Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Game Week...and Own Goals

Ah the road of the crowd. The roar of Arizona State fans giving me grief because I mistakenly put "Wildcats" instead of "Sun Devils" on the website in the little story I do for the weekly game Notes. Yes a fan called both me, and Jeff Tingey, and yes, I fixed it. While I'd love to blame someone...I just goofed up. Less you think I don't stand up when I screw up, I actually posted apologies at Devils Digest and Sun Devils Message Board. Yeah, I manned up...I'm saying it.

However, just to get you all in the mood for a little pigskin, and a big weekend in general in road athletics (soccer at the Governor's Cup, and volleyball also at Arizona State) here are some good links and stuff.

First of all, checking the local news stations websites should be required viewing. Brad Shellgren and Paul Shahen at KPVI have video from Arizona, Oklahoma, and of course ISU press conferences...Paul was in Tempe....nice. Check out their sportscasts from 8/31 and 9/1. Over at KIFI, there's almost too much video to link to, but check out Alyssa Chin's piece on the offense (the defense and special teams will be up later this week), and there are also good pieces on Coach Z talking about Babe Caccia, and some of the newcomers on the volleyball team.

Nothing new in the Journal today, but Kelvin Ang is working on a huge John Zamberlin piece about his playing career for this weekend, and his last big piece was the Tuiasosopo Niusulu piece which was awesome, so this should be fun. He of course adds to his blog daily.

Now, fun times in Tempe, where Dennis Erickson has suspended "5 or 6" players. The media down in Tempe is scrambling because....well..that's all they said. They didn't say who the five or six are. Nice right? Don't you love big time football? Maybe John Zamberlin should have said in the press conference that one or three guys might not make the trip due to eligibility issues, but not say who they were. That would have been fabulous LOL. The East Valley Tribune, DevilsDigest, and many others are trying to figure out the names. The might need these guys to help figure it out.

Dennis Erickson didn't address in much in his press conference, but he did talk a little about knowing John Zamberlin, and his thoughts on Idaho State. Of course, you can watch all of ISU's press conference proceedings on the official site as we posted them on Monday afternoon.

By the way, of the 39 FBC/FCS games this week....the Washington Times doesn't think too highly of our chances...

Governor's Cup Conundrum
Forgive my little rant here, but when you get ready for soccer this week and the Governor's Cup, don't read Boise State's version of the tournament history. It's wrong. Doug Link and I argue about this all the time, but as I've mentioned to him before, I've been here for every single one of these deals. The Governor's Cup is the accumulation of the results between the three Idaho schools. The first three years it was done in a format were one school hosted the other two, so that everyone got to have two home games every third year, since home games for new programs are hard to come by. In 2001, Boise State won the cup, but they don't even acknowledge that, as they said all the games weren't played, but that year our game with Idaho got cancelled and because of a date problem and we couldn't work it back into the schedule, and then 9/11 happened, and whatever.

Then it went for a few years were each team would host one, and travel to the other (ISU, UI, and BSU), and now they are back to the everyone at one site format.

Boise State doesn't recognize one of the ties in which we retained the cup (the original rules of the cup....again, I was a part of this, was whoever had the better record won the cup, and if there was a tie, it was goal differential, then it was goals scored, and it it was tied after that, whoever had possession of the cup retained the cup. That happened with us, and we always state we retained it after a tie.) and BSU even mentions that Seattle was the Idaho Governor's Cup. That can't happen...they ain't a part of Idaho....

So anyways, Doug Link and I have agreed to disagree on this, and they go with their version, and we go with our version. Of course, I think my version is the right version, and BSU thinks there's is correct...either way, a little soccer controversy never hurt anyone, and makes the proceedings more fun. FYI, Boise State won it last year...

Speaking of controversy
Getting ready for Oklahoma and Arizona State, I just love dealing with soccer controversy, but here I am again in the middle of it...and poor Annamarie Hofstetter. When is a goal not a goal? Apparently when she scores it. Here's the deal...on Friday, she takes a free kick, which deflects off a defender and into the net. Southern Utah had no SID present....just a student working his first game apparently from what I was told. He didn't know how to score it and credited it to Hofstetter. Great right? Well, they changed it to an own goal after he talked with the referee.
Now, all the ref said was that the ball hit the defender and went in, and had it not hit the defender, it would have been saves (Allison and Hof both said the exact same thing) and that it was an own goal. Um....see, that's why refs ref and I do what I do. I have to read the scorer's rulebook....I'm guessing the ref didn't, because that isn't an own goal. It's pretty clear in the scoring section of the rulebook that if a player's shot is deflected into the goal, then the player who shot the ball gets credit for the goal. If a player shoots or passes a ball back into their own net....that's an own goal.

The guy I feel sorry for is Kyle Cottam, who is SUU's SID for soccer, who wasn't there and has to go on here say from his coach (who admitted he didn't have a good look at it) and his student, who doesn't really know soccer. We are awaiting the game film and I'm gonna watch it for myself, and if it's pretty obvious this is scored wrong, I'll have to go over folks head to get this changed. What sucks is poor Annamarie hasn't scored since the second game of her career...she is a senior now. Jon Kasper has my back on this...for now it is staying as an own goal (we had switched it already in the notes for this week figuring this was a no-brainer....boy was I wrong).

I love crap like this...we had this at Boise State in fact in 2006...Jason Erickson was there, and we were playing Idaho and an obvious goal was mistakenly ruled an own goal. We got that one switched pretty quick, but not without some hassle...and here I am three years later with the same thing.

I agonized last year when I credited an own goal against UC Davis, but the ball wasn't going in, and our player tried to clear the ball away and hit it into our net by mistake...that's an own goal. Honestly, soccer should get with the rest of America and credit the goal to the last player to touch it. Maybe I'll try to get that changed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tale of the Two Deeps

Idaho State issued its two-deep roster for this week's opening game with Arizona State and we learned almost as much about the team from who's not on it than who is. The big news was that defensive back Kenny Viser, a transfer from Nevada who impressed a lot of folks with his athleticism during spring ball, is academically ineligible. And we learned that linebacker Jeremy Gibson and defensive back Kelvin Miller, both of whom were expected to play important roles in a rebuilding Bengal defense, may be ineligible, pending the outcome of their grade appeals.

So that took a little of wind out of what has really been a very positive fall camp for the Bengals. The one thing I wanted to see from this, John Zamberlin's (above) third edition, was some evidence of a rising talent level. For the last two seasons, the talent base on this ISU team has been well below the Big Sky level. Coach Z's first two recruiting classes were not all that productive, so it was critical that he showed the dwindling Bengal fan base that there is hope for the future.

I think he's done just that. Zamberlin and his staff had just one healthy scholarship running back during spring ball, for example, but they added four young backs who have impressed this fall, and they have all come from varying backgrounds: Stew Tracy, a Boise State transfer; Jordan Scott, a JC; and Skyler Morgan and Darrius Coleman, two freshmen. Add that talent infusion to senior Clint Knickrehm and redshirt freshman Ben Laporta, and I think you've got the start of a pretty good backfield -- and, best of all, one that should have quality depth for several seasons to come.

Another thing I find particularly attractive about this collection of young kids is the Idaho pedigree. We've all been engaged in the ongoing debate over on the Bengal Den about how well ISU recruits Idaho kids. Those who contend the Bengals need more of a Gem State flavor should be excited to see 14 Idahoans on the two-deeps, and 30 total on the roster. (Let those who are most vociferous about recruiting Idahoans also be forewarned: their theories about how Idaho kids will compete more vigorously, and attract more fans will also be put to the test).

Finally, I like the presence of all those young defensive linemen on the roster: of the 15 d-linemen in camp, only two are seniors. The Bengal coaching staff recognized how critically undermanned the program was on the d-line last year, and moved to rectify the shortage with not only numbers, but what appears to be quality. The two-deeps include two JC transfers, Rustin Phillips and Chad O'Donnell, and a true freshman in Minh Williams, with another true frosh, Isaiah Walker, expected to see action.

The bummer, of course, came with the news of Viser's ineligibility and the questions about Gibson and Miller's availability. Linebacker still appears to be one of this team's weak spots, and Gibson could bring a playmaking element to the position -- if he gets eligible. Losing both Viser and Miller, meanwhile, would not be fatal, but it surely would weaken the patient. With Viser and Miller, the defensive backfield likely would have been counted among the areas of real growth in talent and depth. Without them, however, it appears there is a significant dropoff after starters Keith McGowan and Michael Wright at the corners.

After watching both scrimmages and talking with the coaching staff, I like the direction this program is going. It appears the overall talent level is on the rise, and now we'll watch to see who among these talented youngsters will rise to the level of playmaker. Unfortunately, they may be difficult to identify in those first two games against ASU and Oklahoma.
Arizona State Suspends "5 or 6" for Opener
Sun Devil coach Dennis Erickson told a reporter he's suspended "five or six" players for the opener against Idaho State on Saturday, but he declined to name the players. Also, ASU freshman linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who has not been cleared yet by the NCAA, will not play on Saturday.

Big Sky Predictions

Shot in the dark time. Okay, here we go:

Portland State at Oregon State: Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this game will be seeing how much, if any, Jerry Glanville's offensive approach has changed now that long-time offensive coordinator Mouse Davis has retired. JG has vowed to be more committed to running the football this year, but how committed will he be if the Vikings fall behind early to their PAC 10 neighbors? The Beavers, who are picked to finish fourth in the conference after coming off a 9-win season, shouldn't have much trouble winning this game, so what matters will be how the Vikings play the game.

Montana State at Michigan State: This is another "foregone conclusion" game where style points will matter most. MSU named Mark Iddins as its starting quarterback earlier this week which comes as something of a surprise after the way Bobcat coach Rob Ash talked up Cody Kempft earlier this summer. Iddins got the nod because he didn't turn the ball over in fall camp. No turnovers would be a worthy goal for the Bobcats against a Spartan team that also won 9 games last season, and who are picked to finish third in the Big 10.

Western State at No. 3 Montana: Keeping with the theme of quarterback selection, this game will serve as a dress-up scrimmage for two contestants for Griz starting QB -- Andrew Selle, incumbent backup; and Justin Roper, Oregon transfer. The final score will be a mere distraction. For those who are looking at Idaho State's non-conference schedule and comparing with the Griz, remember one thing: when you put 20,000 butts in the seats, you can play anybody you want to.

Weber State at Wyoming: Upset of the day? Why not. The Wildcats are experienced on both sides of the football, but particularly at the most important postion -- quarterback. The Cowboys are breaking in a new head coach and a new offensive system after averaging just 13 points a game last year. Sure, I'll take Weber in this one.

Northern Colorado at No. 25 Kansas: Just for the record, I think the Jayhawks, who are picked to finish behind Nebraska in the Big 12 North race, are overrated. Also for the record, I don't think it will matter against Northern Colorado. Jayhawks quarterback Todd Reesing has thrown for 68 touchdowns and over 7500 yards in his career. It should be a short work day for Mr. Reesing.

Sacramento State at UNLV: Perception in the coaching busines is everything. Sac State's Marshall Sperbeck is perceived as being a success in his two seasons with the Hornets with his 9-14 record, including a 6-6 campaign last year. UNLV head coach Mike Sanford, meanwhile, is feeling the Vegas heat with his 11-36 mark after four years. And yes, it's a dry heat, but Sanford's goose will likely be well-cooked if he doesn't show marked improvement this season. Freudian slip of the week goes to the author of the Big Sky game notes, who wrote, "UNLV is picked to finish in the Mountain West." Take that anyway you want. BTW, I'm still going with the Rebels in a completely forgettable matchup.

Western Oregon at Eastern Washington: Well, since nobody in Cheney's heard from the NCAA lately, I guess we can assume the Eagles' probation is still in force. This matchup with D-2 Western will be the first "chip test," then. As in, "will Eastern play with a chip on its shoulder because it can't go to the playoffs, or simply lose interest." Western Oregon, coming off a 7-4 year and a respectable 31-14 loss to Portland State last season, could give Eastern a game if the Eagles are indeed distracted. But I don't think Western has the firepower to hang for 60 minutes.

--Brad B.

And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Quick Notes from the Coaches Show

Here are some tidbits from tonight's coaches' show with Bengal football Coach John Zamberlin:

Defensive back Kenny Viser (left), who transferred to ISU in the spring from Nevada, is academicaly ineligible. Defensive back Kelvin Miller and linebacker Jeremy Gibson are appealing grades and may not be eligible. Bengal fans have noted all three of these players have been seeing only sporadic reps during fall camp -- that's because the coaching staff couldn't count on having them available.

Zamberlin said he expects the following freshmen to have a chance to play this year: slot receiver Andrew Benavides, offensive lineman Mark Clampitt, defensive linemen Minh Williams and Isaiah Walker, defensive back Cameron Gupton, and running back/safety Darrius Coleman. He expects running back Skyler Morgan to redshirt unless he's needed in an emergency.

Safety Amir Owens is trying to come back from off-season knee surgery, and Zamberlin is uncertain if he'll travel to Arizona State for the Bengal opener Saturday night. Running back Jordan Scott has been hobbled by a bruised heel and is also questionable for ASU. Tight end Tyler Hjelseth has been idled by a torn quad muscle and probably won't play for awhile.

The coach told how he "recruited" new long-snapper Clint Brock to the squad. The coaches were approached by Brock's girlfriend, a member of the ISU volleyball squad. Brock happened to be visiting her on campus at the time. The coaches looked at film and watched him snap, liked what they saw, and two days later he became a Bengal. Zamberlin is very high on Brock's snapping abilities, and he'll be the long-snapper on Saturday night. He can also play tight end, but he'll be focusing on firing a football between his legs for now.

The Missing Link

The Arizona Republic points out that former Bengal quarterback Dirk Koetter is the "missing link" to this week's ASU-Idaho State game. The deal for the game was signed when Koetter was still ASU's head coach. Koetter, of course, is now the offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

--Brad B.

And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Babe Caccia Tribute Video

The audio is from Russ Eisenstein's 2007 halftime feature with Babe.


Legends Come, Legends Go...Legends Forever

You know, I've been at Idaho State for 12 years. I've been here long enough that only five people in the department, Nancy Graziano, Brian Jannsen, Dave Nielsen, Bobby Goeltz, and Shanna Neeser have been full time continuous employees for longer than me. It doesn't seem that long ago, but when I got here in 1998 Michael Jordan was still winning championships with the Chicago Bulls, Windows 98 hadn't been released yet, Bill Clinton hadn't admitted to any wrong doing with Monica Lewinsky, and there was no such thing as Google. I also got to meet three of the legends of ISU athletics in Jim Fox, Dubby Holt, and Babe Caccia.

Sadly, I've watched each of them pass on as well. Jim passed away in the summer of 2002 while on a vacation in Mexico with his wife and some close family friends. I remember sitting in my kitchen, feeling pretty good with the yard sale we had just finished with my wife when I got that phone call.

I remember when Dubby died, as we were coming back from Sacramento State from a basketball trip, when again, I got another phone call. Then yesterday, while eating lunch, I realized a call came to my cell while I was mowing the lawn. I returned it, and got the sad news.

But the great thing about knowing when a legend dies is that you know the legend themselves. All three of those guys were bigger than life characters, products really of a by-gone era. Jim Fox was truly larger than life, with a heart of gold. Funny, smart, well-mannered, generous to a fault, Jim Fox made road trips bearable in my first years here, taking me under his wing so to speak, showing me the ropes, teaching me about Pocatello. Sitting in a restaurant with Jim Fox, Doug Oliver, Jay McMillin, and Louis Wilson and trading story after story is one of my fondest memories. Before every home football game, I touch the plaque in the press box that I put there that bears his photo.

In Dubby, well, what can't you say. Well loved, spry as ever even in his advanced age, Dubby I think could still run the department right up until the end in early 2007. Dubby was so much fun to talk to, to hear stories about how Holt Arena came about, how the Big Sky Conference came about ... he was truly an encyclopedia of information about this university, and if he wasn't the school's greatest ambassador, it's only because Babe Caccia might have been as well.

Losing Babe hurts me a bit more just because of the Italian heritage we both shared (he let me call him Italo, and he called my his pizan...he is the only person to ever call me that). We talked media stuff, football, our mutual love of Canadian Football, and somehow, he always asked about my father, even though I don't think they ever met. I'm glad Babe saw the locker room the other day...his smile lit that room up. Think of the stories going on right now with those three.

Even going a step further, the loss of Earl Pond a few years back could be put right there along side Jim, Dubby and Babe as well. While not to turn macabre or anything, but I hope folks realize that the legends aren't gone. In my mind anyways, three more living legends are still around. Joe Richmond, who was the sports information director, ticket manager, and pretty much everything else back in the 1960s, still to this day can be seen at football practices and helping with youth track meets in the area as well. Joe and I regularly talk, and the other day he was at practice talking with some of the wives of the coaches, playing with the little kids they have. They had no clue of his background, because Joe won't tell it...that's just not his way.

Joe was followed by Glenn Alford, who is still around as well. Glenn worked at ISU in sports information as my predecessor for 31 years, and is still a treasure trove of information for me, and when ISU has success (hosting women's basketball tournaments and such), I always try to include him somewhere in the successes, because I know he can help, but most of all, I know he appreciates those successes. Affable is maybe Glenn's best trait, or the word that best describes him, although I personally love the dry humor. In 1992, Glenn was called into A.D. Randy Hoffman's office, and was read the riot act in part because the 1992 football media guide stated that Holt Arena was "the first doomed stadium on a college campus". Randy went off about how we couldn't afford typos and mistakes like that, and the story goes Glenn looked at him with a straight face and asked if knew of ISU's history in the building lately, and that it wasn't a typo. Typical Glenn.

The last legend hanging around is the one the athletes know best. When I travel I got the how is Dubby a few times, the how is Babe or Glenn a few times....but always, always, is Phil Luckey doing. Phil is the most beloved man I've ever met. I dare you to find anyone to have anything bad to say about the guy. You just can't. And his relationship with athletes is special, because that training room is like a therapists couch, and Phil was the personal confidant of many an injured Bengal. Think about get hurt, and you are far from home, you can't practice...athletes far and wide knew Phil Luckey better than anyone, and he has story after story in that head of his. I always gave Phil a hard time when a football game was on TV because he'd race out on the field in a dead sprint, and I'd joke that he was trying to get camera time, and it bothered him actually...I could see that getting under his skin. Because it wasn't true...I saw him in practice...if an athlete was hurt anywhere, Phil was sprinting to give aid. Phil loved, and still loves, all of the athletes at ISU.

ISU has lost some legends lately, but there are still more hanging around. Get to know Phil, and Joe, and Glenn. They are in the coffee shops, the bagel stores, the athletic offices, the practices and the games. Heck, Joe Richmond is a regular morning coffee guy at McDonald's. Say hi, chat them will be a better person for it. I'm a better person for it. Goodbye Italo....I'll miss ya'

Frank Mercogliano