I’ve emceed a bunch of things over the years (one one-hundredth, maybe, of Mark Johnson’s load, but anyway…). My favorite event I’ve ever emceed was the Boise State Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony last April. My least favorite was the Humanitarian Awards Dinner for the 2005 MPC Computers Bowl. That’s the night that one of the sponsors read a “top 10 list” that he thought was funny, with one item making fun of trying to pronounce the name of Boston College star Mathias Kiwanuka. I watched from the back of the stage and thought, “This is not good.” And indeed, it did not sit well with the Eagles’ half of the room at the Boise Centre on the Grove. BC coach Tom O’Brien basically seized on the opportunity and played off that to fire up his team—and admitted as much after the Eagles’ 27-20 victory.
On bowl announcement day a week and a half ago, current Boston College coach Steve Addazio talked about Boise State. “I’ve always watched them through the years when I catch them on TV, and I know what their history is,” said Addazio. It’s not clear if “history” includes what happened at that 2005 game between the two teams. The Eagles came out that day looking like “us against the world” after the perceived slight of Kiwanuka. They built a 24-0 halftime lead and upped it to 27-0 early in the third quarter before a wild Broncos’ comeback. Sophomore quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns as BC handed Boise State its first home loss since 2001.
Whatever happened to Tom O’Brien? He spent one more year at Boston College before being hired at North Carolina State. He had a nice run early on with a quarterback named Russell Wilson, but O’Brien demoted Wilson in 2011 in favor of Mike Glennon. That led to Wilson finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Wisconsin that season, and the rest is history. O’Brien continued to win but had worn out his welcome with fans—and, apparently, on the recruiting trail—and was fired toward the end of the 2012 season. He became an assistant at Virginia and just missed facing Boise State again, retiring from coaching after the 2014 season.
BETWEEN THE LINES ON THE MW’S FIRST TWO BOWLS
Bowl season is when intangibles can really come into play, and for Utah State that means facing North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl Saturday in a state of flux. USU co-defensive coordinator Frank Maile will be interim coach while newly-named coach Gary Andersen stays away from Albuquerque and gets settled in his new post. The Aggies insist all has gone smoothly, though, and they’re favored by eight points over the Mean Green. It could be a wild one, as the over/under is 67. There are no such intangibles in Fresno State’s matchup with Arizona State Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl. This one could be a straight-up slugfest, with the Bulldogs favored over the Sun Devils by four points.
COACH HAWK HAS FOUND A HOME – AND A BIG TROPHY
Dan Hawkins proved this season what he can do when he’s in the right situation. And Wednesday the former Boise State coach was named winner of the Eddie Robinson Award as FCS Coach of the Year after leading UC Davis to a 10-3 record, a co-Big Sky championship, and into the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs. The Aggies’ season ended last Saturday with a heartbreaking 34-29 loss at Eastern Washington when the Eagles busted off a 35-yard touchdown run right after Hawk had classicly gambled and succeeded on a two-point conversion to take the lead with 2:41 left. He’s been able to mold a positive culture at his alma mater, something that didn’t happen at Colorado. (For some Robinson irony today, see “This Day In Sports” below.)
A WORK IN PROGESS ON THE FLOOR AND IN THE LOCKER ROOM
Boise State hoops coach Leon Rice is not only trying to find the right combination to kick-start the Broncos, he’s also trying to build chemistry. The suspension of guard Patrick Dembley for Wednesday night’s game for “attitude detrimental to the team” would indicate that’s a challenge. On the other hand, it sends a message at a pivotal time for this team. The rest of the Broncos rallied with a 17-0 run just after halftime to defeat Alabama State 67-57 in Taco Bell Arena. It was hustle plays on defense that fueled the surge. “We’re starting to understand our dance steps,” said Rice on the KBOI postgame show. Justinian Jessup led Boise State with 16 points, and Alex Hobbs added 15.
Now Oregon awaits in Eugene Saturday night for the front end of a home-and-home series with Boise State. The Ducks, after trailing by one point at the half, got by San Diego 65-55 Wednesday night. That’s a quality win for UO, especially for a team with a home loss to 4-6 Texas Southern. The Toreros have already beaten Colorado and San Diego State this season and fell to Washington by just three points. Oregon made a statement defensively, forcing eight turnovers from Borah High grad Isaiah Wright alone as it improved to 6-3 on the season.
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES FOR THURSDAY
Reid Petryk scored two of the Idaho Steelheads’ four unanswered goals over the final 38½ minutes of the game in a 5-1 romp over the Kansas City Mavericks Wednesday night in CenturyLink Arena. Steelheads goalie Ryan Faragher was back in rhythm, with 30 saves on 31 K.C. shots as he improved to 2-2-1 on the season. Meanwhile, the Steelies have leading scorer Steve McParland back from his brief AHL callup with the Stockton Heat.
A couple campus notes—the Division I women’s gymnastics preseason poll is out from the WCGA, and Boise State starts at No. 16, the same place it finished at the end of last season. The Broncos are coming off their fourth straight conference championship, a program record. And, sad to hear of the passing of former Northwest Nazarene basketball coach Terry Layton. He was a good guy, and I enjoyed covering him during my formative years in TV. Layton led the team from 1975-82 when it was the NNC Crusaders. He coached at five other colleges, one of them Adams State in Colorado. It was there that Layton logged one of his most memorable victories, beating Bobby Dye’s Boise State squad 75-68 in the BSU Pavilion 25 years ago. Interestingly enough, those Broncos would go on to win the Big Sky title.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by BIG BUN DRIVE-IN…old-time goodness you can grab on the go!
December 13, 1980: Before a crowd that for almost 20 years was considered the loudest in Bronco Stadium history, Boise State shocks the Grambling Tigers and legendary coach Eddie Robinson 14-9 in the semi-finals of the Division I-AA playoffs. The Tigers dominated the game statistically, but were psyched out by the foggy 25-degree weather—coughing up four costly turnovers. A 63-yard touchdown pass from Joe Aliotti to Kipp Bedard off a flea-flicker (with Bedard dragging Everson Walls into the endzone) provided not only the winning points, but a trip to the national championship game the following week.
(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.)