It’s easy to preview the Boise State-New Mexico game by going back to that bewildering night in 2015 when the Lobos came to the blue turf as 30.5-point underdogs and left with a shocking 31-24 upset. This time, the Broncos are favored by 27.5 points. And even though they don’t have the offense they did six years ago, it’s hard to think, “Here we go again.” Boise State is in a different dynamic now, and UNM isn’t in a position to swirl through a perfect storm. That’s not to assume that the Broncos will cover the spread—New Mexico defensive coordinator Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 scheme will have something to say about that. But I believe Boise State players, considering what they’ve been through this season, are taking nothing for granted right now and will be focused on Saturday.
NEW MEXICO ESSENTIALS
These numbers are going around this week. New Mexico is having a historically bad season on offense going into Saturday night’s game on the blue turf. Two years after Bob Davie’s last hurrah with the triple-option, the Lobos are trying to find themselves. They are balanced, you can give them that. But UNM is averaging only 126½ yards per game both rushing and passing. That’s 253 yards of offense per game, second-to-last in the country. And in scoring, New Mexico is dead last, averaging 13.6 points. In his second season as head coach, Danny Gonzales is dealing with a very young roster, as most of Davie’s players are gone now. The big picture: the Lobos rank dead last in three major offensive categories and in the bottom 10 in five others. They’ve even resorted to reimplementing the option. Without much success.
EARNING THEIR AIRTIME
Boise State has been flirting with “relegation” to FS2, the least desirable TV option in the Mountain West broadcast package, but the Broncos keep pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. After the upset of Fresno State, the kickoff for this Saturday’s New Mexico game was set for 7 p.m., and the network was announced as FS1. You wonder if this one would have been exiled to FS2 if the Broncos had lost at Bulldog Stadium. As it is, all 12 of Boise State’s games this year have ended up on national TV. And it wraps up next week against San Diego State on “big boy” CBS.
KANIHO: ALL CHARACTER
One super-senior to be honored on the blue Saturday night is a guy who has defied logic. Kekaula Kaniho came to Boise State in 2017 as a homegrown Hawaiian, one of the biggest high school stars on the Islands. But Kaniho has absolutely embraced this strange land and has thrived here—to the extent that his brother, Kaonohi, followed him here. Kekaula is academically elite and has a heart to match, magnified by the fact that he’s a semifinalist for the Wuerffel Award that goes to he who excels in the common good. Kaniho is a playmaker who has six career interceptions and four career touchdowns, two of them as a true freshman in 2017. As a player, a leader and a person, Kaniho is going to be missed.
SOMETHING FOR THE PORTFOLIO
It’s a tournament that can build a resume, but only with a win or two. Boise State opens the Charleston Classic Thursday afternoon against No. 22 St. Bonaventure—an upset of the Bonnies would certainly offset the loss at UC Irvine last Saturday. We’re only two games into the season, and there’s a lot of basketball to play, but the margin for error is slim for the Broncos if they’re going to entertain thoughts of an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament next March. Win or lose Thursday, Boise State will get another good matchup Friday: either Clemson or Temple. The Broncos were scheduled for the Orlando Invitational a year ago (it was scrapped due to COVID). No. 1 Gonzaga was scheduled for Orlando, but overall the Charleston field is stronger.
YOTES, NIGHTHAWKS KNOW EACH OTHER WELL
The Battle of Canyon County unfolds for the 209th time tonight as College of Idaho hosts Northwest Nazarene in the first the first leg of the United Heritage Mayors’ Cup. It’s the oldest hoops rivalry in the state, dating back to 1933 when the Coyotes defeated the then-Crusaders 23-16 (now that was old-school basketball). The teams didn’t meet last season because of condensed schedules due to COVID-19. The Yotes are 3-1 following a split with Montana Tech and Carroll last weekend in Butte. The Nighthawks won their opener 101-91 over Bushnell in overtime and are coming off their first-ever trip to the NCAA Division II Regionals last spring.
STEELIES FACE SOMEBODY DIFFERENT
Time out for intersectional hockey in Idaho Central Arena this week (it’s always interesting to see opponents outside the usual six ECHL Mountain Division opponents). The Idaho Steelheads host the Adirondack Thunder for the first time in five years as the teams open a three-game series tonight. The Steelheads have been hovering around .500 all season, going one game over at 6-5 after taking two of three games on the road at Rapid City last week. Still, the Steelies are just two points behind Utah in the division standings.
BATTLE OF THE DOMES
Idaho (3-7) and Idaho State (1-9) have suffered through subpar seasons again. One of them will go into the offseason with a lift, though, as the in-state rivals finish the season Saturday in the Battle of the Domes at Holt Arena. Both teams have been turned inside-out at quarterback all through the fall. The Vandals’ C.J. Jordan was lost early in the season, and Mike Beaudry has been able to play in just seven of Idaho’s 10 games. If Beaudry can’t go against the Bengals, the Vandals will have to depend on Zach Borisch’s legs. At ISU, Tyler Vander Waal made it through just three games this season. The Wyoming transfer had been beset by accuracy problems anyway. The Bengals are now riding with freshman Sagan Gronauer.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!
November 17, 2016, five years ago today: A year after earning National League Rookie of the Year honors, Kris Bryant becomes the second former Boise Hawk to be named a Most Valuable Player in the majors. Bryant captured the NL award after leading the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series championship since 1908. He hit .292 with 39 homers and 102 RBIs in just his second year in the big leagues and was stellar in the field. Bryant, the second overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, played in Boise that summer. Former Hawk Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays was the American League MVP in 2015.
(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.)