Boise State tries to get the Mountain West season back on track tomorrow at a place it went off-track last March. The Broncos actually might be in the right frame of mind for this year’s visit to San Jose State. Last time it was the final game of the regular season. Boise State was coming off a miraculous win at San Diego State and a Senior Night rout of Nevada, and it laid an egg in a 68-63 upset loss at the eminently quiet Event Center Arena. This time the Broncos have been sobered by two straight defeats at the hands of Fresno State and New Mexico, and it’s likely the Spartans have their full attention. SJSU is much improved this year. And San Jose State’s Brandon Clarke has been one of the stories of the season so far, fourth in the Mountain West in scoring at 17.7 points per game.
“We can control how hard we play, and we just have to play like our hair is on fire. Otherwise, we’re just not a very good team.” That very well could have been San Jose State coach Dave Wojcik speaking, but it was, in fact, his former Boise State boss Leon Rice after Tuesday night’s loss to New Mexico. These young Broncos should know they need that chip on the shoulder since not much is expected of them by the rest of the Mountain West. This is the first time they’ve lost two in a row since the beginning of the season at the Charleston Classic. Yet Boise State is still in good shape a third of the way through the conference season, sporting a 4-2 record.
I’ve been saving this for a calmer day. This day is calm enough. Brett McMurphy ESPN.com wrote a recent column on the ever-bloated length of college football games, a subject which was expected to be broached at this week’s NCAA Oversight Committee meetings (hope it’s been broached). The average game length during the 2016 season was 3:24, up seven minutes over the last three years. A number of conference commissioners and head coaches told McMurphy they believe games have become too long. But what to do about it? I was struck by the suggestions: “A running clock (until the final two or five minutes of each half); shortening halftime; limiting the number of replays; reducing the number of timeouts; a shorter play clock; changing in-game substitution rules; and limiting the number of commercial breaks.”
Wait—what was that last one again? The others, with the exception of fewer replays, just short-change fans. It’s the commercials, for cryin’ out loud. The breaks are longer now, and some networks have sneaked in an extra one. Whatever you think of Washington State coach Mike Leach, he was the only one of McMurphy’s interviewees who got right down to it. “They should have fewer commercial breaks. If they don’t want to cut the number of commercials, then fit them into less (game) breaks,” said Leach. Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said in the column he had not received any complaints about length of games. “Bottom line, this is not in issue in the Mountain West,” Thompson said, before adding, “yet.” What does he mean, “yet?” Boise State games at Albertsons Stadium averaged a startling 3:37 this past season.
You can pencil in at least one more Rocky Long visit to his coveted blue turf. No one gets under Bronco Nation’s skin quite like Long, the head coach of two-time defending Mountain West champion San Diego State. He has received a five-year contract extension from the Aztecs through the 2021 season. Long is 54-26 in six seasons at San Diego State. SDSU is back on Boise State’s schedule this year at Qualcomm Stadium, and is set for an Albertsons Stadium game in 2018 (followed by another two-year hiatus).
Shea McClellin is the only remaining player with Idaho ties with a chance to go to the Super Bowl. The former Boise State star will suit up for New England Sunday in the AFC Championship Game against Pittsburgh. Despite being listed as a starter, McClellin’s role with the Patriots doesn’t seem to befit a 2012 first-round draft pick. But the Pats are getting what they wanted out of the guy they picked up last offseason from the Chicago Bears. When McClellin makes a splash, it’s a big one—witness his vault over the Baltimore offensive line to block a field goal last month, and his 69-yard fumble return that all but put away New England’s win at Miami in the regular season finale. McClellin is positioned for a big finish.
Other pro notes: Graham DeLaet’s first round of the new year was lukewarm yesterday at the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, CA. DeLaet had a three-bogey day and carded a one-over 73, in a tie for 122nd. The former Boise State standout will need a stellar round today to make the cut. Troy Merritt is middle-of-the-pack, tied for 57th after a two-under 70. And it’s intersectional hockey for the Idaho Steelheads this weekend, as they play a two-game series in Tulsa. The Steelheads are looking to erase a two-game skid after having won six of their previous seven games. The Steelies and Oilers split four games last season.
There’s been a lot of new snow to groom as the fifth annual McCall Re-Mastered Nordic race unfolds tomorrow at Ponderosa Park. Why is it called “Re-Mastered”? Because the courses are the same as those for the 2008 Masters World Cup hosted by McCall. Saturday’s races of 15, 30 and 45 kilometers begin in a mass start at 10 a.m. Also on the snow, the College of Idaho ski team competes in the first NWCSC Qualifier of the season tomorrow and Sunday at Tamarack. Ron Bonneau begins his 27th season with the Coyotes. Last spring the C of I men won the USCSA Western Regional crown for the first time in 24 years, while the Lady Yotes placed second in the event for the second straight season.
The Boise State men’s tennis team plays in a new indoor venue tomorrow, opening the 2017 dual season at the new Eagle Tennis Club. The Broncos host Whitman at 10 a.m. and Denver at 6 p.m. Greg Patton, the inimitable General, begins his 21st season as Bronco coach. Boise State wrestling is home tomorrow for a meet against Cal State Bakersfield, coach Mike Mendoza’s old team, with a noon start at Bronco Gym. And the competition ratchets up a notch for the 15th-ranked Boise State women’s gymnastics team. The Broncos will be in Salt Lake City tonight for a quad meet against No. 5 Utah, No. 7 Denver and Illinois-Chicago in the Huntsman Center.
And we circle back to hoops, with the Boise State women hosting San Jose State tomorrow afternoon in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos, tring to snap out of a January slump, are squarely in the middle of the Mountain West race, in a fourth-place tie with the Spartans, San Diego State and UNLV at 3-3. The weather-weary College of Idaho men adjust to another schedule tweak, with this weekend’s game at Corban and Northwest Christian moved to tomorrow afternoon and Sunday afternoon, respectively. Northwest Nazarene was routed 102-74 at Western Washington last night. The Crusaders play at Simon Fraser tomorrow night. And the Idaho Vandals downed Southern Utah 79-67 in Moscow last night behind 33 points from Victor Sanders. The Vandals host Northern Arizona tomorrow night.
This Day In Sports…January 20, 2007, 10 years ago today:
Over 25,000 fans crowd the streets of downtown Boise and jam around the Capitol for Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl Celebration Parade and Statehouse Salute. The loudest chant was a “Pete-Pete-Pete” reserved for coach Chris Petersen as the Broncos lined the steps behind him. A roar almost as large went up when Fiesta Bowl offensive MVP Jared Zabransky stepped to the podium. Zabransky soaked up the adulation a little over a year after hearing some boos while accepting the MPC Computers Bowl MVP trophy.
(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.)