Lines in the sand for the First Responder Bowl

Sports Illustrated runs stories on gambling now that sports betting is slowly being legalized across America. And this one at throws down the gauntlet in the First Responder Bowl: “Boston College Can Run All Over Boise State.” Zachary Cohen starts with this: “Both of these teams faced Virginia last season, and Boston College absolutely blew them out in a 41-10 win as seven-point road underdogs. Meanwhile, Boise State lost 42-23 as 14-point home favorites.” Touche. But that was last year. As for BC’s 18 interceptions—tied for best in FBS—Cohen writes, “It’ll make Boise State’s Brett Rypien pay for any poor throws. And Boston College only allowed 3.6 yards per carry this season, so it is well equipped to keep Boise State star Alexander Mattison in check.” Challenge.

How about the Bronco defense? Writes Cohen: “Boise State particularly struggled against the run in its only meeting with a Power 5 team this season. In the Broncos’ 44-21 loss to Oklahoma State, Boise State allowed 176 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Boston College’s rushing attack will be even better than Oklahoma State’s. Eagles sophomore AJ Dillon is one of the nation’s best running backs. The Boise State defenders he’ll face in this game pale in comparison to the bigger, faster ones he faces on a weekly basis.” Bulletin board? Bottom line: Cohen recommends readers go with BC by 2½ points. But there’s an asterisk: “Confidence level: Moderate (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High).”

Boise State coach Bryan Harsin has tweeted “Go Broncos!” three times in the past 48 hours. Harsin does that when he’s received a recruiting commitment, but none of the new verbals has been revealed. The early signing day, in its second year, is a week from today. It looks like here, there and everywhere the numbers are going to be down next week, as players hold out for the best offers possible—and teams posture for the best players possible. Boise State has 11 commits not counting the three latest mystery guys. One of the 11, running back George Holani of Bellflower, CA, was named Tuesday as one of five finalists for the Polynesian High School Football Player of the Year award.

One cloud has been removed from above Boston College in advance of the First Responder Bowl. There were some questions about the heat of coach Steve Addazio’s seat after the Eagles finished the regular season on a three-game losing streak, but he has now been given a two-year contract extension through the 2022 season. Adazzio’s teams have posted seven wins in four of the previous five seasons (BC was 3-9 in 2015). Addazio is 38-38 overall with the Eagles and 18-30 in conference games.


With Leighton Vander Esch’s chances of earning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors gaining traction, the latest feature story on the former Boise State star comes from the New York Post, of all places. It’s all about Vander Esch’s Riggins roots, of course. “Already the wheels are in motion for T-shirts and hats that read ‘The Wolf Hunter’ and ‘Fear The Wolf Hunter’ and ‘LVE,’ certain to captivate the growing army of Vander Esch hunters around Dallas and across Idaho when they become available Thursday on Vander Esch’s Instagram page,” writes Steve Serby. “I would have never imagined that he would have made it to this level so fast,” Sandy Vander Esch told Serby. “I’ve gotta pinch myself every day because I feel like I’m the most blessed mom in the world.”


If life is basketball, life in Chicago is probably not what Chandler Hutchison envisioned. He already has a new coach, Jim Boylen, who was promptly part of the worst loss in franchise history last Saturday, a 133-77 defeat at the hands of the Boston Celtics last Saturday. Players nearly revolted on Sunday over Boylen’s coaching style. Now Boylen has decided to form a “leadership committee” designed to give him input. Hutchison is probably too much of a greenhorn to be on that committee. The former Boise State star is still trying to earn his stripes. Hutchison played 21 minutes in the debacle against the Celtics—then only six in a loss to Sacramento Monday night. His shooting has not been kind to him, producing just one field goal in each of the last six games.


There’s one more game for Boise State men’s hoops before the test Saturday night at Oregon. The Broncos—and coach Leon Rice in particular—would like to see some more progress in tonight’s Taco Bell Arena matchup versus Alabama State. Boise State had eight players score between six and 14 points in last Saturday’s win over Central Washington. The next step for this group is to have somebody step up and take a definitive leadership role. Will it be Justinian Jessup? He’s kind of quiet. How about Alex Hobbs, who scored a season-high 13 points in his return to the court from injury last weekend? Like Jessup, Hobbs is also a junior now and is a starter after winning the Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year award last season.

There’s not really a lot statistically you can point to in terms of explaining Boise State’s 3-5 record. The Broncos are turning the ball over 13.5 times per game—not great, but serviceable. They have only 24 blocked shots so far, 238th in Division I. But opponents have blocked just two more this season. “I’ve seen a lot of really good things in practice—they just haven’t shown up in games yet,” said Rice after the win over Central Washington. “We’re not far away.”


College of Idaho men’s hoops has reached the mountaintop, ascending to the No. 1 spot in the NAIA Division II Coaches’ Poll Tuesday for the first time in 27 years. The Coyotes, now 11-1 overall (13-1 with forfeits) moved up from the No. 2 position in the poll after a loss by the previous No. 1 team, Indiana Wesleyan. It marks the first time C of I has been ranked No. 1 in any team sport since November, 1991, when the Yotes also climbed to No. 1. And a shoutout to the NNU women’s squad, which is 9-0 following an 86-72 win over Cal State-Los Angeles last Saturday. The Nighthawks are No. 7 in the NCAA Division II Coaches Poll and No. 5 in the SIDA Poll.

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December 12, 2015: Hosting a non-conference top 25 team for the first time in eight years, Boise State edges No. 24 Oregon 74-72 before 10,239 fans in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos had built a 17-point lead with less than seven minutes to play behind senior Anthony Drmic’s 19 points before the Ducks mounted a frantic comeback. It was Boise State’s fourth game against a ranked opponent in 3½ weeks—the Broncos had lost by 12 and nine points to Arizona and by 10 to Michigan State.

(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.)