There seems to be good buzz for the Boise State-Hawaii Mountain West championship game, but we won’t know for sure until the turnstiles turn Saturday afternoon. The challenge, of course, is that the home team has to sell every seat in the stadium from scratch—there’s no season ticket base built in for the postseason. The result in the three previous title games on the blue turf has been crowds in the mid-20,000’s, averaging 24,759. To be sure, the fans who have attended were there for a reason and were uncommonly loud. A simple goal for Bronco Nation this time would be to top the biggest throng of the three games: 26,101 in 2014. Attendance has been good this year, with a Mountain West-best average of 33,488 per game. Hopefully that’s a good omen.
Weather is always a factor in December, and it was last year with the rain turning to snow and temperatures just above freezing. The first two championship games in Albertsons Stadium kicked off with temperatures over 40 and partly cloudy skies, more than acceptable. Saturday’s forecast ain’t bad at all—temps in the mid-40’s, albeit with a chance of showers. That might not sound so appetizing to Hawaii, but that’s the way it goes. When the Broncos and Rainbow Warriors played in mid-October, it was ideal football weather, 53 degrees and dry with no wind. And a record 36,902 fans showed up.
THE CFP DRAMA DEEPENS
None of this matters should Boise State not beat Hawaii, but here we are in the first week of December and still deciphering the College Football Playoff rankings. And behind No. 17 Memphis are No. 19 Boise State and No. 20 Cincinnati on the new list released Tuesday night. If both the Broncos and Bearcats win Saturday, would the committee bump a two-loss Cincy ahead of a one-loss Boise State and create a firestorm? It’s very possible. The Bearcats’ only losses are to ranked teams, Ohio State and Memphis (although the one to the Buckeyes was 42-0), and they’d have a win over a ranked Tigers team in the American conference title game. Brace yourself.
Boise State has obviously dipped deep into its bullpen at quarterback this year, with great success. Hawaii has taken it a little more literally, with Cole McDonald and Chevan Cordeiro alternating the roles of starter and closer. McDonald began the season as the entrenched starter but was often relieved by Cordeiro, who finished the game at Boise State in October in a more traditional garbage time assignment. But in other games, UH coach Nick Rolovich hasn’t hesitated to use Cordeiro, and he’s the one who started last Saturday’s win over Army. McDonald entered the game in the second quarter with the score tied after Cordeiro suffered an apparent ankle injury. McDonald promptly threw a touchdown pass on his second snap. Cordeiro was on the sidelines with his ankle wrapped. His status this week isn’t clear.
COACH PETE’S BIG EXHALE
Anyone who followed Chris Petersen while he was here could not have been surprised by his farewell press conference Tuesday at Washington. “My whole plan is to get rested, to get recharged, and get redirected,” Petersen said. In other words, he’s certainly not going to USC or the NFL. The only time he drifted into Boise talk was when he was asked if it was harder to coach in a big market when he took the UW job. “In a lot of ways it was easier,” said Petersen. “We loved Boise and being over there. But’s it’s a small place. Everywhere you go, everyone knows about Boise State football and the coach, and that’s really not my style. So when I came over here in this big city and walking around, and there’s about four million people who don’t know that football happens here,” he smiled. “And I loved it.”
After watching the presser, I could see Coach Pete hitting the speakers/webinar/workshop circuit (and doing very, very well). “I’ve been through so many things in this business, that I think I can help other people,” he said. Seriously, imagine the possibilities. “Built For Life,” the mantra that has allowed him to recruit his “OKG’s” (Our Kinda Guys) at Boise State and Washington. He can sell organizational skills, building a winning culture, balancing your life, the whole nine yards. And psssst: he could do it from Boise.
BOISE STATE NEEDS ITS THREES, BUT…
As much as Boise State has struggled from beyond the arc this season, here’s an ominous stat going into tonight’s abnormally-early Mountain West opener—the first one in school history before Christmas—at New Mexico. The Lobos, who are 7-2, are holding opponents to less than 29 percent shooting from three-point land. And get this: New Mexico leads the country in free throw attempts and free throws made. The good news is, the Broncos have generally been able to stay out of foul trouble so far this season, committing 47 fewer fouls than their foes. The Pit can make you crazy, though. Both teams shoot 71 percent from the free throw line (if it comes down to that).
HOW BATTLE-TESTED ARE THE BRONCO WOMEN?
What will the Boise State women take from their rugged non-conference schedule so far? The Broncos will try to apply the positives to their Mountain West opener versus New Mexico tonight in ExtraMile Arena. KTIK’s Chris Lewis, the team’s play-by-play man, had this Twitter take on the Broncos’ 4-4 record: “According to RealTimeRPI, Boise State has played the 30th-ranked Strength of Schedule to this point. The team has been competitive for chunks of the loses to some of the nation’s best. Perhaps BSU isn’t at the level of a top 25 team yet, but don’t let the record deceive you.” The Lobos, picked second behind the Broncos in the MW preseason poll, opened the season with six-straight wins before suffering their first loss last Friday, a 73-60 defeat to then-No. 23 West Virginia in Cancun, Mexico.
STEELIES TURN THE PAGE TO DECEMBER
The Idaho Steelheads are in the middle of a 12-game homestand, and it continues tonight with the first of a three-game series against the Allen Americans in CenturyLink Arena. After a hot start in October, the Steelheads went 6-7-2 in November and ended it with a pair of frustrating losses to Kansas City last weekend. As hot as Will Merchant has been, forward Marc-Olivier Roy led the Steelies in scoring for November with 13 points (three goals and 10 assists). Roy is now second in the ECHL in assists for the season with 17. As for the Americans, they’re one point behind first-place Rapid City in the ECHL Mountain Division. Idaho is third, five points back.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by BACON…breakfast and brunch all day!
December 4, 2012: Paul Petrino is introduced as Idaho’s new head football coach, charged with turning around a Vandal program that had gone 3-21 in the previous two seasons and leading it through the uncertainty of independent status. The Vandals had played their final game in the WAC 10 days earlier and were without a conference home in 2013. They’d end up back in the Sun Belt in 2014 on a four-year trial run. Petrino had been an offensive coordinator at Arkansas and Louisville under both his brother Bobby and former Idaho coach John L. Smith. Petrino was on Smith’s Vandal staff from 1992-94.
(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.)