At this point, any game is a gift. And Boise State expects a present under a spruce tree in Laramie this Saturday. After two straight weeks on the shelf, the Broncos are hoping to get in their season finale at Wyoming. How is Bryan Harsin’s confidence in their chances? “Very high,” said Harsin Monday. “Very confident we’re going to play this game.” Consequently, there’s a renewed intensity around the Bleymaier Football Center, especially with the Mountain West championship game in Boise State’s sights. “Everybody’s preparing like we’re going to get on that plane on Friday, and we’re going to go up to Wyoming and play,” Harsin said. The Broncos have had their injury setbacks, and their COVID-19 situation is unknown, but they couldn’t be any more rested than they are right now.
The Mountain West bowl possibilities continue to shrink. What was to have been the destination for the conference’s champion, the L.A. Bowl at the new SoFi Stadium, will not be played this year due to COVID-19 concerns (of course). That leaves the Arizona Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl (which moves to Frisco, TX, this year) and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Arizona Bowl is now considered the probable destination for the Mountain West winner. While Harsin says Boise State naturally likes to travel to different places for its bowl games, he acknowledges that this year it won’t be anything special: fly in, play the game, fly home. So he’s certainly not discounting his hometown bowl this time. “If we’re in a bowl game and it actually happens, I’d say right now we’d take it,” said Harsin. That would mean moving the game, of course.
HINT ON THE INTERVIEW LIST
Last week, Boise State defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding was hoping Jackson Cravens could return to the Broncos’ decimated defensive line. Now you can read between the lines, as the transfer from Utah is being made available to the media today. Certainly it’s not so that Cravens can talk about what fun it is to chart plays. With D-linemen Demitri Washington, Sam Whitney, Keeghan Freeborn and Herbert Gums all out for the season, Cravens will be welcomed back with open arms. Boise State is playing at 7,220 feet Saturday, and it needs bodies. The 6-2, 292-pounder hasn’t played since the loss to BYU a month ago. Cravens has five tackles on the season.
NOTES ON BOISE STATE’S NFL RUNNING BACKS
It’s taken more than three years, but former Boise State star Jeremy McNichols finally has his first career NFL touchdown. McNichols scored to cap a 91-yard drive in Tennessee’s 41-35 loss to Cleveland Sunday. He took the ball home, naturally. McNichols has been used sparingly of late by the Titans, though. He has only 15 carries over the past five games. Ex-Bronco Alexander Mattison was a scratch due to appendicitis in Minnesota’s 27-24 overtime win over Jacksonville Sunday. “Surgery went well,” tweeted Mattison Saturday night. “Thank you everyone for showing me love.”
BYU STARTS WITH THE BATTLE INSIDE
New Boise State center Mladen Armus might not be able to get a shot off Wednesday night at BYU. But if Armus can neutralize the Cougars’ Matt Haarms, the Broncos have a chance. Armus stands 6-10, and Haarms is 7-3. Armus has proven to be a determined rebounder. Haarms, a graduate transfer from Purdue, has 11 blocked shots in four games. It’s also going to be an interesting stage for Emmanuel Akot, who finally got his feet wet against College of Idaho last Friday with nine points, three rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes. Akot had been waiting more than 22 months to play a real basketball game again. He was never comfortable in the Arizona program but professes to be in Boise. Akot is the highest-ranked recruit ever to play for the Broncos, who hope his pedigree will show in Provo.
ANOTHER MOUNTAIN WEST TEST FOR THE YOTES
With its 26-game winning streak now history, College of Idaho returns to the court tonight to face another Mountain West foe, Utah State. The Aggies are 1-3—they don’t have Sam Merrill anymore, but they do still have seven-footer Neemias Queta. USU beat the Coyotes 103-66 last year in an exhibition game. Remember Montana Western? The Bulldogs were the team that was supposed to face Boise State last Friday before the Yotes agreed to be a late fill-in. UMW was set to visit C of I this Thursday and Friday but has had to cancel those games, too, because of coronavirus issues within its program.
STEELIES STEER AWAY FROM THE SEASON
It’s gone from a mid-October start to an early December start to a mid-January start to no start at all. Idaho’s COVID-19 situation is not improving, and the Idaho Steelheads have suspended operations for the upcoming season, expecting to resume play next fall. If there was a light at the end of the tunnel, Steelheads president Eric Trapp would surely have considered moving forward. But our state is barely keeping its head above water. Under the ECHL collective bargaining agreement, all Steelheads players automatically become free agents.
MERRITT IN THE MONEY AT MAYAKOBA
Troy Merritt tied for 40th at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, on Sunday. Merritt struggled to a two-over 73 on Saturday, but he shot a crisp 67 in the final round to earn $29,160. Viktor Hovland, the Norwegian who tied for second at the 2019 Albertsons Boise Open, parlayed his great Korn Ferry Tour run into a solid first season on the PGA Tour. Hovland won the Mayakoba for his second victory of the calendar year, pocketing almost $1.3 million. Hovland zoomed all the way from 60th to third in FedEx Cup standings.
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December 8, 1990, 30 years ago today: One of the classic games in Boise State football history is played in the semi-finals of the Division I-AA playoffs. The Broncos had a rematch with Nevada, a team they beat in Boise four weeks earlier. Boise State recovered from a horrible first half when Duane Halliday came off the bench to throw for a career-high 382 yards. The Broncos caught the Wolf Pack in the third quarter—then found themselves trailing 45-38 with less than a minute left when Halliday was injured momentarily and original starter Mike Virden came in to throw a game-tying touchdown pass. Nevada would end up winning in triple overtime, 59-52.
(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.)