SCOTT SLANT: Can the Broncos play to their strengths?

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Wednesday Weekly: September 6, 2023.

You might say that Boise State didn’t put its best foot forward last Saturday at Washington, and Boise State offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan might agree with you. The Broncos were supposed to be a run-first team, but they were run-second in their 56-19 loss in Seattle, even before things got out of hand. George Holani and Ashton Jeanty combined for 95 yards against the Huskies, which might seem pedestrian until you consider they did it on only 20 carries—and averaged 4.8 yards per tote. The longest run was 11 yards by Holani. Considering what Jeanty did on the receiving end, with catches of 50 and 48 yards, there’s no telling if and when he could have broken one with more rushing attempts. But the offensive line was fine. I’d expect 30-plus carries by the Holani-Jeanty duo versus UCF Saturday night.


That’s not to say Boise State is deficient in the passing game. The most fixable part of what happened at Husky Stadium is the wide receivers room. One category in particular can be patched up in time for the Knights this Saturday. There’s no official number on the dropped passes by the Broncos, but the consensus is six, including big ones by Stefan Cobbs and Billy Bowens when there was a chance to move the chains. Even Eric McAlister had one. That is not something we’re accustomed to with this group. Who knows if it affected Taylen Green’s confidence, but the sophomore quarterback is kind of back to the drawing board after going 19-of-39 for 244 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The 244 is a bit deceiving, as 106 of Jeanty’s 109 receiving yards came after the catch. (He did not have a drop.)


This is what Boise State is tasked with this week against UCF: coming back from its worst margin of defeat in 26 years. The 37-point differential at Washington tied for the ninth-largest in school history. The Broncos were stout against the run last week, though. The Huskies rushed for only 78 yards—19 of them on the touchdown run by Jalen McMillan out of the wildcat. True, UW pretty much abandoned the run once it figured out Michael Penix Jr. could throw at will on the Broncos. But nobody’s faulting the job the front seven did during the long day on Lake Washington. Now, about the Knights. They racked up a staggering 389 yards on the ground last week in its 56-6 rout of Kent State. Four different players rushed for 80 or more yards, and one of them was quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. 


If Boise State is bound and determined to rebound and grow from the rout at Washington in time for the UCF game Saturday night, the secondary has to be as dialed in as anybody. That crew had a rough, rough day in Husky Stadium, albeit against one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Penix. Size and speed mattered against UW’s star receivers, and Alexander Teubner and Kaonohi Kaniho paid the price, chasing them down the field a number of times. The Broncos are not going to be able to do much about that moving forward, with the exception of a heavier dose of Markel Reed. KTVB’s Jay Tust mentioned that Reed, listed as a starter, played only seven defensive snaps against the Huskies. Turns out the staff is still trying to manage his workload after that injury on Opening Night last year.


It was interesting that—going into the Washington game—some compared it to Boise State’s 2010 contest against Virginia Tech, which was also ranked No. 10. Opportunity? Yes. Result?  It was not going to happen. The Broncos of 2010, coached by the best to ever do it, had a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback. They had an NFL running back, two NFL wide receivers and an NFL left tackle. The defense was dotted with NFL players, including all four starters in the secondary. That latter group is where figuring out the 2023 Boise State squad begins after the Huskies threw for 490 yards in Saturday’s romp, the seventh-most by an opponent in school history. One more thing about the Broncos’ old giant-killer days: the gap between the Power 5 elite and the Group of 5 is much, much bigger now. Bigger than it’s ever been.


Mountain West schools face five matchups against the Big Sky this Saturday—and there’s no question that Idaho has the best chance of an upset when it goes to Nevada. The Wolf Pack are coming off a 66-14 loss at USC, while the Vandals drubbed Lamar 42-17 on the road last week. A big difference in competition, to be sure. But the truth is somewhere in between, and you have to like the Vandals’ chances at Mackay Stadium. They got it done last Thursday in Beaumont, TX, with an average night for star quarterback Gevani McCoy, who threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns against one interception. We shouldn’t discount Idaho State’s chances at Utah State after the Bengals gave San Diego State everything it could handle before falling 36-28 last week in Cody Hawkins’ debut.


College of Idaho plays a rare third straight home game Saturday, and this one should be a lot tougher than the first two. The Coyotes routed Southern Oregon 42-16 last week at Simplot Stadium after a 37-7 rout of Lincoln University in their opener. Now here comes Montana Western, which opened with a 38-14 thumping of Eastern Oregon in La Grande last Saturday. The Yotes’ Jon Schofield had a three-touchdown day against SOU, pulling in a 15-yard scoring pass from Andy Peters and notching two more TDs out of the wildcat. C of I also got a 30-yard pick-six from Isaiah Griffin.  


It’s not a stretch to say this has never happened before. Two coaches with Boise State ties—one a former player and one a former student with an incredible story—will be side-by-side on the Philadelphia 76ers bench this season. And both of them have NBA G League championships to their credit. Coby Karl, who won his title this year with the Delaware Blue Coats (a Philly affiliate), and Bryan Gates, who guided the Idaho Stampede to their only crown back in 2008, have been officially announced as members of new coach Nick Nurse’s Sixers staff.


The 2023 Boise Hawks home season wraps up tonight with a game against the Missoula Paddleheads at Memorial Stadium. It’s been another great season at the gate—and on the field, it’s been better than last year. The Hawks are out of the Pioneer League playoff race, but they do still have a shot at a winning season overall.  After a 4-3 loss to Missoula Tuesday night, Boise is 45-47 on the season.  So the Hawks need a sweep of their final four games; they finish the 2023 campaign with a three-game series in Great Falls beginning Thursday night.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…payroll, process and prosperity for your business. 

September 6, 1995: Baltimore shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. breaks Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played, appearing in his 2,131st consecutive contest. There was a 20-minute celebration at Camden Yards when the game became official at the end of the fifth inning. The moment was a highlight in a season that saw Major League Baseball recovering from a fan-souring strike that had lasted until April of that year after wiping out the 1994 World Series. Ripken would extend the streak for three more years before voluntarily taking himself out of the Orioles lineup and ending it at 2,632.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)


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