The Boise State men begin the Mountain West schedule with a bye, hence the matchup versus UC Davis tonight. The Boise State men’s basketball team begins the Mountain West schedule with a bye, hence the matchup versus UC Davis tonight in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos have their marquee win over Oregon, but they haven’t been overly dominant the first 1½ months of the season. They’re in as good a position as anybody in the Mountain West, though, as eight other schools begin conference play tonight. Every team, it seems, has come from ahead to lose a game it shouldn’t have. San Diego State has had a few ugly, ugly losses and looks like it’s lost its scoring touch. New Mexico has dropped four in a row and is in a big-time rut. The most improved teams appear to be Nevada and Fresno State. Bottom line: parity is going to place a premium on every MW game. The Wolf Pack visits New Mexico tonight, while the Bulldogs play at UNLV.
As for UC Davis, the Aggies are the defending Big West regular season champions and made it to the NIT last March, but they’re 4-7 this season. Included is a 68-51 home loss to Idaho. On the Boise State front, we’ll see how healing the holidays have been, with Montigo Alford and Robin Jorch both sitting out the 90-70 win over Bradley 10 days ago. The Statesman’s Dave Southorn reports that Alford is probable tonight, and Jorch is questionable. The Broncos are looking to sustain their success at home, where they have won 14 straight games and 36 of their last 37 non-conference contests. The only longer home winning streak in the Leon Rice era was in 2011, early in his tenure.
Now that we’re a week removed from the Poinsettia Bowl, let’s assess the value of Boise State’s rout of Northern Illinois. You always remember the last one. More importantly, the Boise State coaching staff can sell the last one on the recruiting trail. Sure the Broncos lost shocking back-to-back games on the blue turf in November. But the memories of San Diego and an unfathomable 55-7 beatdown of NIU are fresh. Has any team in the history of bowls ever outgained its opponent by 621 yards? That’s a heck of a conversation piece as National Letter of Intent Day approaches on February 3.
Where does the Boise State offensive line go from here? The Poinsettia Bowl is clearly something to build on. Early on last Wednesday, the Bronco O-linemen decided they were going to be oh-so-2006, dominating a respected MAC defense. The unit that had allowed the most sacks by a Boise State team this century yielded only two versus Northern Illinois, and one of them was credited when Brett Rypien fumbled as he was hit while attempting to throw. The O-line fostered a running game that didn’t depend on explosion plays, producing a consistent 277-yard effort that averaged almost five yards a carry. Archie Lewis did a nice job filling in for Rees Odhiambo and looks to be the favorite to replace him next year. Marcus Henry leaves a huge hole at center, but the Broncos have options.
There were two bowl games involving Mountain West teams yesterday, but the conference ended up with a 1-2 record thanks to the head-to-head matchup between Colorado State and Nevada in the Arizona Bowl. The Rams piled up 532 yards of total offense but got just two touchdowns and three field goals out of it in a 28-23 loss to the Wolf Pack in Tucson. At the Armed Forces Bowl, Air Force proved its offense isn’t built for comebacks. Cal quarterback Jared Goff went off, leaving the Falcons in a hopeless hole that led to a 55-36 loss. When the smoke cleared, the Bears’ sophomore star had thrown for 467 yards and six touchdowns. The Mountain West’s final bowl report card: 4-4.
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is not alone in its attendance woes. That has been evident while watching other bowl games in the days since. Official attendance at last week’s Akron victory over Utah State was 18,876. Actual turnstile count had to be less than half of that. It was better than last year, with the weather having cooperated a bit. But the crowd was still minuscule in the 36,387-seat facility. Two things didn’t cooperate. One was the calendar—it’s very difficult to get fans out on a workday afternoon for anything that doesn’t involve the Broncos. The other was high-definition. The HDTV experience is just too good to lure fans away from their living rooms anymore. Did you see the stands at Qualcomm Stadium for the Poinsettia Bowl? The Hawaii Bowl was the worst. It’s just the way it is.
We do know that fans like watching bowl games on TV despite the over-saturation of them, athough the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl saw ratings drop with their weekday kickoffs after nighttime starts last year. The Akron-Utah State game attracted 1.08 million viewers, down from 1.45 million for Air Force-Western Michigan last season. And the Boise State-Northern Illinois matchup attracted 1.38 million viewers, down from 2.46 for the Poinsettia in 2014.
As Kellen Moore prepares for start No. 2 of his NFL career, we’re reminded of all those far-fetched connections between Moore and his Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan. The two grew up just 14 miles apart in Washington (albeit about two decades apart), Moore in Prosser and Linehan in Sunnyside. Linehan was a quarterback at rival Idaho in the mid-1980’s under Dennis Erickson and Keith Gilbertson. You could consider that ancient history if Linehan’s son, Matt, wasn’t the starting Vandal QB now. But the bond between Moore and Linehan simply goes back to Kellen’s three years as the No. 3 quarterback in Detroit. Their football minds have aligned. And how can you not like Kellen Moore the person?
Don’t look now, but the Idaho Steelheads have climbed into second place in the ECHL West Division after having won six of their last seven games. Technically the Steelheads have won only 13 of 32 games this season. But with overtime and shootout losses separated, Idaho is officially 13-14-5 and can get to .500 with a win over Colorado tonight in CenturyLink Arena. The Steelies will have to overcome the Eagles’ Trent Daavettila, the ECHL’s second-leading scorer. On the transaction wire, goalie Chris Rawlings is already gone after spending just a few days back with the Steelheads. Rawlings has been traded to Missouri for forward Torin Snydeman, who has two goals and five assists in 15 games with the Mavericks and the Utah Grizzlies this season.
The Idaho Stampede are officially struggling again after losing their second straight at home to the formerly struggling Oklahoma City Blue last night, 101-98. The Stampede had a 12-point lead with 6½ minutes remaining in the game before it slipped away. The Stamps have now dropped to 5-14 after falling in four of their last five games. Idaho doesn’t play again until a Monday night test at Bakersfield.
This Day In Sports…December 30, 1978:
Ohio State fires the most famous football coach in school history (sorry, Urban Meyer). The Buckeyes were left with little choice after Hayes punched a Clemson player, Charlie Bauman, after he had intercepted a pass during OSU’s 17-15 loss in the Gator Bowl the previous day. Hayes started coaching Ohio State in 1951 and won 238 games with the team. He led the Buckeyes to 13 Big Ten titles and five national championships. But his reputation as a man with a bad temper caught up with him.
(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.)