Broncos playing older than their years

A young basketball team can maddeningly inconsistent, but when it finds a way to win more often than not, it can be immensely satisfying. Boise State’s confidence could have been sapped Saturday night by Utah State, a team coming off impressive double-digit wins over Fresno State and Nevada. The Aggies had erased a 12-point first-half deficit and were leading by three midway through the second half. And Utah State star Jalen Moore was bound to go off. But the rebuilding Broncos gut-checked themselves and held the Aggies off at the end 72-70. Defense gets a big assist, as Moore went 1-for-10 from the field and netted four points, breaking a streak of 34 straight games in double figures. And there’s that nice byproduct: sole possession of first place in the Mountain West.

There were lots of contributions that added up to one important victory for Boise State. After a shaky start, Chandler Hutchison scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the second half, including the go-ahead jumper with 9:49 left in the game. Paris Austin continues to be crazy-effective coming off the bench, scoring 16 points and increasing his production to 56 points over the last three games. David Wacker continues to ramp it up, adding 11 points, five rebounds and a block. And the role player of the night was true freshman Alex Hobbs with six points on 3-for-5 shooting. The Broncos now take a breath as they have a weekday bye before hosting Air Force this Saturday.

Amazingly, Boise State was the only home team to win Saturday night among five Mountain West contests. Which, in at least one case, set the conference on its ear. San Jose State picked up its first-ever win over New Mexico—in The Pit no less—a 78-68 decision that lifts the perennial last-place Spartans to eighth-place. It was a huge win for SJSU coach Dave Wojcik, the former Bronco assistant. San Diego State soothed its road woes by ending Fresno State’s 13-game home winning streak 70-67, Wyoming cruised past Air Force in Colorado Springs 83-74, and Colorado State routed UNLV at Thomas & Mack 69-49. The Rebels are in last place in the Mountain West. That sets Vegas on its ear, anyway.

Shea McClellin became the sixth former Boise State Bronco to earn a Super Bowl championship ring last night. That makes two small-town Idahoans in two seasons, as Marsing’s McClellin joins Council’s Matt Paradis a year ago with Denver. McClellin is part of history to boot. He and the New England Patriots mounted the biggest Super Bowl comeback ever and won the first overtime game in the event’s history in an unbelievable 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. McClellin got most of his field time in the first half and didn’t record a tackle, although he did get a QB hit on Matt Ryan. A cutaway showed him getting some in-game coaching from Bill Belichick.

But McClellin did execute one of his patented kick-blocking hurdles in the second quarter to disrupt an Atlanta extra point—one that was controversially penalized. McClellin was flagged for illegal formation—apparently he was “on the line of scrimmage at the snap.” It was confusing. “To me, it was not a foul,” said former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira on the Fox telecast. McClellin blocked a PAT with the same acrobatic move in December game against Baltimore.

The coolest sidebar from National Letter of Intent Day at Boise State last week was tight end Jake Knight being awarded a scholarship. Many were unaware that Knight walked on with the Broncos when he transferred from Auburn, where he was a track and field athlete, finishing 13th in the shot put at the SEC Indoor Championships two years ago. But a football scholarship was always in the cards for Knight, ever since he committed to Oregon State out of Rocky Mountain High. He made only two catches for Boise State last season, but one of them was a 46-yarder that set up the winning touchdown in the 28-27 win over BYU.

Utah forward Ralph Cuddemi was the ECHL Rookie of the Month for January after scoring 12 goals with six assists in 11 games during the month. He had been relatively quiet through the first two games of the Grizzlies’ series against the Idaho Steelheads in CenturyLink Arena. But he came alive with two goals Saturday night to help Utah finish off a sweep of the reeling Steelies. Idaho carried a 2-0 lead into the third period, but Cuddemi scored 45 seconds into the final frame—then tallied 1:13 into overtime to win it 3-2. It was the Steelheads’ sixth consecutive loss.

Graham DeLaet got his PGA Tour season back on track over the weekend with a ninth-place tie at the Phoenix Open. DeLaet was sizzling on Saturday, moving into contention with a six-under 65 at TPC Scottsdale. The former Boise State star finished with a 71 yesterday and won $180,900. Fellow former Bronco Troy Merritt rallied big-time to make the cut after a first-round 74, firing a five-under 66 on Friday. He followed that up with a 65 on Saturday and ended with a 70 yesterday, tying for 24th and winning $49,580.

February hasn’t been any kinder to the Boise State women’s hoops team than January was. The Broncos, after rallying to tie Utah State 63-63 with 15 seconds left Saturday, saw a desperation USU buzzer-beater go through and absorbed a 65-63 loss in Logan. Boise State, playing again without injured star forward Shalen Shaw, was led by Riley Lupfer with 17 points. After a 12-1 start, the Broncos have now gone 3-6 since the first of the year. Elsewhere, the Idaho men swept Portland State and Sacramento State, with Victor Sanders combining for 71 points in the Vandal victories. The College of Idaho men notched a decisive road sweep of Warner Pacific and Multnomah. And NNU swept as well, beating Central Washington and Montana State-Billings.

The Boise State women’s gymnastics team was tied at No. 11 in the rankings with Southern Utah going in to the teams’ Beauty & The Beast matchup Friday night in Taco Bell Arena. But it was a one-sided affair, as the Broncos posted a 197.025 to the Thunderbirds’ 194.325 before 2,987 fans. Boise State won all four individual events, and Shani Remme won the all-around title. On the other side of the arena Friday, the Bronco wrestlers fell 31-13 to Oregon State. BSU is showing signs of improvement, though, as it reconstructs under new coach Mike Mendoza. The Broncos had rallied to tie the Beavers 13-13 after six matches before OSU rolled down the stretch.

This Day In Sports…February 6, 2011:

Boise State has two alums in the Super Bowl for the first time—and two Super Bowl champions for the first time. Starting left guard Daryn Colledge and fullback Korey Hall earned rings in Green Bay’s 31-25 win over Pittsburgh at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. Hall became the first former Bronco ever to record a Super Bowl offensive stat, as modest as it was. The pride of Glenns Ferry gathered in a two-yard pass from MVP Aaron Rodgers during the Packers’ first touchdown drive. Super Bowl XLV was the most-watched television event of all time.

(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.)