By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
The Boise State football team’s offensive line will be back in the spotlight Thursday night against BYU.
The Cougars rank sixth in the nation in rushing defense (53 yards per game), ninth in total defense (241 ypg) and 20th in scoring defense (14.3 points per game).
Boise State rushed for 295 yards Saturday against Miami (Ohio) after generating just 37 against Michigan State.
“It’s going to be a big challenge, not only for the O-line, it’s going to be for everybody,” coach Chris Petersen said Monday. “They’re the next level on defense, for sure. … (Coach Bronco Mendenhall) has got them playing as hard as they’ve ever played. That’s one thing that always jumps out whenever you watch BYU. That’s his baby. He’s a defensive guy.”
Here is audio of Petersen’s press conference.
Thursday’s game is the first in a 12-year series scheduled between Boise State and BYU.
Petersen doesn’t like the idea.
“That’s a lot of years strung together,” he said. “That’s like they’re in your league, and they’re not in our league.”
He doesn’t see a new rivalry developing, either. Boise State has ended its rivalry with Idaho and likely will lose rivals in Nevada and Fresno State as it moves to the Big East next year.
“Our rivals are on the East Coast and in Texas and in San Diego,” Petersen said. “I don’t worry about rivalries. I know it can be healthy and good, but that’s just not where we are right now. Down the line, we’ll have some new ones in a hurry.”
Petersen and Mendenhall are friends. Petersen said he’ll miss being able to talk football with Mendenhall as much now that they play each other.
Petersen’s take on the BYU-Utah ending: “I know how important the crowd is, and I’m being 100 percent serious. Crowd noise, like I’ve said forever, is very difficult to deal with. If we can have our people as loud as they’ve ever been, I promise you it will help us.”
BYU quarterback Riley Nelson told The Salt Lake Tribune after Saturday’s game that the atmosphere at Bronco Stadium will be an issue, like it was at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Nelson started for Utah State in a 2006 game in Boise.
“We think this was noisy tonight, and we think this crowd was crazy,” Nelson said. “I played up there in Boise when I was a freshman, and that crowd brings it.”
Petersen on quarterback Joe Southwick: “Instincts play a huge role in being a really elite, elite quarterback, but I also think guys can get better at it. Joe does some really, really good things, and he’s getting better. The more live reps he gets — that’s what he needs. Hopefully he can get those reps without learning too many hard lessons along the way. That’s the trick.”
Petersen got a good laugh out of Southwick’s two-knee slide in Saturday’s game. Southwick heard Petersen yell and asked later if the coach was criticizing him for missing the tight end on the play; Petersen said no, he was criticizing that slide.
“We were both just laughing,” Petersen said.
The irony is that Southwick was a good baseball player growing up. He got a turf burn from the slide.
“He used to be a heck of an athlete when he got here,” Petersen said. “And it’s starting to go away. … That’s the good and the bad of Kellen (Moore) — he’s rubbed off on him too much.”
Boise State senior tailback D.J. Harper was named the Mountain West co-offensive player of the week Monday.
Harper rushed for a career-high 162 yards, scored four touchdowns and produced 26 points, the third-highest total in school history, against Miami (Ohio).
He shared the honor with Fresno State tailback Robbie Rouse, who rushed for 144 yards on nine carries, caught four passes for 42 yards and scored four touchdowns in less than a half against Colorado. All of his touchdowns came in the first quarter, including a school-record 94-yard run.
Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas won the defensive honor with three interceptions, including two that he returned for touchdowns. Fresno State punter Andrew Shapiro won the special teams honor with a 50-yard average on three punts.
Former NFL player and Georgia star David Pollack is one of two analysts on the four-announcer team ESPN will send to Boise for Thursday’s Boise State-BYU game. Pollack is in his first year on the Thursday games and his second year on “College GameDay.”
He said Monday he’s excited about his first visit to Bronco Stadium.
“I think it will be fun,” Pollack said. “Every game, coming in, you have a thought process. Right now you think about Boise State and some of the athletes they have, playing in space. BYU wants to come in a little bit and play knuckle to knuckle. It’s a fun matchup — strength vs. trying to get people in space. It’s two quality programs, two BCS buster-types who have already had their bubbles burst early in the season but both are looking to still have great seasons.”
Pollack joins Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer and Samantha Steele on the Thursday night broadcast team. It’s one of the marquee time slots of the college football week.
“Boise knows this, they’ve been doing this for years,” Pollack said. “It seemed like they played every Friday night for 12 straight years. It’s an awesome opportunity to showcase your program.”
I’ll have more from Pollack later in the week. His NFL career ended because of a broken neck, but he says broadcasting has become the perfect outlet for his love of football.