The Mountain West has struck gold after scheduling Boise State and Utah State for the final game of the regular season. The conference has itself two ranked teams playing each other for the first time in seven years (on the same field it happened last time). The MW gets a national audience on the ESPN mothership to decide a division winner. Other than that, it’s just a coincidence that the Broncos and Aggies clash on Thanksgiving weekend. It’s not deliberate like it might be for tomorrow’s Nevada-UNLV game. But hey—Utah State is the closest Mountain West team to Boise State. Maybe this game helps create a rivalry once and for all. Here’s hoping these two teams can always be scheduled in the finale.
Chantel Jennings at The Athletic posted a feature on Utah State going into the Colorado State game on why this USU team is so together. Coach Matt Wells has an 18-member “captains’ committee” that meets weekly with him and with USU’s strength coach. And this year it has created a chemistry that Boise State can certainly relate to. “I truly believe that a coach-led team can only take it so far, typically to the limit that their talent will allow them to be taken,” Wells said. “I truly believe that a player-led team can take a team further than the talent allows them to. I think they can break through that threshold.” Wells felt it take root after the Aggies lost by a touchdown in their opener at Michigan State. There have been 10 consecutive victories since. “This is the sport that leadership, mojo, confidence—they actually can equal wins.”
Here’s your Boise State Senior Night list: Chase Blakley, Jabril Frazier, Haden Hoggarth, Tyler Horton, Joseph Inda, Tony Lashley, Durrant Miles, Sean Modster, Andres Preciado, Joe Provenzano, A.J. Richardson, Brett Rypien, Skyler Seibold, Paul Semons, Quinn Skillin, Zachary Troughton and Blake Whitlock. No David Moa—coach Bryan Harsin now expects him back next year. We can’t let this go by without saluting Rypien’s solid four-year career. The easiest way to judge his resilience is to simply compare his junior and senior seasons, and the rebound from his slow, slow start in 2017. Completion percentage has gone from 63 percent to 68. Passing yards from 2,877 to 3,270. Last season Rypien threw for just 16 touchdowns with six interceptions—this year 28 TDs and seven picks.
Does Boise State get true freshmen involved on Senior Night? The Broncos utilized three new faces at New Mexico last week: wide receiver Billy Bowens, linebacker Dimitri Washington and tight end Cole Ramseyer. Bowens touched the ball on the second play from scrimmage, gaining 11 yards on a fly sweep. He didn’t see the ball again but did contribute a special teams tackle. Bowens’ chances tomorrow night may depend on the health of fellow wideouts John Hightower and Khalil Shakir, who the Broncos hope—hope—to have back on the field. Hightower has been out since an injury against BYU, and Shakir sat out last week’s game in Albuquerque. One note on a possible true freshman for next year: Boise State has a commitment from Canadian defensive end Isaiah Bagnah out of Lethbridge Collegiate Institute.
Tonight in Pullman it’s the 111th Apple Cup, the most relevant game between Washington and Washington State in years. Chris Petersen is 4-0 against the Cougars since leaving Boise for Seattle, with all four of the victories dominant ones. But Wazzu is favored by three points in this one. After all, the 10-1 Cougs are No. 8 in the CFP rankings. The 8-3 Huskies aren’t just playing the spoilers’ role, though, as the winner of this game represents the North Division in the Pac-12 championship game next week. WSU blasted out to a 55-14 halftime lead on Arizona last week before winning 69-28. The Cougars’ mustache sensation, quarterback Gardner Minshew, three for 311 yards and five touchdowns in the first two quarters alone. All the while, UW was recording a comparatively pedestrian 42-23 win over Oregon State.
This is not where Tanner Mangum thought he would be at the end of his senior year. The Eagle High grad will begin the game on the sidelines tomorrow when BYU faces rival Utah in Salt Lake City. Mangum didn’t get to play on the blue turf three weeks ago, with true freshman Zach Wilson having replaced him as starting quarterback. But Mangum’s been classy thoughout the ordeal, and he did get in on Senior Night in Provo last week versus New Mexico State. As he reflected on his career, he told the Deseret News that one of the highlights of his football life was the Hail Mary that beat Boise State in 2015. “It was a dream come true,” said Mangum. “I felt like a kid, living his dream under the lights at LaVell Edwards Stadium playing against my hometown team. To win it in dramatic fashion like we did, it was just surreal.”
Ryan Dinwiddie has been in the Canadian Football League in one role or another for 12 years. The former Boise State star has been a coach for the past six, and this season he has helped the Calgary Stampeders into the Grey Cup. The Stampeders face the Ottawa Redblacks for the CFL championship Sunday in Edmonton. Dinwiddie, Calgary’s quarterbacks coach, has been working with Bo Levi Mitchell the past three years, and it’s been productive. The Eastern Washington product has thrown for 5,124 yards and 35 touchdowns this season. One-time Boise State QB Montell Cozart is also on the Calgary roster but hasn’t thrown a pass. Former Bronco offensive lineman Jon Gott is on the injured list for Ottawa.
Boise State men’s hoops is off until a Tuesday night contest at Drake, part of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge. The Broncos finished the Cayman Islands Classic Wednesday with a rally that came up short in a 73-70 loss to Illinois State. It was a gutty effort considering that coach Leon Rice was down to eight players while grinding through the third game in three days. The three-point shooting that carried Boise State past St. Bonaventure Tuesday did a U-turn versus Illnois State—the Broncos were just 7-for-24 from deep.
Here in Boise, it’s the Vandals Holiday Hoops Showcase at CenturyLink Arena. UC Santa Barbara and Portland State open things tonight, followed by Idaho and Northwest Nazarene. Tomorrow night it’s Portland State-NNU and Idaho-UCSB. The Vandals are 1-2, with their win coming 87-59 last Sunday over Bethesda University. There’s no Bronco-Vandal matchup on the men’s side this season for the fourth consecutive year, but the Boise State women face Idaho tonight at the Beach Classic in Long Beach.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by BIG BUN DRIVE-IN…old-time goodness you can grab on the go!
November 23, 1984: The most famous Hail-Mary of all-time, as Boston College has six seconds left, trailing defending national champion Miami by four at the Orange Bowl. On the final play of the game, Doug Flutie scrambled and launched a prayer from his own 37-yard-line. The ball somehow dropped into the arms of Gerard Phelan in the endzone, and 10th-ranked BC beat the 12th-ranked Hurricanes 47-45. Flutie threw for 472 yards in the game and became the first quarterback ever to surpass the 10,000-yard mark in career passing.
(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.)