Boise State was dressed in its “Phoenix wear,” the white jerseys, orange pants and blue helmets from Fiesta Bowl lore. But the magic elixir must have been hiding in Glendale last night. The Broncos were just not as good as Baylor in the Cactus Bowl, and they absorbed the worst loss in a postseason game (all the way back to the Division II playoffs) in school history, a 31-12 loss at the hands of a team that had lost six in a row. Instead, it’s Boise State finishing the season with two straight losses for the first time in nine years.
It turned into that hollow 10-3 season the Broncos were hoping to avoid. And they have to live with the fact that this is the first senior class at BSU in 15 years that has gone without 40 career victories. It’s a different world now. At some point the oddsmakers are going to stop drinking the blue-and-orange Kool-Aid, and Boise State will play as an underdog again. And it will be a good thing.
Stopping the run was identified as a key concern for Boise State against Baylor. Turns out the Broncos could not stop the pass. An interception by Chanceller James on the Bears’ opening drive appeared promising for the defense, but by halftime Baylor had already amassed 285 yards through the air. KD Cannon had a staggering 182 yards on eight catches at the break with two touchdowns as the Bears rolled to a 21-6 lead. Coach Jim Grobe was able to dust off the old Baylor offense and lay it on the Broncos. More than once, the ESPN crew mentioned the big cushions the secondary was giving Baylor receivers, and the lack of blitz calls. When it was done, the Bears had gobbled up 515 total yards, the second-most ever yielded by Boise State in a bowl.
There was one Baylor drive in particular that sapped Boise State last night. After Brett Rypien threw an interception in the end zone that Orion Stewart ill-advisedly brought out to the one-yard line, the Bears marched 99 yards for their third touchdown of the night. The possession was kept alive by a running into the kicker penalty that Baylor punter Drew Galitz made Academy Award-worthy. The Broncos had gotten a rare stop, and it was taken away by a bad call. It shouldn’t have deflated the defense, but it did.
Jeremy McNichols’ Mountain West record 24-game streak with a touchdown came to an end amidst a disappointing 46-yard night in his final appearance as a Bronco. McNichols’ 2.4 yards per carry did not exactly showcase his talents. The frustration was widespread on offense. The red zone was a particular nightmare for Boise State. The Broncos took the ball inside the Baylor 10-yard line four times and had six points to show for it. The capper was a decision to go for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the five on the first possession of the third quarter. A fade from Rypien to Wilson did not connect, and a 74-yard drive went for naught.
Props to Jake Roh, one of Boise State’s few bright spots. The junior tight end from Scottsdale was right at home at Chase Field, making six catches for 54 yards, two more receptions than he had during the rest of the season combined. Roh was the target on a first quarter throw that would have been a touchdown had it not been underthrown and intercepted at the five-yard line. The Broncos used their tight ends more than they had all season. Whether it’s just because they had to is beside the point. Alec Dhaenens and Chase Blakley also had receptions (one apiece).
Luke Falk prepped for his senior year (as opposed to the NFL Draft) with a dud last night, as Washington State fell to Minnesota 17-12 in the Holiday Bowl. The Gophers were without 10 players suspended by the athletic department for an alleged sexual assault. Minnesota’s team threatened to boycott the bowl until reversing course after what had to be an enlightening meeting with the administration. A coalition of “concerned citizens” wants Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys fired for supporting the players in a tweet without acknowledging the alleged assault victim. Minnesota’s athletic director happens to be former Boise State AD Mark Coyle, who should get credit for sticking to his convictions in the face of the boycott. It was an ugly incident, as demonstrated in an 82-page report after a university investigation.
When new college coaches assemble their staffs, a lot of anonymous names materialize. One at Nevada is certainly known among the WAC expatriates in the Mountain West. Timmy Chang has been hired as inside receivers coach by new head man Jay Norvell at Nevada. Chang, of course, is the former Hawaii quarterback who holds the NCAA record for career total offense at 16,910 and threw for 123 touchdowns. Since stops in the NFL and CFL, he’s been coaching at Emory & Henry, Jackson State and SMU (under his former UH coach, June Jones). When Chang visits Boise State this fall, there may be some bad memories. When he was a Hawaii senior in 2004, he hit the blue turf looking to break Ty Detmer’s NCAA career passing yards record. Instead, he was picked off four times in a 69-3 Bronco romp.
It’s Mountain West hoops time for Boise State, which opens its conference slate at Utah State tonight. It’s an interesting way to begin—the Broncos have won their last two games in Logan after going 0-for-18 all-time in the Cache Valley before 2015. Last year’s 76-61 victory at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum was BSU’s largest margin of victory ever over the Aggies in a series that dates back to 1974. The usually-rabid USU student section should be toned down tonight by Christmas break. But the Aggies are going to be tough on that floor nonetheless, led by Jalen Moore, often a thorn in Boise State’s side. Moore, finally a senior, declared for the NBA Draft last March before electing to stay at Utah State. He leads the Aggies with 16.6 points per game and is shooting 52.5 percent from the field.
Boise State’s game at Utah State is as interesting as any of the openers in Mountain West play tonight. San Diego State, fresh off a title in the Diamond Head Classic (a much-needed one) has the Wednesday bye in Week 1. And Nevada, which has established itself as the team to beat, has a theoretical breather as the Wolf Pack hosts San Jose State. Colorado State tests UNLV’s new Marvin Menzies regime, Fresno State tries to prove its preseason inconsistencies have been ironed out when it visits unpredictable New Mexico, and Air Force is at Wyoming, coming off a two-point loss to USC. Boise State, by the way, has the Mountain West’s only win so far over an NCAA top 50 team (SMU).
If ever there was an example of putting one bad game in the rear view mirror and moving onto the next one, it was last Friday night’s Idaho Steelheads game at Allen. When the Americans tallied twice in the first period, the Steelheads had been outscored 8-0 since arriving in Texas. But the Steelies rallied to tie that game and send it all the way to a shootout, where goalie Branden Komm was stellar again. Komm stopped two of three shots in the showdown and is now 4-0 in shootouts this season with 13 stops in 14 shots. Idaho now takes its road show to Rapid City tonight.
This Day In Sports…December 28, 1958:
A landmark day in NFL history—as what many call “the greatest game ever played” helps popularize pro football forever. The NFL championship game went to overtime, with Alan Ameche scoring on a one-yard dive to give the Baltimore Colts a 23-17 win over the New York Giants. The nationally-televised game extended into prime time and created legions of new NFL fans.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)