delivered a message from offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb. ‘How do you want to be remembered?’ DeBoer asked his quarterback. ‘Because this is how Bulldog fans are going to remember you.’”

Haener was playing in considerable pain after a hit to his hip on Fresno State’s second-to-last possession, which called his status for this week’s game against UNLV into question. He was a full-go in practice Wednesday, though, and he plans to play. Meanwhile, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer has declared it Fresno State Football Week and Jake Haener Week in the Central Valley hub. Haener transferred from Washington two years ago after the Huskies named Jacob Eason as their starting quarterback and sat out the 2019 season. He took over as the Bulldogs’ starter in last year’s shrunken season and was a hit. But nothing like he is now.


It’s already homecoming at Idaho State. The Bengals host Sacramento State Saturday at Holt Arena and will have their hands full despite the Hornets’ 1-2 record. Sac State’s two losses weren’t bad ones: 34-16 to No. 15 Northern Iowa and 42-30 at Cal. Not bad after the Hornets sat out the delayed spring season. In 2019, Sacramento State finished the season 9-4 and 7-1 in Big Sky play and earned a berth in the FCS Playoffs. As for Idaho State, it needs better play out of the quarterback position. In his second ISU season, Tyler Vander Waal has completed just 48 percent of his throws, with one touchdown pass against three interceptions.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows! 

September 23, 2006, 15 years ago today: Boise State gets a verbal commitment from a generously-measured 6-1, 185-pound quarterback from Prosser, WA. Kellen Moore had set the Washington state high school record with 66 touchdown passes as a junior. That fall, Moore would go on to break his own mark by throwing for 67 TDs. He had flourished at the Broncos’ football camp that summer, but Chris Petersen’s staff was still hesitant. Except for defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who was so sold on Moore that he told Petersen he’d give up a scholarship on his side of the ball if Boise State would take Kellen. And the rest, as they say…

(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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