Since Chris Petersen and Bryan Harsin teamed up to call three of the most memorable plays in college football history 13 years ago, a lot of people are going with the “over” on the number of trick plays we’ll see between Boise State and Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl. There’s no reason for Coach Pete not to have fun in his final game, and Harsin is simply trying to find the best ways to get a victory. We may not see a “Circus” hook-and-lateral, but “Statue Left” has almost become commonplace. The Broncos are, in a roundabout way, fortunate that they were victimized by gadgets in their only loss of the season at BYU in October. Especially galling was the “phantom fumble” play lifted from Boise State’s win at Oregon in 2008, resulting in a 27-yard Cougars touchdown. Now, at least, the Broncos’ radar should be up.
TWO MEANINGFUL MEN
Instead of getting all wrapped up in the awkwardness of Petersen facing Boise State in his finale, why not celebrate this meeting between him and Harsin. They certainly care about each other, dating back to 2001, when Coach Pete was the Broncos’ first-year offensive coordinator and Harsin was the new 24-year-old graduate assistant. Harsin shined in Petersen’s eyes and was promoted to tight ends coach. Then, as soon as he was introduced as Boise State’s new head coach in December of 2005, Petersen named the 29-year-old Harsin as his O-coordinator. In the 14 years during which they have served as back-to-back Broncos coaches, the program is 156-24 overall and 80-7 at home with eight championships. There’s your bottom line.
AS THE QUARTERBACK TURNS
All the way through the two-week ramp-up to Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl, the sidebar has been what Boise State will do at quarterback. Jaylon Henderson was moved to the top of the depth chart before the Mountain West championship game, and he started and went all the way against Hawaii. Henderson’s still listed as No. 1, but all indications are that the Washington game will be different. There’s no doubt that Hank Bachmeier is 100 percent now, and if a bowl game is a reward, you’d think a guy who helped the Broncos construct a 12-1 season would get his due against the Huskies—and not just in a cameo role. That could extend to Chase Cord, too. Neither Cord not Bachmeier has played in the past six weeks.
AGAIN, IT COMES DOWN TO THE RUN
When Boise State plays Power 5 schools, the question on either side of the ball usually surrounds the rushing game. It worked out at Florida State, where the Broncos rolled up 214 yards on the ground. Saturday evening, can they run the ball against an upper-level Pac-12 defense? Boise State’s run game is slightly above average, gaining 174 yards per game, 50th in he nation. Washington is 31st in rush defense, allowing an average of 130 yards. But it’ll be the Broncos’ ability to stop the run that’ll be make-or-break. They’re 19th in the country, allowing just 112 yards per game. The Huskies’ rushing average on offense is 150 yards. That’s 77th. Will the fact that it’s the Mountain West against the Pac-12 make a major difference, as so many like to think?
SAYONARA VEGAS BOWL – AND SAM BOYD
Saturday’s game marks a two-pronged end of an era. This will be the Mountain West’s final appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl, as the game moves to the new Raiders stadium next year and becomes affiliated alternately with the SEC and ACC (in addition to the Pac-12). The Mountain West tie-in moves to the new L.A. Rams/Chargers stadium next year. This is also slated to be the last football game ever in Sam Boyd Stadium. I don’t think it should be torn down, though. The sea of empty seats at UNLV games in the Raiders facility may someday see the Rebels yearning for a return to Sam Boyd for a more intimate and less embarrassing atmosphere.
LOVE STILL GETS HIS FAREWELL
The Mountain West bowl season starts tonight in Texas with the Frisco Bowl, as Utah State faces Kent State. USU star quarterback Jordan Love will play despite being charged with marijuana possession last Saturday. The decision to play Love was easy for Aggies coach Gary Andersen, who doesn’t believe the original print reports in the Cache Valley were accurate. “I just hope at the end of this whole thing that those (writers) can have the same miserable day that those kids had when these articles came out,” Andersen said at his bowl press conference. “And I’ll work hard if I can to make sure that those days are miserable for those people.” Oh, Utah State is favored by 6.5 points over the Golden Flashes.
San Diego State takes on Central Michigan Saturday in the New Mexico Bowl. Aztecs coach Rocky Long returns to Albuquerque, where he coached New Mexico during happier times and starred as a Lobos quarterback. Long will be motivated, but will his team? The Chippewas are coached by Jim McElwain, the former Colorado State coach who flamed out at Florida. McElwain took over a team that was 1-11 last year and has it at 8-5. Speaking of CSU, quarterback Collin Hill won’t wait around to see what things are like under new coiach Steve Addazio and will enter the transfer portal. Hill has been besieged by ACL injuries the past three years.
BRONCOS IN HONOLULU WITH ABU
Boise State men’s basketball plays an ACC team Sunday to open the Diamond Head Classic, and it’s a big game. Big not because it’s against a power conference foe in Georgia Tech, but big because it’s eminently winnable. The Yellowjackets are slogging along at 4-5 and just lost at home by 18 points to Ball State. A victory would send Boise State to the tournament semifinals against the Houston-Portland winner. The biggest name on the other side of the bracket is (drum roll) Washington. The Broncos will finally unveil Abu Kigab in this one. It’s doubtful that the Oregon transfer is ready for a 30-minute night, but we’ll get a glimpse of the dimension Kigab can add to Boise State as an athletic 6-6 forward.
The non-conference schedule comes to an end Sunday for the Boise State women as they host Pepperdine in ExtraMile Arena. The Waves are 6-3 after a 70-67 win over UC Davis Thursday and will certainly present a more formidable challenge to the Broncos than Western Oregon did Wednesday. Boise State won 75-32 over the Wolves, who shot a measly 22 percent for the game. And the Idaho Steelheads go for their fourth win in a row tonight in the Dominion of Virginia when they face Norfolk. The Steelheads are coming off a 2-0 blanking of the Admirals Wednesday night. The Steelies will be without forward Tye Felhaber, who’s been reassigned to the AHL’s Texas Stars. Felhaber was very productive in his Idaho stint, scoring three goals with three assists in six games.
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December 20, 1980: Boise State wins the Division I-AA national championship with a 31-29 win over Eastern Kentucky at the Camellia Bowl in Sacramento. BSU led most of the way—until the Colonels connected on a bomb with 55 seconds remaining. Trailing by five points with 80 yards to go, Joe Aliotti led the Broncos on the winning drive. He hit Kipp Bedard three times to get BSU close—then on fourth-and-10 from the 14-yard-line, Aliotti scrambled until he found tight end Duane Dlouhy in the corner of the end zone with 12 seconds left.
(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.)