You'll find a few tidbits from this afternoon's Vandal football practice and some interesting comments from QB Brian Reader and defensive coordinator Mark Criner below. Check it out and feel free to comment away.
Before I post a quick interview with Criner, there are a few things to get to. Strong safety Jeromy Jones (shoulder/collarbone) and cornerback Isaac Butts (hamstring) were in street clothes. Butts is expected to play; Jones' status is more in doubt. Standout left guard Mike Iupati (concussion) also didn't practice -- he was in uniform but no pads. He's also expected to play.
QB Nate Enderle was in pads but didn't take any reps that I saw. During sprint drills, it was clear his right shoulder was hurting a bit. Here's what backup Brian Reader, who got the start last week, had to say about Enderle: "I feel horrible for Nate right now. I don’t enjoy that he’s hurt. I feel for him. Not a fun thing to do, I’m the backup quarterback and he’s the starter, he’s the guy. I feel obligated as his friend and his teammate to help him keep his motivation up to get better and better so he can start playing again."
We'll have a piece on Reader and his background (from Arkansas to JC to Idaho) in a couple days. So keep your eye out for that.
Now, here's an exclusive Q&A with Criner. We chatted after practice today.
S-R: What unique challenges does the Boise State offense pose?
Criner: “Probably the best way to describe it is they execute well. And I think the quarterback (Kellen Moore) does an awful good job in knowing where he’s going with the football and who he’s throwing to. He’s very accurate, and he doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes with his mind is pretty much the biggest thing. He doesn’t force it if he doesn’t feel he has the throw, and then they do a great job of shifting and motioning and all that.
We’re inventing shifts to put there (with the scout team).
“I think you’ve got to adjust what you’re doing, but you’re so late in the year; we do what we do. You can’t sit there and do a bunch of new things because that’s going to make your kids be thinking a little bit. Like last week, the one thing we didn’t do, we didn’t panic after they (Fresno State Bulldogs) have the long run — and we play the run well after that. … I know the quarterback from Fresno had a good percentage (15-for-15) but outside the one 41-yard pass … I mean, there was one time he completed three straight passes for seven yards and then they punted the ball.
“Now, Boise is a different offense. I understand that. Yeah, we’ve got to adjust what we’re doing with our coverage but we can’t overly do a bunch of stuff.”
S-R: Have you put your finger on what’s causing the slow starts?
Criner: “I just want to beat my head in the cement. (I’m) going, ‘God, what can we do to get ourselves going?’ And unfortunately, we had two missed tackles on the very first play that went for touchdowns and then we had an issue where we gave up two of those passes, one for 41 and one for a post corner. And then we kind of settled down from there. Obviously, if we hadn’t allowed the first one and the second one, we wouldn’t have seven wins. We’d have eight wins.
“We need to start fast and that’s kind of what we’ve talked about all week long. We’ve got to start fast. Hey, let’s settle down. Let’s just play sound right off the bat. I think the main thing is, you’re not going to have to fire your team up against a rival. And that’s going to be a positive thing. I don’t think we’re going to be a little bit down and say, ‘Let’s let Boise score some points here and then get playing.’ I mean, that’s what you can’t afford against a team like that with the home-field advantage they have and how good they are on offense.”
S-R: The numbers Boise State can put up, does that scare you? They’ve scored at least 45 points in all their WAC games.
Criner: “Is that right? ... They get going. You can’t let them stay in a rhythm. Once they stay in a rhythm (and) you let that the quarterback be in a rhythm, boy, he does a lot of good things.”