BOISE – Some not-so-subtle irony bled upon the Blue Friday as the White Team won the Blue and Orange Game, the final scrimmage of the Boise State spring schedule.
The Blue 'All Star' Team got out to an early 10-0 lead, and probably would have kept it, had not BSU head coach Chris Petersen intervened from the coaches booth, strategically pulling 'stars' from the game to even the odds.
""That was beyond fun," Austin Pettis (who threw the winning touchdown) said. "We play against each other every day in practice, so it was just fun to be able to switch things up and play with defense on your side finally. It was as close as we come to a game atmosphere."
On the second play of the game Kellen Moore hit Kyle Wilson (yes, Kyle Wilson) for a 40-yard gain. It wasn't a pretty catch, but it was a catch and he was wide open.
Wilson forced a fumble on the White's first drive and Jeron Johnson recovered. Wilson was the first player taken down by the Pete upstairs. Kyle Brotzman (the reported first pick in Pete's draft) got the Blue on the board with a 32-yard field goal.
Petersen created a draft to make the game more interesting; he split the BSU squad and coaches into two teams and let them play it out in 8-minute quarters.
"It's the one time during the year we can do that," Petersen said. "We talked about doing this before, but we never had the numbers to do it. I think the kids appreciate it more, I hope the fans appreciate it. It's so much about competing. We talk about that so much."
A bunch of players went both ways on occasion Friday (mainly defensive players wanting to get on the other side of the stat book), none bigger than Michael 'Bacon' Atkinson.
The redshirt freshman defensive tackle got two carries in the game, one for one yard and the other (that you'll probably be hearing about for the next four months) for 25 yards.
Atkinson rumbled off the 25-yard run on a dive play off A gap, right side: imagine being a defensive back trying to tackle a 320-pound tackle!
"I didn't really expect that at all," Atkinson said. "I just went up and got a couple good blocks and one of the guys missed a tackle. I told all the guys that if I ever get into the open I am bouncing it to the outside. It was a joke, but it actually happened."
He played fullback in high school, but wasn't sure his skills would translate to the collegiate level.
"It reminded me of running in high school," Atkinson said. "It was only like 20 yards, but I was so tired after it because I'm not used to it anymore. When you're running it's just like you're running through a tunnel."
Everyone in the stadium took notice, including Pete.
"That's what we saw on his highlight tape," Petersen said. "We'll look at it … shoot. I think he needs to be a fullback, but I don't know about the ball. I don't think Dan Paul and Rickie [Brockel] want him back there."
Atkinson wants to be back there, even if he is coy about it.
"I don't think they expected it like that because it's Canadian High School," Atkinson said. "So they're like 'okay maybe he can run over 160-pound DB's,' but I guess I did pretty good here too. We'll see what happens; it's up to them."
Few Western Athletic Conference linebackers want him there either. Atkinson made guys miss and dragged defenders … quite a highlight. But it didn't lead to points for the Blue Team: Brotzman clanked a 52-yard field goal high off the right upright. It had the distance for sure.
Moore hit Titus Young on a 13-yard fade corner route to score the Blue Team's only touchdown, beating Cedric Febis (who led all players with seven tackles) to the corner. Moore was benched the entire second half (10-for-16, 106 yds, TD), leaving Drew Hawkins (4-for-10, 2 int, 57 yds) to run the Blue squad.
The best highlights of the game came into the hands of Tyler Shoemaker, who may have solidified himself as a legitimate third-threat this spring. He caught three passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns for the White Team.
"It was realty good to see Tyler step up," Petersen said. "He's one of those guys who can be an x-factor for us next fall."
"I feel like I cleaned up my routes and developed myself as a receiver and a playmaker," Shoemaker said.
Half a dozen wide-receiver screens (a play repeatedly run by both teams) set up the first score.
Shoemaker faked like he was going to block for the screen, then zipped upfield and Michael Coughlin (7-for-13, 81 yds, TD) hit him wide open from 26 yards out.
"It just caught the defense at the right time," Shoemaker said. "They were expecting the middle screen coming, just caught him over the top of the slip screen."
On the all-important extra point (turned into a long try because of excessive celebration, all three touchdowns were flagged as the teams celebrated) the Blue team chanted 's name, "Pavle, Pavle, Pavle" but the walk-on made his try to make it 10-7.
As the players shifted in and out and Pete played puppeteer, his assistant coaches led the teams from the sideline, both adorned with fedoras and sweaters (Hail Paul 'Bear' Bryant!).
For Wide Receivers and Assistant Head Coach [db]Brent Pease (and his fedora) it opened his coaching repertoire wide.
"It's weird because I'm still pulling for the offense," Pease said. "I want to see all the receivers do well, but it's kind of cool to be around the defensive guys and see how they think and how they're competing and be around some of their calls. Coach Pete talks about it now and then; he gets to see it all the time. We're so zeroed in as offensive guys; it's kind of neat."
And it was neater of course, because Pease's White Team won.
"We get to eat," Pease said. "Next year, whoever gets the role, let's hope they keep up the White tradition."
A bunch of players played on both sides of the ball. George Iloka and Brandyn Thompson played receiver. Doug Martin made four tackles. D.J. Harper pressured Drew Hawkins on a blitz. Shea McClellin, J.P. Nisby and and Travis Stanaway got sacks for the White Team (but they are supposed to, as defensive players). The Blues didn't get a sack.
Shoemaker's second score gave the White Team the 14-10 lead (and eventual win) late in the fourth quarter: Mike Coughlin took the snap, handed off to Matt Kaiserman who handed a reverse to Pettis, and the junior receiver hit Shoemaker for a 85-yard strike.
"We've been working on it for a week," Shoemaker said. "It worked out perfect. The defense bit on the reverse and just found me on the streak on the side."
"Austin can throw," Petersen said. "He's a talented guy. He's quite an athlete. That guy is fast swimming."
Pete was referring to an exercise last spring at the YMCA.
For Pettis, the throw was a chance to make up for a missed opportunity in December. "That's been in our playbook since last year," Pettis said. "We ran it in the bowl game but I didn't get good enough of a pass off. I got a nice pass off today."
The game kind of worked out like Petersen wanted, a "see-saw game."
On a fourth and two call near the end, Pete pulled Atkinson and Young from the game. He said he was shouting over the radio, "Get Atkinson out! He's not scoring a touchdown! Call another timeout!"
Atkinson said his number was called on the play, but he never got the chance to score.
Winston Venable looks stout as a nickel back for the Blue Team. He looks to fill Ellis Powers' vacated position. He made six tackles. Jeron Johnson and Travis Stanaway each had five.
Jamar Taylor had two picks, but one was called back for roughing the passer. The second one sealed the game. Jarrell Root also made a pick in junk time. Josh Borgman recovered a fumble. Garcia Day broke up a couple passes and looked like a solid backup at corner.
There were a bunch of procedure calls against both teams (and all those unsportsmanlike calls for celebrating).
Neither team ran the ball too impressively. Jeremy Avery made the best of his six carries, 49 yds; D.J. Harper ran for 31 yards on 10 carries. Kaiserman picked up 26 yards on five carries.
Next week the Broncos have testing: weight lifting and sprints.
There are only four weeks of school left, then summer workouts can resume, then fall camp comes real quick and before you know it, Oregon will be in the visitor's locker room looking for revenge.