Boise State and San Diego State have played some dandies since hooking up in the Mountain West seven years ago. Of the 15 games between the two schools, eight have been decided by four points or less, including the last matchup in Boise, an 83-80 Bronco win on the night Chandler Hutchison scored a school-record 44 points. The Broncos and Aztecs meet again Saturday night in Taco Bell Arena. In the past, the games have been close generally because both teams were good. This contest might be tight just because these squads are still trying to find themselves this season. Boise State took a step forward with its 69-55 win at Wyoming Wednesday night.
This is not your mama’s San Diego State squad, and coach Brian Dutcher has been hearing about it. The Aztecs had to rally from a 19-point deficit on New Year’s afternoon to beat Cal State Northridge 65-60. The Viejas Arena crowd lustily booed its team as it struggled (but did respond when SDSU finally did). San Diego State sports its lowest computer rating in 14 years. Trailing Brown by 30 points at home in the first half—and losing to the Ivy League school by 22 as the Aztecs did last Saturday—will do that to you. But if you’ve been watching Boise State, you know we’re in an “anything can happen” Mountain West season. Not to be a broken record here, but it’ll be all about one of these teams avoiding ugliness Saturday night.
NO ESPN MOTHERSHIP FOR HARSIN MONDAY
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin won’t be watching the national championship game in Bristol, CT, Monday night. ESPN has announced its “Megacast” of the Alabama-Clemson game will include not a “Coaches Film Room,” but a “MNF Film Room” with Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland. Groan. The coaches panel, which for Alabama-Oklahoma featured Harsin, Arizona State’s Herm Edwards, TCU’s Gary Patterson and Boston College’s Steve Adazzio, was widely praised. The Monday Night Football booth was widely panned this season, and that’s an understatement. One of the best tweets reacting to yesterday’s news went like this: “ESPN has apparently hired the visionary who came up with New Coke.”
Harsin answered “20 questions” yesterday with Caves & Prater on Idaho SportsTalk (I think it was more than 20). Some takeaways. On the aftermath of the cancelled First Responder Bowl last week: “It was one of the hardest things to do to walk into that locker room and telling those guys, ‘It’s over.’” On Alexander Mattison’s decision to declare for the NFL Draft: “I backed him 100 percent. I love that kid. He gave everything he had to this program.” And on a stellar recruiting class after only 61 offers and 30 official visits: “If you’ve got 400 offers out there, how do you know what you’re really getting into?” Added Harsin: “When you do that, you’re getting away from the guys who are right there on campus—who are already Broncos.”
NO MORE MAEVA
One question Harsin didn’t address was the status of Tyson Maeva. First, he sent Maeva home from Dallas before the First Responder Bowl last week for “a violation of team standards.” Now, Maeva has been removed from the team, as the junior linebacker acknowledged on Twitter last night. “Unfortunately my time at Boise State has been cut short by a decision I made and regret,” said his post. “However I am prepared to deal with the hardship I have ahead in order to continue my success as a student athlete!” Maeva’s Bronco career thus ended with the 11 tackles, sack and forced fumble he put up in the Mountain West championship game against Fresno State. That leaves Zeke Noa and Riley Whimpey (if healthy) as the projected leaders of Boise State’s 2019 linebacking corps.
THE OSMOSIS IN DALLAS
The Dallas defense is playing with a high-energy abandon this season not seen since the Super Bowl days a quarter-century ago. Why do you think that is? It’s not a stretch at all to say the infectious personality and effort of Leighton Vander Esch has had an effect on the Cowboys this season. You could even say that LVE has brought out the best in fellow former Boise State star DeMarcus Lawrence, who looks like he’s playing harder than at any time during his NFL career. Now we’ll see how they buckle down in the playoffs, as Saturday they face the team that nobody wants to play right now, the Seattle Seahawks. By the way, Tyrone Crawford returned to Dallas practice on Tuesday, nine days after a then-scary neck injury suffered against the New York Giants. The Cowboys are hopeful Crawford can play this weekend.
LOTSA GOALS – AND A FEW BIRDIES AND BOGEYS
The Idaho Steelheads continue their five-game road trip at Tulsa Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. The storyline here: can the Steelheads maintain the torrid offensive pace that has produced 28 goals in the past four games? The Steelies beat Rapid City 9-1 last Friday, their highest-scoring night in almost 14 years (since their ECHL franchise record of 12 goals in February, 2005, against the Victoria Salmon Kings). Idaho is only the second team to put up nine goals this season, joining Cincinnati in November. And don’t look now, but the Steelheads are in first place in the ECHL Mountain Division.
By definition, the competition is tough in the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, HI. The field includes 2018 PGA Tour event winners, 34 of them. Troy Merritt had an uneven day in the first round, posting three birdies and three bogeys for an even-par 73. The former Boise State star is tied for 22nd—he will play the weekend, as there’s no cut line in this tournament.
AROUND THE HORN WITH HOOPS
The Boise State women play their first Mountain West road game of the season when they visit San Diego State Saturday night at Viejas Arena. This is the Aztecs’ conference opener; they were 5-6 in non-conference play. Elsewhere, the College of Idaho men return to the court tonight and Saturday night against Northwest University and Evergreen State in Caldwell. The Coyotes are now 15-2, including a pair of forfeits by Walla Walla last weekend. These will be the Yotes’ first games since December 18. And Northwest Nazarene kicked off the New Year with a 90-87 Great Northwest Athletic Conference victory over Central Washington on New Year’s Day. The Nighthawks downed Montana State Billings 94-79 Thursday night in Nampa and are off to their best start in 11 years.
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January 4, 2006: The night the BCS gets it right, as USC and Texas—ranked first and second all season long—meet in the Rose Bowl for the national championship. The Trojans led 38-26 with less than five minutes left before Longhorns quarterback Vince Young scored two touchdowns, the last one with 19 seconds remaining, to win the game, 41-38. Young turned in probably the best pressure performance in college football history, rushing for 200 yards and throwing for 267 more. That kept USC from a national title three-peat and broke its 34-game winning streak.
(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.)