Rice is back in the chemistry lab

It’ll be interesting to see if Boise State coach Leon Rice tinkers with his lineup after the 94-71 win over Wyoming. It’ll be interesting to see if Boise State coach Leon Rice tinkers with his lineup after the 94-71 win over Wyoming Saturday in Taco Bell Arena. At first glance, Montigo Alford would be under scrutiny. Was Alford a one-hit wonder after his 25-point performance last Wednesday at Colorado State? He went just 2-for-9 from the field and 0-for-6 from three-point range against the Cowboys. But the Broncos need Alford on defense. The job he did against Wyoming star Josh Adams, the Mountain West’s leading scorer, was phenomenal. Adams was held to 16 points, almost nine below his season average. Alford matched quickness with quickness in defending Adams. Maybe he gets a shot tomorrow night at New Mexico’s Elijah Brown, who roasted Boise State for 30 points last month.

Can the Broncos feed off each other now that they have some semblance of defense back in their repertoire? Let’s consider Wyoming’s Adams factor for a moment. He came into Saturday’s game fourth in the nation in scoring at 24.7 points per game, but went 1-for-9 from the field in the first half and 6-for-15 for the day. And in large part because of Alford’s defense, Adams wasn’t able to create chaos in the paint and get to the free throw line like he normally does. Adams also entered the game fourth in the country with 174 made free throws and 210 attempts. He was 1-for-4 from the line against the Broncos.

Little-known fact: by recording its 17th victory Saturday, Boise State clinched a winning season. It’s the Broncos’ fourth straight winning campaign. Their last losing season was in 2011-12, their first year in the Mountain West, when they went 13-17—and 3-11 in conference. Rice has now logged five winning seasons in his six years at Boise State. His overall record is 119-72. The next step is for the Broncos to achieve another 20-win season. They need three victories, and they have at least six games left. Prospects are good. But hey, that’s why they play the games.

Here’s what the Mountain West standings would look like had James Webb III’s game-winning basket not been yanked away from Boise State last Wednesday. San Diego State, of course, is off in the distance at 12-1. But the Broncos would be back in second place now, a half-game ahead of New Mexico. Instead, they’re a half-game behind the Lobos going into tomorrow night’s trip to The Pit. Truthfully, Boise State’s situation hasn’t changed much (though it would have with a loss to Wyoming). The team to beware of right now, in my opinion, is Nevada.

Anything can happen to Kellen Moore’s situation in Dallas between now and the end of the NFL Draft. But there’s still a lot of support for the status quo. This, for example: “A Case For Kellen Moore As Backup Quarterback” by Christian Blood on the popular Dallas fan site SportDFW.com. Writes Blood, “Having arrived in Dallas after the 2015 season had already begun, Moore still outplayed bench-warming predecessors Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden, neither of whom were able to generate the kind of yardage necessary to win football games.” Moore didn’t win, either, but Blood points out that he was able to do something that Cassel and Weeden couldn’t do. “Moore hit Dallas wide receivers 18 times during a season-ending loss to Washington,” writes Blood. “No, there was no Dez Bryant there to take pressure off of other targets either.”

The season finale was telling, contends Blood. “The ‘Skins knew the pass was coming for most of this game and still couldn’t prevent Moore from chalking up 435 yards passing while going 33-for-48.” Here’s how Blood perceives things: “Moore will be ahead of all other contenders for the backup job with the Cowboys, and that includes other possibilities like Colt McCoy. He’s been in the system, he’s intelligent and he has a history of making plays no matter who his teammates are at a given point in time. As the Cowboys know, this isn’t the easiest thing to find, yet they’ve probably already found it.”

It was a pressurized President’s Day for University of Idaho president Chuck Staben. Yesterday was the day of his 45-minute video presentation to Sun Belt presidents and chancellors trying to convince the conference to extend the Vandals’ football membership beyond 2017. The vote is scheduled for March 10. Maybe Idaho has an unwitting ally in Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who said the other day that the LSU football season could be cancelled this year due to the state’s $940 million budget deficit. That might be a ridiculous scare tactic, but how are Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe feeling right about now? And might the Sun Belt feel it needs to hang onto Idaho and New Mexico State as insurance policies?

The view from the top must be nice for the Idaho Steelheads right now, considering how hard they worked to get there. After a home-and-home sweep of Utah, the Steelheads are two points ahead of the Grizzlies in the ECHL West Division. The catalyst, of course, has been Jack Campbell. The 24-year-old goaltender picked up two more victories in the series, the second one an extremely rare 1-0 shootout shutout in which he made 40 saves. Campbell is now 13-4 since rejoining Idaho on New Year’s weekend and has a solid lead atop the ECHL goals-against and save percentage lists. How far can Campbell take the Steelies? As far as the Dallas Stars will allow him to before they decide to pop him back up the AHL again.

Tyler Aldridge’s return season on the PGA Tour has some real momentum now. The Vallivue High grad cashed in on the biggest payday of his career Sunday when he earned $101,500 with a 17th-place tie at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Aldridge, who shot 68-69 over the weekend at Pebble Beach, produced a suitable ending—a birdie on the course’s iconic 18th hole.

Around the horn with other hoops: Idaho completed a week’s sweep with its 61-58 win over North Dakota Saturday night in Cowan Spectrum. The Vandals are currently fifth in the Big Sky, very much in the hunt for one of the four byes in the conference tournament (don’t look now, but Idaho State is fourth). The College of Idaho split a couple close decisions on the road over the weekend, beating Oregon Tech 78-76 and falling to No. 14 Southern Oregon 76-72. And alas, the Boise State women did not pick up the pieces, as they were punished 82-58 Saturday at Wyoming.

Allie Ostrander keeps outdoing herself. Boise State’s freshman phenom now holds the fastest times in the country this indoor season in both the 3,000 and 5,000-meters. Ostrander won the 3,000 at the Husky Classic in Seattle Saturday with a 8:54.27, the third-fastest mark on an oversized track in collegiate track and field history—and the 10th-fastest women’s time of any kind. Also, the Broncos’ David Elliott became the school’s first sub-four minute miler when he won the Husky Invite with a 3:57.68. It was the third-fastest mile in Mountain West history.

This Day In Sports…February 16, 1984:

Bill Johnson, who started skiing as a Mitey Mite at Bogus Basin, becomes the first American to win the Olympic downhill. Johnson had brashly predicted that he would triumph after having the fastest training runs on the course at the Winter Games in Sarajevo. Johnson, however, lived a troubled life. After a horrible crash during a comeback attempt in 2001, a brain-damaged Johnson was in need of constant care before passing away last month at the age of 55.

(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.)