A sense of urgency before time runs out

It’s hard to beat a team twice in the same season, much less back-to-back weeks. But you’d rather be the team trying to do it than the team trying to prevent it. Boise State is the one trying to prevent Fresno State from doing it in the Mountain West championship game this Saturday night. Coach Bryan Harsin appeared to be steely-focused at his press conference yesterday. Was there a difference is how his team approached the game last week versus the seven-game winning streak? “In hindsight, there obviously was,” said Harsin. “You can fake your way through it, but it’ll show up. (On Saturday) you can’t fake it.” Hmmmm. There’s no happy talk this week—and the message to his players is clear. “You want to go out there in a championship game and you want to win,” Harsin said. “You’d better get yourself prepared.”

Jay Feely gave Boise State a lot of grief Saturday on the CBS Sports Network telecast for using Montell Cozart as much as it did at Fresno State. You wonder if that ship has sailed with Brett Rypien playing so much better now. A couple of drives blew up when Cozart was inserted deep in Bulldog territory. But special packages designed for Cozart can still cross up a defense, especially since he can throw. It happened to the Bulldogs on the Broncos’ first touchdown of the day, a four-yard toss from Cozart to A.J. Richardson. This two-quarterback system has been a work in progress from the outset of the season, and—rightfully so—it still is. “(Montell) still being part of our game plan—that’s going to continue,” said Harsin. “He came here to play in a championship game. We wouldn’t be here without him.”

Ode to Gabe Perez. Harsin announced yesterday that Perez’s five-year Boise State career is over after the outside linebacker broke his wrist in the second half Saturday against Fresno State. After all the injury challenges Perez has endured, this is a tough way to end it. He’s the only guy left who actually played for Chris Petersen in 2013 and was a key figure in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl in Harsin’s first season. Perez finishes his career with 77 tackles and 6.0 sacks, with all of the sacks coming in 2013 and 2014. This season he had 14 tackles, two for loss, with a key fumble recovery against Air Force 10 days ago. Perez underwent surgery yesterday.

So is Jake Roh out this Saturday, too? The Boise State senior leader’s absence was certainly felt in the loss at Fresno State. What part could Roh have played in the clutch, especially on those three potential scoring drives in the first half that came up empty? Harsin was still in “we’ll see” mode regarding Roh at his presser, saying he’ll know more when the Broncos get back on the practice field today. The tight end position was still part of the Boise State game plan in Fresno, with Alec Dhaenens overcoming a key drop to make two receptions for 27 yards, and redshirt freshman John Bates making the first two catches of his career, covering 17 yards.

Oh, Wikipedia. Here’s a good example of why you have to be careful when using it as a source of information. Yesterday afternoon on Harsin’s Wikipedia bio, there was this line: “Plans to leave Boise State and take the Tennessee job.” It seemed fishy off the top—an incomplete sentence hanging out there with no detail. A couple hours later the fact-checkers had taken hold, and the line was changed to: “Plans to continue coaching BSU.” Then it was removed altogether. The Tennessee thing made no sense. Besides, that job seems kind of toxic right now to anyone who doesn’t have prior ties to the Volunteers. Harsin has been rumored to be on the target list at Arkansas. That’s doesn’ t seem feasible either, although it’s not outlandish considering the one year he spent as head coach at Arkansas State.

The best guy to re-boot the Boise State baseball program after almost 40 years was right under the university’s nose. Gary Van Tol will be named coach of the Broncos’ new baseball team at a press conference this afternoon, according to multiple reports. Van Tol had said publicly that he wants the job, and why not? Since 2008 he has lived in Boise, where his wife, Christina, is Boise State’s Senior Women’s Administrator. Furthermore, Van Tol was manager of the Boise Hawks for the Chicago Cubs organization in 2014-15, inserting a pair of winning seasons into an era of losing ones. When the Cubs’ Northwest League affiliation moved to Eugene in 2016, Van Tol did, too. But only for the summer.

Boise State is now 24-0 in November home games at Taco Bell Arena under coach Leon Rice, but that streak is about to be challenged. The Broncos’ sliver of the annual Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge comes tonight versus Loyola-Chicago in Taco Bell Arena. There’s an interesting dynamic here. Many Mountain West advocates want to see the series between the two conferences dissolved because the Missouri Valley in its current form doesn’t do much for the Mountain West’s RPI ratings. The theory is that the only marquee team left in the Missouri Valley is Illinois State, which was 28-7 overall and 17-1 in conference last season.

Based on the Challenge criteria looking to pit the best against the best—and on down—the Redbirds drew Mountain West champion Nevada and will play the Wolf Pack in Reno tomorrow night. Well, the Broncos routed the Redbirds at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off 82-64. Now, in 7-0 Loyola-Chicago, Boise State gets one of two current unbeatens in the Missouri Valley. The only other is Valparaiso, from whence Bronco senior transfer Lexus Williams came. Speaking of which, Williams is easing into an increased role for the Broncos. He went scoreless in two of the team’s first three games but has put up 38 points in the past three—including 16 against Iowa State.

Three other campus notes: for the second straight week, College of Idaho forward Aziz Leeks is Cascade Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Week. Leeks averaged a double-double as the Yotes picked up a rivalry win over Northwest Nazarene and road wins over NAIA Top 25 foes Trinity International and Vanguard. Boise State’s women’s volleyball season extends tonight with that sport’s equivalent of the NIT, the 2017 National Invitational Volleyball Championship. The Broncos are in the Stockton, CA, bracket and will face University of the Pacific on the Tigers’ home court. And for the second time in her career, Boise State’s Allie Ostrander has been named a cross country finalist for the Honda Sports Award, given to the top women athletes in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports who signify “the best of the best in collegiate athletics.” Ostrander was also a finalist in 2015.

This Day In Sports…November 28, 2012, five years ago today:

Boise State records one of the biggest basketball wins in school history, upsetting No. 11 Creighton in Omaha, 83-70. Sophomore Derrick Marks poured in 35 points, 28 of them after halftime, and scored 18 consecutive Bronco points during one stretch in the second half. The Broncos won a road game over a Top 25 team for only the second time ever. The Bluejays were also the highest-ranked team of any kind Boise State had ever defeated.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)