Friday, September 26, 2008

Schedules, schedules, schedules....

...OK, just got through with the team walk-through (and oddly, Eastern Washington was having a function for the 100th year/Hall of Fame deal, so there were all these Eastern Washington people at our closed practice...nice) and I told you all I'd let you know a little about life on the road.

After the three hour drive to Boise, we all got some meal money for the Boise was interesting to see where folks went. Quizno's for some, pizza for others, a good majority played it safe with McDonalds. Most folks assume correctly that I'm not a team member (I'd only pass for a kicker, and a short one at that), but TWO people in the airport came to me to compliment me on the team, their appearance and their manners, so that was actually very cool. Also, on the ride over, we watched Casino Royale, the first Daniel Craig Bond movie. I used to be a huge Bond geek, but I sort of grew out of it....well, let me tell you, that movie is fantastic. Daniel Craig is so good as, what a movie.

Anyways, we went back in time on the flight, leaving at 2:45, and landing at 2:35 due to a time zone change, and then we took about a 46 second bus ride to the hotel. From there the players have a little time before heading to the walk-through. The team then has a special teams meeting before dinner. The dinners are usually pretty nice. Usually a big salad, rolls, and then most guys get both main entrees, but you have your choice of a pasta (almost always lasagna), or beef/chicken and potatoes. Now, if there are chocolate chip cookies available afterwards then it's like the perfect capper.

Due to the early game time (12:37 out here), the team has an early wake up call, and then a walk-through in the hotel before a breakfast. Breakfasts are ALWAYS good. Eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes...always a good time there. The post game this time is going to be some buffet (they have no idea Demetrius Amos and Braeden Clayson are coming LOL). Fly home on Sunday...easy as pie, no?

Tonight's meal (which I'm leaving for in scant moments) is cool too because all the players need to wear slacks and a collared shirt. Coach Z is big on how ISU is represented, and folks should really know he is big on that.

OK...I'm getting hungry, and I smell me some pasta. Any questions, just hit the ol' comment button....

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

Heading out to Boise (load the busses at 8:30, wheels moving at 9 am), and from there, a quick flight back in time to Spokane, since we land earlier than when we leave. Sometime tonight I'll send out another post with some of the details of a road trip...I was thinking you folks might like to know a little about how a trip like this is structured. I would have done it now but this is our first commercial flight with the team, so I'm kind of curious to see how it goes myself.

Also, the team looks pretty sharp.....ties for everyone on this trip....just trying to represent. On quick link....after my guest column on Eye on Sports Media (I've linked permanently to their blog, as it is really pretty insightful, Will Hoenike at IdahoSportsZone had a guest column as well, talking about how we at ISU are way ahead of the curve. What's funny is I credentialed Boise Bengal YEARS ago when he was taking photos and doing stuff for a very, very, very old incarnation of the Bengal Den....back even before it was on rivals for a little bit. Also, Tacoma picked up Dan Thompson's story on the wide-spead coaching tree for the Eastern game, and I believe Dan's piece that will be in GameDay is longer, but here is what was in today's Tacoma paper, which is John Zamberlin's hometown paper. Mitch Worthington's must read blog also has his thoughts on wrestling overtaking Holt and displacing the basketball team, and he makes some pretty solid points. OK...see you in Cheney/Spokane ... behave yourselves...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pinch-Hitting for Pedro Borbon.....Manny Mota

Ah, one of the best parts of Airplane for those that didn't get it. Just a note to let you know when you tune into the broadcast on Saturday at 12:30 pm, it will not be Jerry Miller and Brad Bugger, but myself and Brad. As many of you guys know, Jerry worked at KLCE on the morning show with Wayne and Liza for over nine years, and sadly, Wayne passed away over the weekend while vacationing in Hawaii with his family. Wayne's funeral is on Saturday, and Jerry understandably wants to be there, and that is totally understandable. I'm proud to stand in for a week, and I hope to do him proud.

The irony of all of this is last year I filled in for Russ and got to announce Josh Barnett breaking the all-time rushing record, and now I will probably get to announce Eddie Thompson breaking the receptions record. Jerry may be "Voice of the Bengals", but I'm quickly becoming "The Voice of History"

Links, links, links
Dan Thompson is just chock full of links today, including links to his column on why the Big Sky should add ... North Dakota. Kellis Robinett also jumps in with some thoughts on ISU's four walk-ons in basketball (and since it has been asked about elsewhere, nothing official on Kelvin Krosch playing basketball at this point, and that was from the head coach). Kellis however is none-to-happy about the last two games being at Reed Gym, and in a perfect world, yeah, we don't want those games there, but like Jeff Tingey stated in the release, the economic impact to the area was too great...we have so many great sponors in the hotel and restaurant industry that need this tournament. This is why we have to have Bengal Village, and it's why on all these football road trips we've had our fundraisers glad-handing, driving to meet with boosters and potential boosters, and basically getting the processes started.

Eye on Sports Media
Eye on Sports Media apparently knows of this blog (at least someone does), and they a while back made mention of the fact I broke the two-deep here, and I sometimes get stuff here first for the die-hards before the offiical page. Well, they asked me to write a guest piece on why I credentialed the blog site (a must visit site by the way), and they posted it this morning. I swear I look like I'm 12 in that picture. Seriously...I shave like all the time.

Beer Pong Gone Wrong
Now while it is true that according to statistics that the alcohol-related citations have gone up at ISU to 70, when you figure that's less than six per month, or like just over one per weekend in a school of almost 14,000 .... well, that's not horrid, is it? However, I'm guessing that if beer pong is going to happen in the Gem State, it'll be a happy affair. Sadly, that's not the case at the University of Montana.

Volleyball Drops One in Four
Katie Zigars filed this story regarding ISU's loss at Boise State in volleyball last night.

The Greatest Catch You Will Ever See...
Seriously...catch out this catch by Morgan State's recevier....this is the greatest catch in college football history. Seriously...I defy you to show me a better one. If you think you have one, you know what to do.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's all a numbers game

OK, I love college football. Heck, I came to Idaho State because I wanted to work in college football. However, something in college football reeks....something really stinks, so today my dear Bengal fans, I'm putting on my "Commissioner of All Things Athletics" (heretofore COATA) and fixing a problem with college football....and wouldn't you know it has to do with sneaky coaches getting around the rules. I know, it's true.

Let me take you to Saturday...#6 LSU at #10 Auburn. This was a great game. Lots of lead changes, some big plays, a switch at quarterback. I mean, this is the game of the year if it happened in November, but I digress, because Les Miles ruined it for everyone, because he took the rulebook and played a stupid, dumb dirty trick on Auburn. And it was all perfectly legal. LSU has two punters who can both kickoff as well...they have #30, a right-footed punter named Josh Jasper, and then a lefty named Brady Dalfrey, who wears #38. Well, he wore #38 in the first two games, wore #38 in warmups, and was listed as #38 in the program, the flip-cards, in the stats, and on the depth chart. However, Les decided to allow Dalfrey to also wear #30 for the game. So, everytime LSU punted, no one knew which #30 was punting, the lefty or the righty, which matters to the punt block team and to the returner. And no one knew which one was kicking off either.....and all of this was legal.

And why is it legal? Because the NCAA rulemakers, who can't figure out what to do with the game clock, certainly don't know what to do about numbers. The rules regarding numbers are as follows.

No two players of the same team shall participate in the same down wearing identical numbers (A.R. 1-4-2-II) [S23]. and....

e. Numbers shall not be changed during the game to deceive opponents [S27].

Why to make a decision there guys....that;s it by the way on numbers. less than half a page. There are more than six pages regarding timeouts, but hardly anything on numbers.

So in theory, you can have one guy on offense wearing #10, a guy on defense wearing #10, and a guy on special teams like a kicker wear #10, and it's all legal. At least LSU has names on their jerseys, but there isn't rule about that either. Dalfrey and Jasper could just switch jerseys before the game, so long as they don't switch DURING the game. As the COATA, here's what I do. I know this is unpopular, but I'm gonna force a coach to make a decision. I know football coaches probably would consult their lawyers and legal counsel, but I would have coaches make a decision by stating that there are no double numbers. Seriously, is LSU gonna play more then 99 guys? If they have retired numbers, they still aren't playing more than 90 right?

This all stems from our athletic cultural society where no one wants to hurt anyone's feelings. My daughter's first soccer team didn't keep score, because they didn't want the losing team feeling bad. Well, OK, but then don't try to score, and don't play games. I mean that's just stupid. Hey, at ISU, on the recruit's equipment form that they fill out, the have to list four numbers, a primary that they want, then a secondary, then a third and a fourth choice. Numbers are just that, numbers. In college for three years I was #22. My senior year I originally wasn't going to play to concentrate on becoming a sports information director, but I got asked back to the team late in fall camp, so I returned. However, my coach was all worried because he gave my #22 to a freshman, and he said he would bring that player in to ask for the number back. Like I cared...I told him just give me any number available, so my senior year, I was #26...not a sexy soccer number, but at least I had one.

Anyways, coaches nowadays don't want to anger a recruit, so they just go with the flow....Johnny won't come here if he can't wear #4? OK, we'll have two #4s then. Just an aside, when Audie Attar was here for one year, he wanted to wear #2, which was owned by Caleb Eastman. Larry Lewis was gonna let both wear #2, but I refused to deal with it, and convinced him to make a decision. Eastman eventually went to #4 on the promise he could wear #1 the next season. Sigh.

Anyways, Miles' little stunt wasn't just a stunt, it was a coordinated, planned attack. On LSU's official site, Les makes light of the whole thing...

"I think, frankly, I kind of enjoyed the fact that I had a punter who was going to wear No. 30. I didn't want to get confused, so that I knew that the punter was on the field when he wore 30. That may be the reason. It may not be the reason. I enjoy the fact that one guy kicks right-footed and the other kicks left-footed, and they both wore the same number. It might well have been a cause for an opponent to pause and say, "Hmm, I wonder which one's kicking.' He may wear No. 38 this week."

I didn't want to get confused??? That may be the reason? It may not be the reason??? You know, it's honestly crap like this that hurts my profession. I pride myself on being forthright with stuff, and to think that LSU's media folks just played along with the ruse is sorta troubling. As COATA, I abolish all double numbers, and tell coaches such as Les Miles that you are running a multi-million dollar football program, and you are hired to make executive decisions.....make one on numbers and spare everyone the grief.

Back to ISU....sorry for the rant.

Breakfast with the Bengals
OK, I'm almost amused that for about a month, it was said on the basketball schedule "at Hawai'i, November 18, 2:07 am". I finally got a call two days ago from someone saying the game is listed on Hawai'i's site as being on November 17, and I should fix the website. Well, while I do make mistakes, the website was right, as the Bengals are going to be featured on ESPN as part of ESPN's College Basketball Marathon, with the Bengals having the coveted 4:07 am Eastern slot, meaning a 2:07 am start in Pocatello and an 11:07 pm tip in Honolulu on Monday, November17. Here is the full schedule...

• Midnight: UMass at Memphis (ESPN)
• 2 a.m.: Fresno St. at St. Mary's (ESPN)
• 4 a.m.: Idaho St. at Hawaii (ESPN)
• 6 a.m.: College Hoops Tip-Off Special (ESPN)
• 10 a.m.: Penn at Drexel (ESPN)
• Noon: Liberty at UNC-Asheville (ESPN)
• 2 p.m.: Iowa at Kansas (women) (ESPN)
• 4 p.m.: Centenary at Baylor (ESPN)
• 6 p.m.: Richmond at Syracuse (ESPN)
• 7 p.m.: NIT Regional Final-Purdue (ESPNU)
• 7:30 p.m.: NIT Regional Final-Boston College (ESPN2)
• 8 p.m.: College GameDay-Chapel Hill (ESPN)
• 9 p.m.: Kentucky at North Carolina (ESPN)
• 9 p.m.: Florida Gulf Coast at Kansas (ESPNU)
• 9:30 p.m.: NIT Regional Final-Oklahoma (ESPN2)
• 11:30 p.m.: NIT Regional Final-Arizona (ESPN2)

Welcome back Maren Eves-Williams!!!!
After breaking her hand in practice the week before the opening game, Maren Eves-Williams was cleared, as Tim Flagstad reports. Maren won't make all the difference in the world, but certainly after the yeoman's efforts by Bailey Williams, she and Michelle and Kat for the matter will benefit watching how Maren operates. Jana Davis-Boehler will travel this week, but she probably doesn't play until conference play in two weeks.

We have a puncher's chance...
...since the puncher is out for the first half. The Big Sky suspended Charlie Wulff, the nephew of former coach and current Washington State coach Paul Wulff, so throwing a punch at a Western Washington player after a touchdown.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 other news.....

Conference play began last week for the volleyball team, and it started with a 3-0 sweep by Portland State. To the uninitiated, I'm sure folks probably went "same old, same old", but it was pretty obvious to those there that ISU was a much improved shell of their former selves. The Bengals gave the defending champion Vikings everything it could handle, and you just had the sense that something special could happen on Saturday against Eastern Washington, a team that was third last year and lost in five sets to #17 Colorado State about two weeks ago.

So congrats are now in order for Chad Teichert, who got his first conference win in convincing fashion 25-19, 25-19, 28-26. That final set showed something too, in that ISU was up 23-19, and allowed Eastern Washington to tie it at 23. ISU then had match points at 24-23, 25-24, 26-25, and 27-26 and finally got it, but I'm telling you, a lot of our past teams would have folded. It was ISU's first win over a conference team other than Montana State since Oct. 5, 2006.

That date was also the last time ISU lost at Davis Field in soccer until Friday, when the Bengals couldn't hold a 1-0 lead, allowing two goals in the second half. The team however bounced back and tied Wyoming after Lauren Hough got a red card for what sure looked like a pretty good slide tackle (it wasn't from behind or cleats up, and she knocked the ball away). Hough might have been the hard-luck recipient of a make-up call, as ISU goalkeeper Bailey Williams probably should have been red-carder for taking out a player for Wyoming on a breakaway. She was spared, and Hough sort of paid the price.

Volleyball hits the road twice this Boise State and the Weber State, while soccer is at Pepperdine and #21 San Diego.

Seriously...They Were Complaining????
Remember how Idaho had to change their uniform pants because of the logo on their butts? Well, apparently some fans have decided to complain about Idaho's two-piece cheerleader outfits. No, even I'm gonna admit, that picture doesn't do those outfits justice...they were pretty revealing, so last week, the cheerleaders wore volleyball shorts and football jerseys, and they will get new outfits for next week. And why did they have those uniforms? Read on, McDuff, and blame the old coach too.

Jon Kasper of the Big Sky posted some thoughts about the weekend, Big Sky TV, and what's on tap, football-wise. Dan Thompson also provided a host of links to most of the weekend's football activities. Dan also notes that Eddie Thompson and A.J. Storms will be back in action. He got that information from my very Piratey Game Notes...and just so folks know, i was issued a national challenge to work "Talk Like a Pirate Day" into Game Notes, hence the swashbuckling theme. Eastern Washington's Dave Cook does not nearly have my sense of humor, but he does have a font size of "6" and "7" for most of the Eastern Washington game notes. The full Big Sky notes with stats, compiled by Jon Kasper, is here.

D-e-e-fense, d-e-e-fense

The Big Sky Conference has been known for the past 30 or years or so as an offensive football conference. The league hit its peak as an offensive conference in the 1990s, when BSC teams averaged over 30 points a game for an entire season five times, and that trend reached a crescendo in 2001, when Big Sky teams averaged almost 32 points a game. The University of Montana certainly played a big role in that trend under Don Read and Mick Dennehy -- the Griz actually averaged over 40 points a game twice during that period.

But do you want to know the REAL secret to Montana's success (10 conference titles won or shared in the last 11 seasons)? It's defense, folks. The Griz have led the league in scoring defense 8 times in the last dozen years, including the last three years in a row. Sure, the Griz have had efficient, effective offenses during that time period, but it's Montana's ability to slow down the rest of the league that has given them the ability to dominate the Big Sky.

You need only look at Idaho State's history in the league to note the importance of defense. The Bengals haven't had a great deal of success on the football field over the years, but when they have been good, their defense has been a huge part of it. Here are a couple of watershed moments in ISU football, and the corresponding improvement in defense:

In 1979, ISU went 0-11 and gave up 332 points (33 points a game). In 1980, the Bengals improved to 6-5 and cut their points allowed by over a third -- to 201 (18 points a game). ISU followed that up with a national title in 1981 -- and continued to improve defensively, giving up only 172 points in their 13 games (just over 13 points a game). Most of us fans remember that exciting, wide-open ISU offense in 1981, but the defense was terrific, giving up over 20 points only four times, and 30 only once -- and that was in double overtime.

Although ISU went 8-4 and made the playoffs in 1983, the Bengal defense gradually deteriorated over the decade of the 1980s, until the 1987 team, in Jim Koetter's last season as head coach, gave up a record 445 points (over 44 points a game). The 1990s saw some minor improvement under Garth Hall and Brian McNeeley (whose 1995 team went 6-5 and gave up only 259 points -- just over 23 a game), but the coaching change to Tom Walsh saw numbers rise significantly again -- 356 points allowed in 1997 and 415 in 1998.

Once again, a coaching change was made, and when Larry Lewis came on in 1999, the defense again struggled -- the Bengals gave up 429 points in Lewis' first season (an average of 39 points a game). As Lewis gradually built the program, however, the defense got better over the next three seasons. Finally, in 2002, ISU led the league in scoring defense -- 189 points, an average of just over 17 points a game, and the Bengals enjoyed a three-way tie for the Big Sky championship. Alas, the defense regressed in subsequent years, giving up 423 points despite the Bengals going 8-4 in 2003, and then 357, 304 and 330.

Enter John Zamberlin. The new Bengals coach saw his team give up 393 points last year, an average of almost 36 a game. ISU gave up 40 points or more five times last year, and already this season Bengal opponents have broken the 40-point mark twice and North Dakota put up 38 in the other contest.

Rebuilding the defense has to be priority No. 1 for Zamberlin and his coaching staff. In fact, history shows us it is the critical factor in building a competitive program. History also shows us it's not impossible -- the Bengals led the league in scoring defense in 1981 and 2002, and won or shared the league titles in both seasons. But it's also been nearly impossible for ISU to sustain good defense over the years, especially after coaching changes. The natural attrition and interruption in recruiting flow seems to affect the defense more than it does the offense. (It's a lot harder finding and developing top caliber defensive players, and there are a lot fewer to go around at the FCS level. The turmoil caused by coaching changes just makes it that much more difficult to put a good defensive team on the field).

Montana is at the other end of the spectrum -- the Griz have put strong defenses on the field nearly every year for the past decade. Any team that wants to challenge Montana dominance must figure out a way to match their consistency in defensive excellence. Nobody in the league has risen to that challenge, year-in-and-year-out. Idaho State's target is less-auspicious: the Bengals just want to see improvement on defense the rest of this season. As Big Sky Conference play begins this Saturday at Eastern Washington, defensive improvement is mandatory for the Bengals to be competitive in the league this year.

Thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun. -- Brad B.