The opening weekend of the football season was designated "dollar day" for Big Sky Conference teams. Six BSC teams played "up" against FBS foes for total guarantees conservatively estimated at between $1.5 million and $2 million. Other than Weber State, who came back to give Wyoming a good game before losing 29-22, the Big Sky teams largely took their money and their beatings and went home. The BSC was outscored 244-41 in the six contests -- an average score of about 40 to 7. Only the Wildcats and Portland State managed to score a touchdown.
And More to Come
Weber State and Idaho State will play FBS teams for the second straight week this weekend, with the Wildcats taking on a Colorado State team that upset Big 12 neighbor Colorado; and the Bengals flying to Norman, Oklahoma to face a Sooner team that will likely be without its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and all-American tight end, but with a mighty big chip on its shoulder after losing to BYU on the opening weekend. Two other Big Sky schools, Eastern Washington (at Cal) and Northern Arizona (at Arizona) will also play FBS teams this weekend.
Saturday night was a frustrating one for the Bengals, particularly on offense. ASU physically dominated Idaho State upfront, and ISU couldn't run the football or protect their quarterback. And both their quarterbacks, starter Kyle Blum (three interceptions) and Russ Hill (one pick) made mistakes in reads against that fast, physical Sun Devil defense. Oklahoma will pose just as many challenges, if not more, with their great athletes on defense, so it will be very difficult for the Bengal coaching staff to get much out of these two games, particularly on offense.
More on the Oklahoma game later in the week. Meanwhile, while I was hanging out in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in Phoenix Friday, I ran into former Idaho State linebacker Pago Togafau (above), who recently suffered a foot injury and was placed on the injured list by the Arizona Cardinals. Togafau, who was visiting with a number of his former ISU teammates and coaches in the hotel lobby, was gracious enough to give me an interview, the text of which follows:
1. Pago, I see you have your foot wrapped, that's not a good sign. Tell me what your status is?
Togafau: I broke a bone in my foot so I'm pretty much on IR (injured reserve) until I get a second opinion and get a settlement with the Cardinals and figure out where I'm going to go from there. I'm pretty much down for four to six weeks and when I get back up, we'll see what happens after that.
2. You've had a great experience in the National Football League, you got to play in a Super Bowl, tell me what that was like.
Togafau: Man, uh, something that you just had to be there to describe. Like I said, I could tell you a million things about it, but I'd probably say the biggest thing about it was just knowing that not everybody gets a chance to go to the playoffs, the NFC championship game, let alone a Super Bowl and I was two years into the league and I'm playing in the biggest game that football allows you to play so it was just a crazy experience and probably one of them I'm almost sure I won't forget.
3. Tell me about the experience of the Cardinals getting into the playoffs and making that run -- nobody expected you guys to get that far.
Togafau: It was actually easy, just knowing that nobody expected us to win, week in and week out, and to go out there, it kind of took the pressure off of us. I felt like we weren't going to let anybody down, so it really made it less stressful for us. I felt like it made it more stressful for other teams, because they were expected to win. For us to come in and, week in and week out, and for what everyone else saw as pulling out victories, we saw as just playing sound football and doing what we knew we had to do to win.
4. What was your role, where did you fit on that team?
Togafau: Me, uh, special teams, a core guy, just there really to give the No. 1 mike linebacker a break, also at the same time, just help the field position, changing the field position, helping our defense and our offense either get a good start on defense with pinning them back or helping our offense get a good start, whether it be on punt return or kickoff returns. Either way I felt like I had a part in it, rather than just sitting on the sidelines and not dressing down.
5. A lot of people underestimate the importance of special teams, but that's really how you got in the league, isn't it?
Togafau: You'd be suprised, a lot of people get a chance to feed their kids playing special teams. I just so happen to be one of them and I'm not ashamed of it all, especially with the opportunities that I've gotten, just the things I've been able to provide for my kids and for my family. And all of this doing special teams.
6. Tell me about your experiences at Idaho State, did you feel like you came in prepared to compete for an NFL job?
Togafau: To be honest, I did. There was a lot of carryover as far the defense that was run here. And even the workouts, we have a different kind of trainer, he kind of does a college workout. When I get here, it wasn't new to me. When I got here, I know a lot of big school guys, they never did certain lifts just because of the money within the program, they have machine weights. And this guy, he works off of free weights, which is what we were used to at Idaho State. That was another thing that helped me out.
7. Super Bowl is a media circus. It's two weeks of craziness. What's the craziest thing you observed during that time?
Togafau: (Laughing) The craziest would have to be a transvestite from Telemundo, man, dressed up as a straight woman and really believing that he was a she and just asking weird questions. It was just uncomfortable to see. I'm going to keep my mouth clean, but it was just uncomfortable to see that kind of thing. I don't know, it was just a weird feeling. I'm glad you guys didn't to be there to experience it. I took one for the team in that case.
And thanks for being a Bengal -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.