No Larry Brown, but SMU can really play

In four years at SMU, Larry Brown did what Larry Brown does. He won games, he made his program nationally relevant, he did some shady things and landed the Mustangs on probation, and then he left. Brown resigned this summer at the age of 75 after guiding SMU to three straight 25-win campaigns. The Mustangs were 25-5 last season but were banned from postseason play because of NCAA violations that included academic fraud. But that doesn’t change who they are: a dangerous team that sits as the marquee home opponent on Boise State’s non-conference schedule—and tonight’s guest in Taco Bell Arena. SMU is now coached by Tim Jankovich, who was Brown’s associate head coach. The Mustangs are 4-2 and are coming off a 78-73 loss last Friday at USC.

The Broncos will have their hands full tonight with SMU’s leading scorer and rebounder, Semi Ojeleye, who averages 19.3 points and 8.3 boards per game. At 6-8, 230 pounds, Ojeleye is an athletic load. He was a coveted recruit coming out of high school in Ottawa, KS, where he posted 38 points a game as a senior. The proof? He signed with Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and appeared in 23 games before transferring to SMU, seeking more playing time. Ojeleye sat out the second semester of the 2014-15 campaign and used a redshirt year last season. Now he’s making up for lost time. Ojeleye put up 24 points in the Mustangs’ 76-67 win over Pittsburgh two weeks ago.

Chandler Hutchison will be Boise State’s spotlight player tonight against SMU. But to come within five points of upsetting Oregon in Eugene with Hutchison being held to single-digit scoring is encouraging long-term for BSU as it develops a supporting cast. Hutchison, the Broncos’ best player, was held to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting in the 68-63 loss to the Ducks. But did I mention he’s good? Hutchison led Boise State Monday night with nine rebounds and five assists. He has led the Broncos in rebounding all six games this season. Hutchison, who has three games of 20 or more points with 10 or more rebounds, is averaging 16.7 points and 9.5 boards per game.

We knew midseason that there were three first-team All-Mountain West running backs this season—and only two would get the actual honor when the team was announced. It was revealed yesterday that San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey and Wyoming’s Brian Hill made the cut, and it was Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols who was relegated to the second team. Now that it’s happened, it seems ridiculous. McNichols is by far the most versatile back—it’s right there in his all-purpose yardage number, tops in the conference at 2,185—and he’s the most valuable player on his team. McNichols is also the nation’s leading scorer, and he had bigger games against better competition. That’s why he’s called the “McWeapon.”

Also on the All-Mountain West first team from Boise State are quarterback Brett Rypien, wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck, offensive linemen Travis Averill and Mario Yakoo, nose tackle David Moa and defensive end Sam McCaskill. Rypien, who leads the MW in passing with 3,341 yards, is two-for-two as an all-conference QB, the first in league history to go back-to-back as a freshman and sophomore. Sperbeck is also a repeat honoree on the first team after a second straight 1,000-yard season. The most gratifying selections are Moa and McCaskill. Moa came out of nowhere to become a dominant force on the defensive line. For McCaskill, it’s the pinnacle after paying his dues in the program for five years.

San Diego State swept the three major Mountain West Player of the Year awards for the second straight season, and in each case it was the same guy as last year. Pumphrey was named on offense again as he approaches a 2,000-yard season. Cornerback Damontae Kazee got the nod on defense , and kickoff returner extraordinaire Rashaad Penny won the special teams award. There won’t be much debate about this: Wyoming’s Craig Bohl is the Mountain West Coach of the Year after winning eight games and conquering the Mountain Division to get into the conference championship game.

Thirty-five years ago he was playing for Idaho in the Kibbie Dome. Saturday he’ll be coaching Georgia State on the Vandals’ home field as the 3-8 Panthers try to salvage something from a vastly disappointing season. Tim Lappano returns to Moscow as GSU’s interim coach in the wake of the firing of Trent Miles. Since starting his coaching career under Dennis Erickson at Idaho after graduation, Lappano has been a staffer at Wyoming, Washington State, Cal, Oregon State, Washington and Purdue and has also served NFL stints at Seattle, San Francisco and Detroit. The Vandals will be trying to spoil Lappano’s homecoming as they gun for their eighth win, which would be their highest regular-season total in 18 years.

A lot was expected of Kamalei Correa after he excelled in training camp for the Baltimore Ravens. Then the season started. The second round draft pick out of Boise State barely played. The door finally appeared to open for Correa when he made the first start of his NFL career October 23. He made three tackles (two solo), broke up a pass and forced a fumble in Baltimore’s 24-16 loss to the Jets. But he missed the next two games with a thigh injury, was active two weeks ago with no stats, and simply did not play last Sunday against Cincinnati. Outside of his one start, Correa has one other tackle all season.

This is the Idaho Steelheads’ 20th season, and it’s also the 20th season of their rivalry with the Alaska Aces (in 1997 they were the Anchorage Aces). The two teams tangle again in CenturyLink Arena as they open a three-game series tonight. The Steelheads are hot, having won 10 of their last 13 games. The Aces have the hot netminder, as they bring in Kevin Carr, the newly-named ECHL Goaltender of the Week. Carr made 95 saves in three games last week while going 3-0 for Alaska. That included a 42-save shutout against the Utah Grizzlies last Saturday. Goalie Philippe Desrosiers will see his first action of the season for the Steelies this week after being assigned to Idaho by the AHL’s Texas Stars.

Back to hoops: College of Idaho is No. 8 in the new NAIA Division II Coaches Poll after a 7-2 start this season. Included are five wins against NAIA Division I or NCAA Division II competition. Two other Cascade Conference teams are in the Top 25, both of which faced Boise State this month in Taco Bell Arena. Northwest Christian, home of coach Leon Rice’s son, Brock, is No. 13. Northwest University is No. 22 and is now 9-0 (Northwest designated its game against the Broncos as an exhibition).

This Day In Sports…November 30, 2013:

One of the craziest finishes in college football history leads to a 34-28 Auburn victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl. With overtime looming and the Crimson Tide trying to protect its No. 1 ranking, ‘Bama lined up for a 57-yard field goal try with one second left. The kick was short, and the Tigers’ Chris Davis caught it nine yards deep in the end zone. Davis then ran 109 yards (100 officially) with no time on the clock to give Auburn a truly unbelievable victory and end Alabama’s hopes of a third straight national championship.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)