There’s been a lot of angst over the December 26 date for Boise State’s trip to the First Responder Bowl. Yes, it throws a monkey wrench into Christmas. But it allows coaches to go through the early signing day the week before with a minimum of interruption. And on the field, there could be a big benefit. The Dallas game is 11 days later than the Las Vegas Bowl, and maybe some hobbled Broncos can be healthy. The most obvious impact position is at wide receiver. John Hightower was clearly not 100 percent in the Mountain West title game. Hightower went in for deep-ball cameos (although his only catch of the night was a nine-yarder).
Khalil Shakir has been out since he caught the winning touchdown pass against the Bulldogs last month. Would a game in Vegas this Saturday be too soon for a return? Coach Bryan Harsin says the true freshman should be ready to go against Boston College, though. Shakir is the most difficult Bronco wide receiver to prepare for, because he’s used in so many different ways. In the second game of the season against UConn, he had 15 yards receiving and 39 rushing. Shakir’s first career touchdown came not through the air, but on the ground at Wyoming. His presence on the field can be a distraction for defenses. When he left off, Shakir had 14 carries for 70 yards and a TD and 16 catches for 170 yards and the score against Fresno State.
This kind of snuck under the radar at the end of last week, but Boise State’s Alexander Mattison was named a Sports Illustrated second-team All-American. Who’d a thunk that in mid-October? Mattison has zoomed all the way up to seventh in the nation with 1,415 rushing yards going into the First Responder Bowl. He’s averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has scored 17 touchdowns. But here’s the amazing number. Mattison now leads the nation in rushing attempts with 302, 22 more than Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. The 11 extra days the Broncos have this season before bowl time especially benefits their workhorse junior running back.
ANDERSEN’S BACK IN THE CACHE VALLEY
Utah State’s national search for a new coach to replace Matt Wells extended all the way to…Salt Lake City. That’s where former USU coach has been working for Kyle Whittingham at Utah, and Andersen is indeed returning to Logan. After leaving the Aggies following their Famous Idaho Potato Bowl win in 2012 to go to Wisconsin, there was an abrupt departure from Madison after the 2014 season, and an even more abrupt exit from Oregon State midway through the 2017 campaign. But the theory is that Andersen is coming back to a place he loves—and a program where he can do things his way. After all, he’s the guy who originally turned the Aggies around.
With that begins another rumor mill (key words here being “rumor mill”). Boise State defensive line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a worked for Andersen at both Wisconsin and Oregon State, and speculation is that Andersen is trying to get Kauha’aha’a to reunite with him at Utah State. There’s also a note at FootballScoop.com that USC is trying to add Kauha’aha’a to its staff, and that the Broncos, in turn, are trying to extend his contract. Kauha’aha’a has the Boise State D-line ranked sixth in the country in sacks this season with 39.
‘BOISE’ BEATS ‘BOSTON’ IN MIAMI
Do you suppose there are lots of New England Patriots fans on the Boston College roster, not to mention in the Eagles’ fan base? They have another reason to get riled up about Boise State now. In one of the most fantastic NFL finishes in recent memory, the Miami Dolphins used a play they call “Boise” to beat the Patriots 34-33 as time ran out Sunday. Yes, it was the ol’ hook-and-lateral, stirring memories of the “Circus” play the Broncos executed near the end of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma. Only this one had two laterals, not one. Kenyon Drake was the recipient of the second one, and he finished the 69-yard miracle by winding his way into the end zone.
BABY STEPS FOR BOTH SETS OF BRONCOS
What Boise State men’s hoops really needed was a win. And the Broncos got it, 82-62 Saturday over Division II Central Washington in Taco Bell Arena. Otherwise, it doesn’t tell us much. The Broncos didn’t get the lead to double digits until 7½ minutes remained in the game. They had six shots blocked and were just 19-for-30 from the free throw line. But coach Leon Rice still sees the tide turning when he compares Boise State’s second half to a tentative first half effort. “What losing does to you a little bit is, ‘Oh, is it going to go in…?’” Said Rice on the KBOI postgame show. “Just go let ‘er rip.” And the Broncos did in the final 20 minutes. They were 1-for-8 from three-point range before the intermission and 6-for-10 after.
It’s also hard to know what to make of the Boise State women’s 67-55 win over a struggling Eastern Washington squad. But it was a nice step in the healing process after that surprising rout at the hands of Washington State. Riley Lupfer canned a trio of three-pointers against the Eagles, bringing her career total to 193, second in Bronco history and 67 away from Abby Vaughn’s 15-year-old school record. Considering she hit a record 122 last season, Lupfer could get there by March. And she is only a junior.
STEELIES’ RUN INTERRUPTED BY THE GRIZ
All good things must come to an end—and they did over the weekend for the Idaho Steelheads and goalie Tomas Sholl. After extending their win streak to four games with a 4-2 win over Utah Friday night, the Steelheads were pounded 5-1 by the Grizzlies Saturday night, with the usually solid Sholl in net for all five of the tallies. Meanwhile, just as he was becoming a Steelies icon (if that’s possible after only 10 games), defenseman Colton Saucerman is off to the AHL on a loan agreement with the Utica Comets. Saucerman may need an extra seat on his cross-country flight for his famously massive beard. Also, Steve McParland has been loaned to Stockton of the AHL, and Idaho has re-signed Charlie Dodero after a stint in Sweden.
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December 10, 1997: One of the wildest days in Boise State football history comes over three weeks after the season ends. In the wee hours of the morning, a private jet whisked Houston Nutt off to Arkansas, where he was introduced as the Razorbacks’ new head coach. Later in the day, Boise State called a press conference to unveil Dirk Koetter as Nutt’s instant replacement. Koetter promised to bring stability to a team that was fragile after playing for three different coaches in the previous two seasons. And he did.
(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.)