Broncos take something special to The Pit

Little-reported fact: Boise State’s victory Saturday was its 16th of the 2016-17 campaign, earning the Broncos their fifth straight winning season and their sixth in seven years under Leon Rice. That’s something they’ll never take for granted. Take the storied program at New Mexico, the team Boise State faces tonight in a crucial game at The Pit. The Lobos had a losing season just two years ago and were barely above .500 last season. Take the storied program at UNLV. The Rebels are one defeat away from a school record 17 losses. The storied program at San Diego State? The Aztecs will probably end up with a winning season, but not without some angst. The Broncos’ target, of course, is a Mountain West title, but if they go 4-3 over the seven guaranteed games remaining, they’ll also notch a 20-win season.

Rice has been using his bench masterfully this season—the contributions come from different corners every night, it seems. Zach Haney didn’t even play against Air Force. Alex Hobbs got 18 minutes of floor time and put up nine points, while Marcus Dickinson played just one minute. And remember, Paris Austin has been a “reserve” the past four games. In that stretch, Austin has 70 points and 10 assists and is shooting almost 62 percent from the field. He was in his old accustomed starting spot the last time Boise State and New Mexico played, and he had a decent game, going 4-for-8 from the field and scoring 12 points.

The Lobos are not the same team that beat the Broncos 81-70 last month in Taco Bell Arena. Elijah Brown is still doing his thing, leading the team in scoring at 18.8 points per game. But Tim Williams, New Mexico’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, is out with a “stress reaction” in his left foot. When coach Craig Neal announced the injury on January 31, he said Williams would “miss a substantial amount of time.” Two weeks would seem to be too soon for a return to the court. In Albuquerque, they’re calling Williams “week to week.” He scored 19 points against Boise State in January.

What Leon Rice and his staff have done with essentially a new group this season is amazing. The Broncos will be trying to tie a school record tonight with a sixth conference road win. They’re doing it without Anthony Drmic, James Webb III and Mikey Thompson, the nucleus of last year’s team. Those guys weren’t slouches. In fact, Drmic was named Rookie of the Year in Australia’s National Basketball League yesterday. NBL onlookers say Drmic got off to a woeful shooting start last fall, but the Adelaide 36ers guard ended up leading the league’s rookies in scoring and rebounding with averages of 5.7 points and 3.4 boards.

The Statesman’s Dave Southorn reports that former Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols will fix his ailing shoulder via surgery next month following the NFL Combine. McNichols, who’s forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft pool, will have to get his work done at the Combine, as recovery time from the surgery will force him to miss the Broncos’ Pro Day. You’d expect McNichols to skip the bench press in Indianapolis due to his shoulder issues, but he can do all the speed drills.

Cancer has been all over the news the past few days. Yesterday it was Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder with a throat cancer diagnosis and Boston Red Sox analyst and former player Jerry Remy with a reappearance of his lung cancer. Saturday the Statesman ran a story on Duane Dlouhy, the tight end who caught the winning touchdown pass for Boise State in the 1980 Division I-AA national championship game, battling stage IV colorectal cancer. Dlouhy, who lives in Coeur d’Alene, was in Boise recently to mingle with old teammates and friends. One was Larry Alder, who said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk there’s another 1980 national champion who’s in a fight, Mike Bradeson, who has bile duct cancer.

Bradeson played two seasons in the secondary for Boise State and clinched the legendary 1980 playoff win over Grambling with a fourth quarter interception. He then embarked on a coaching career that has spanned 3½ decades. Bradeson has spent the past seven years on the defensive staff at Nevada under Chris Ault and Brian Polian. He was diagnosed with cancer about a month before last season ended. When Polian was fired, all of his assistants were, too. But Wolf Pack athletic director Doug Knuth called Bradeson in and told him he’d still have a job in the athletic department. That allows Bradeson to retain his benefits as he continues his struggle.

More rarified air for the Boise State women’s gymnastics team, as the Broncos passed Michigan yesterday and moved up another spot to No. 7 in this week’s Road To Nationals team rankings. It’s another record for the program, which reached No. 8 for the first time in school history last week. Boise State’s team score average improved to 196.405 after the Broncos posted a 197.075 score last Friday at Denver, the second-highest team score in school history.

College of Idaho’s first home baseball game (the next try at it, anyway) will be a week from Thursday at Wolfe Field. At that time, Shawn Humberger will take the dugout as the winningest coach in Yotes history. Humberger tied the school’s all-time record for victories as the Yotes swept a doubleheader from Oregon Tech Sunday in McMinnville, OR. The teams played another twin bill yesterday and split. A 7-4 C of I win in the nightcap gave Humberger the record. With 528 career victories, he has moved past his mentor, Tim Mooney, for the all-time mark in coaching wins for baseball—and any athletic program, for that matter—at the Caldwell school.

This Day In Sports…February 14, 2007, 10 years ago today:

The next step in the evolution of Boise State football is marked by the groundbreaking on the $36 million sky suite/press box addition to Bronco Stadium. The project included 38 luxury suites, 44 loge boxes and 750 club seats, with all but about 200 of the club seats already sold before the first dirt was turned. If not the biggest milestone in Bronco Stadium history, it was certainly the most expensive. The entire original facility, with a capacity of 14,500, was constructed at a cost of only $2.2 million in 1970.

(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.)