Broncos seek to stay the course at Wyo

Boise State goes into a tell-tale stretch of the season the next four days, beginning with tomorrow night’s tussle at Wyoming. A lot is made of Laramie’s 7,220-foot elevation. But the Broncos have been able to get it done there, winning four of their last five games at the Arena-Auditorium. That includes a game five years ago that defied the logic of needing a deep bench at that altitude. Boise State had suspended four players, including leading scorer Derrick Marks and key reserves Mikey Thompson and Kenny Buckner, and—using only seven players—rallied from a 10-point deficit midway through the second half to win 63-61 on a buzzer-beating Jeff Elorriaga three-pointer. On Tuesday, the Broncos go to Fresno State, elevation 308 feet. They’ve lost three in a row at Save Mart Center.

With that said, Boise State’s deep bench could be affected tomorrow depending on the status of Marcus Dickinson. The sophomore guard played just five minutes in the 90-62 win over New Mexico Wednesday night before leaving the floor. On the KBOI postgame show, coach Leon Rice alluded to some kind of “testing” Dickinson was undergoing after the game. Dickinson, a key figure in the Broncos’ eight-man rotation, is averaging 20 minutes and 6.1 minutes per game.

One of the biggest changes in Boise State this season has been its performance down low. “Their length around the rim really bothered us,” New Mexico coach Paul Weir told the Albuquerque Journal after the game Wednesday night. When was the last time an opposing coach said that? At the heart of it all is 6-11 forward Zach Haney, the most improved Bronco this season. Haney has become Boise State’s clear-cut starter in the post, spelled by Robin Jorch (David Wacker is hardly playing). Haney has now scored in double-figures in three straight games, a stretch that includes his first career double-double at UNLV—coming primarily against a 7-foot McDonald’s All-American, Brandon McCoy.

Cedrick Wilson was set to play in this month’s East-West Shrine, but the invitation Boise State’s star wide receiver got yesterday from the Senior Bowl supersedes those plans. The Senior Bowl is the litmus test for serious NFL hopefuls, and Wilson can count himself among those after breaking the Broncos’ single-season record with 1,511 receiving yards. Wilson will be the 12th Boise State representative in the Senior Bowl. Who can forget the game following the 2011 season, when Broncos Kellen Moore, Doug Martin, Shea McClellin, George Iloka and Billy Winn all appeared?

Wilson has been named to the USA Today All-Bowl Team after shining at the Las Vegas Bowl in full view of a lot of NFL eyeballs. He caught 10 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown in Boise State’s 38-28 win over Oregon. Wyoming defensive lineman Carl Granderson also made the All-Bowl squad for his performance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Granderson scored on a 58-yard fumble return while logging five tackles and a sack in The Cowboys’ 37-14 rout of Central Michigan on the blue turf.

Boise State coach Bryan Harsin wasted no time in replacing defensive line coach Steve Caldwell. Chad Kauha’aha’a comes from Oregon State, where he had been D-line coach the past three seasons and associate head coach the past two. Kauha’aha’a has also coached the defensive line at Wisconsin, Utah, Utah State and Weber State. He was alongside coach Gary Andersen with the Beavers, Badgers and Aggies. I’ve prided myself on pronouncing Hawaiian names at least semi-correctly over the years, but this one is going to take some practice. The Boise State press release has it as “Cow-ha-a-ha-a.” When someone asks you how to pronounce the new defensive line coach’s name, you can say, “Just like it’s spelled. Chad.”

At the beginning of the season, there was hardly a thought that Tanner Vallejo would be in the NFL Playoffs. After all, Vallejo had barely made the Buffalo Bills’ regular season roster after being drafted in the sixth round out of Boise State last spring. And this was Buffalo, for cryin’ out loud. The Bills haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999, but they’re in now. The resilient Vallejo, playing mostly on special teams, appeared in 15 of Buffalo’s 16 games this season and made four tackles, and he’s set to suit up Sunday in one of the AFC Wild Card matchups at Jacksonville. The only other Idaho tie on Wild Card weekend is New Orleans tight end Josh Hill, the former Blackfoot Bronco and Idaho State Bengal who redshirted at Boise State in 2008. Hill had 16 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown during the regular season.

An ancient old foe returns with a shorthanded team when the Idaho Steelheads host Allen this weekend in CenturyLink Arena. The Americans are coached by Steve Martinson, who will be without three players suspended following—get this—a fight with the Wichita Thunder during pregame warmups on New Year’s Eve. The ECHL suspended one of them, Mike Gunn, for seven games, so the dust-up must have been a doozy. Martinson is a Steelies adversary dating back to the WCHL days. In fact, he coached the San Diego Gulls when they played the Steelheads in Boise in the first game in Idaho franchise history just over 20 years ago.

Circling back to basketball—the new hoops facility set to be built north of the Kibbie Dome on the Idaho campus will be called Idaho Central Credit Union Arena. ICCU donated $10 million and will have naming rights for 35 years. There was no construction timeline mentioned. The release does say groundbreaking won’t take place until all dollars are committed for the $45 million structure. With $34 million now raised, that presumably means there’s $11 million to go. The Vandals celebrated the gift at halftime of last night’s game against Sacramento State in Cowan Spectrum—then they rallied past the Hornets 69-68. Idaho hosts Portland State tomorrow night. The Vikings are dangerous, with wins over Utah State, Stanford and Cal (they beat the Bears by 25 points). And PSU lost to Butler by just two points in November.

This Day In Sports…January 5, 2013, five years ago today:

Boise State posts its largest margin of victory in basketball in school history, walloping Walla Walla University 106-39 in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos scored the first 18 points of the game and led 47-7 late in the first half. The gap reached 70 points in the second half as Anthony Drmic and Ryan Watkins led Boise State with 22 points apiece. The 67-point margin broke the mark of 56 set just six days earlier in a 105-49 win over Corban, when Jeff Elorriaga hit a school-record 10 three-pointers.

(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.)