Broncos emphatically answer November

Even after the season-ending win at San Jose State on Thanksgiving weekend, there was a negative vibe. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

Even after the season-ending win at San Jose State on Thanksgiving weekend, there was a negative vibe hanging over the Boise State football program. Not internally, obviously, but externally. I participated, didn’t you? Oh ye of little faith. The Broncos’ Poinsettia Bowl performance yesterday was literally one for the record books in a 55-7 dismantling of Northern Illinois. Boise State’s first possession said it all—three plays, 75 yards and a touchdown in 58 seconds, the fastest offensive TD in Bronco bowl (and Poinsettia Bowl) history. When the smoke cleared, it was the fifth-biggest rout ever in a bowl game, according to ESPN. By anyone, anywhere.

The yardage numbers sound they somebody made them up: 654 yards for Boise State and 33 for NIU. The Broncos rolled up 240 yards in the first quarter alone behind Offensive MVP Brett Rypien, who went 29-of-39 for 377 yards and three touchdowns on the day. What a response to the November of discontent. The 33 yards allowed were not only the fewest ever for Boise State in a bowl, they were the second-fewest in school history. The only better number was the 30 yards yielded by the Broncos against Whitworth in 1968, when they were just five games removed from the junior college ranks.

How about the concern over the absence of the suspended Tanner Vallejo at linebacker? I speculated that it would be Joey Martarano’s time. Martarano was solid, but senior ‘backer Tyler Gray was a one-man gang, forcing one fumble and recovering two (and recording a sack he didn’t get credit for). Boise State held Northern Illinois to minus-5 yards on the ground—1,000-yard rusher Joel Bouagnon gained 16 yards on eight carries. If the Poinsettia Bowl marked the final game of junior defensive end Kamalei Correa’s Bronco career, it was a fitting end. Correa didn’t have the season anyone envisioned, but he looked like his sophomore year yesterday, logging two sacks and a forced fumble against the Huskies. It’s still a gamble if Correa enters the NFL Draft, but if it’s a “what have you done for me lately?” scenario, he’s in good shape.

The individual record book got some work yesterday, too. Thomas Sperbeck tied Matt Miller’s Boise State single-season receptions record. Sperbeck’s six catches gave him 88 for the year. Shane Williams-Rhodes made a triumphant return from his high ankle sprain last month, leading the Broncos with eight catches for 94 yards. SWR finishes his career with 233 receptions, moving past Austin Pettis into second on the BSU all-time list. And Tyler Rausa booted two more field goals, the second one giving him the Broncos’ single-season mark with 25. Tyler Jones had established the previous standard of 24 when he led the nation in scoring in 2004.

Here’s the record the seniors as a whole take with them. Boise State finishes the season at 9-4 (sounds a lot better than 8-5, doesn’t it?), and that ninth win makes this Bronco senior class the 14th straight to win at least 40 games in its collective career, an average of 10 wins per season. Other seniors of note in the Poinsettia Bowl: Tyler Horn, the Mountain View grad, contributed 1.5 sacks, and Kelsey Young had a 24-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. And there was a cool ESPN shot of Darian Thompson and Donte Deayon standing together on the sidelines in the final minutes of their Boise State swan song. Fare thee well.

Christmas Eve means the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu, and Mountain West champion San Diego State has an appointment with Cincinnati in Aloha Stadium. The Aztecs are 10-3 and the Bearcats 7-5, but SDSU is favored by only three points. San Diego State is having to go with redshirt freshman Christian Chapman at quarterback, as Maxwell Smith is out with a knee injury. But now Cincinnati has its own issues under center. Gunner Kiel is not on the trip with Cincy due to “personal issues,” leaving the task to redshirt freshman Hayden Moore. But this Moore guy isn’t totally green—he threw for a school-record 557 yards in three-plus quarters early this season in a loss at Memphis after Kiel went out with an injury.

A tragic story out of New Mexico, as Lobos safety Markel Byrd was killed in a car wreck Tuesday while driving home for Christmas. Byrd had played in UNM’s loss to Arizona in the New Mexico Bowl last Saturday, making three tackles. And he’s the one who made the open-field stop on Boise State’s Austin Cottrell to end the Lobos’ win over the Broncos on the blue turf last month. Byrd brought Cottrell down at the New Mexico four-yard line after Cottrell had run 40 yards with a lateral and was making a bee-line for the end zone.

In the media, there are always those who will take the other side, if only to take the other side. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is one of them going into Kellen Moore’s first NFL start for Dallas Sunday at Buffalo. Wilson doesn’t trust these final two games as an adequate audition for a Tony Romo backup spot in 2016. “Surely the owner can afford or can uncover a better one than Moore,” writes Wilson. “Moore piled up completions and yards at Boise State, but he didn’t win games as much as he didn’t do anything to lose them at a time when it would have been pretty hard for Boise State to lose to Idaho, New Mexico State and all those other WAC powers. The prudent thing to do is use a high draft choice on a quarterback who could be the 2016 backup and the heir apparent to Romo.” Are you fired up for Sunday yet?

Hopefully Billy Winn’s career hasn’t stalled in Indianapolis. The former Boise State defensive tackle was been placed on injured reserve this week with a torn rotator cuff suffered in last Sunday’s 16-10 loss to Houston. Winn, who was traded to the Colts by Cleveland at the beginning of the season, logged 14 tackles and two fumble recoveries this year. This is his fourth NFL season after being drafted in the sixth round by the Browns in 2012.

Lonnie Jackson’s value to the Boise State basketball team is becoming apparent 12 games into the season. As a graduate transfer from Boston College, Jackson has a “basketball maturity” that has allowed him to rapidly pick up the Bronco system—and begin to take a leadership role. He’s becoming a guy Leon Rice can depend on when when Anthony Drmic gets in foul trouble or has problems with his cranky ankle. Jackson has been in double-figures in four of the last five games, boosting his scoring average to 7.3 points per game. He’s shooting almost 41 percent from three-point range, a Drmic-type number that is paying dividends. Jackson and Boise State have one non-conference game remaining, next Wednesday night versus UC Davis.

In pro sports quick hits, the Idaho Stampede resume play after a Christmas break when they host the Oklahoma City Blue Sunday afternoon in CenturyLink Arena. The Stampede will miss the scoring of star guard Tyus Jones, who’s now back with the Minnesota Timberwolves. And Idaho Steelheads forward Kyle Jean will go into Saturday’s game against Utah in CenturyLink Arena as the reigning ECHL Player of the Week. Jean earned the honor after posting nine points (two goals and seven assists) in three games last week. The Steelies appear to have righted the ship now, despite having had a four-game winning streak snapped by Allen in a shootout last Saturday.

This Day In Sports…December 24, 1987:

A cerebral hemorrhage ends the writing career of respected Idaho Statesman sports columnist Jim Poore. The talented teddy bear of a guy would last over two years before passing away, but on Christmas Eve he was taken away from the newspaper (and our eyes) forever. Poore’s humor and lifelong community perspective were unmatched in Boise sportswriting. You can only imagine what a field day he’d have had with Bronco football the past 15 years. And with the evolution of Boise’s sports scene. There’ll never be another like him.

(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.)