Everyone’s been so wrapped up in the drama, challenges, surprises and exhilaration of Boise State’s 2023 football season that a certain reality has snuck up on us. The LA Bowl against UCLA Saturday night will mark the last go-round for some really familiar names. It starts, of course, with George Holani, who now knows he can’t come back to the Broncos next year. And you know Holani won’t go out quietly as he finishes his fifth season. With a first-time starter at quarterback, he and Ashton Jeanty will naturally be at the heart of the game plan. In the six games since returning from injury, Holani has averaged 93 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry with five touchdowns.
Holani’s one of six guys on the current roster who played in the 2019 Las Vegas Bowl, Boise State’s last postseason matchup against a Pac-12 foe. The other graybeards are Markel Reed, DJ Schramm, Garrett Curran, Demitri Washington and Stefan Cobbs. All but Reed will be done after Saturday. The injured Washington has been trying hard to get back on the field one time for Spencer Danielson. Cobbs’ injury at Fresno State last month was season-ending.
SEEMS LIKE THE OBVIOUS CHOICE
Danielson said Tuesday that “as of right now” he expects CJ Tiller to start at quarterback for Saturday. It’s hard to imagine it not being Tiller, who’s a scholarship QB, versus walk-on Colt Fulton. Either way, offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan will put the winner in the best position to succeed against the Bruins, just like he did for Taylen Green in the Mountain West championship game. Hamdan designed pass plays that created open receivers for Green—witness the tight end screen to Riley Smith on the second play from scrimmage and the flea-flicker touchdown to Austin Bolt. It was old-school Broncos offense. But the key here is obviously the running game. Tiller (and/or Fulton) will be handing off a lot, not keeping it like Green did. I’m looking forward to it.
TAYLEN’S TASK AHEAD
Like Andy Avalos, Green took the high road in saying farewell to Boise State this week. So many questions as Green heads for Arkansas after canceling visits to Cal, BYU, LSU and Oregon State. First among them: will Green start for the Razorbacks? He still has so much upside, and he can clear his head in Fayetteville after having it spin all fall with the Broncos. The number one issue with Taylen that was never resolved here was his accuracy. He was dazzling in the running game in his debut at Oregon State last year when Hank Bachmeier was benched. Green also completed 67 percent of his throws that night. But it wasn’t sustained. His season completion percentage dropped from 62 percent in 2022 to 57 percent this year. Bobby Petrino is the offensive coordinator for the Hogs. He knows quarterbacks.
AVALOS STILL AN ALL-TIMER
This much we knew about Avalos: he was a great defensive coordinator at Boise State, and he was great in the same position at Oregon. So it comes as no surprise that he’s been scooped up as the new D-coordinator at TCU. Avalos replaces Joe Gillespie, who was fired by the Horned Frogs after his defense allowed 407.3 yards and 27.8 points per game this season, a year after making it to the CFP championship game. Hopefully time will heal and Avalos will be able to return to campus someday and be celebrated for the impact he had on the Broncos over the many years. Now, will former Broncos wide receiver Eric McAlister end up at TCU out of the transfer portal as rumored?
HE’S ALREADY ‘ASSISTANT HEAD COACH’
With Boise State safeties coach Kane Ioane on the way to Nevada as Jeff Choate’s defensive coordinator, that leaves an obvious choice in the building to be Danielson’s D-coordinator. Eric Chinander already has DC experience at UCF and Nebraska. Despite the Cornhuskers struggles in recent years, his defenses performed well. And he was at UCF during their mythical national championship year. Let’s look at what Chinander has done with the defensive line this year. It has really improved from start to finish. You can begin with Ahmed Hassanein, who had 1.5 sacks through the first four games and has had 11 since. He’s second in the Mountain West. Sacks are a good measure of Chinander’s success. As a team, Boise State has 36 this season, first in the Mountain West and 17th in the country.
NOT GONE, AND NOT FORGOTTEN
At Jeanty’s media appearance last Friday, he threw this out as an aside: “I had to come back and play with my dog Latrell.” That would be Latrell Caples, the fellow Texan who was injured just before fall camp, putting him out for the season. I’m glad Jeanty brought him up. Caples has been Boise State’s forgotten man this year. Eric McAlister took the wide receivers room by storm—until he left the team November 6. Austin Bolt and Prince Stachan have tried to provide a combo fill-in for McAlister’s talents, and those two will be back next year. But remember, Caples will be, too. He led the Broncos in receiving in 2022 by a long shot—51 catches for 549 yards and four touchdowns, keeping in mind that the team didn’t throw as much when Taylen Green took over as starting quarterback. Caples is still going to be an asset.
RESPITE FROM THE RUGGED SCHEDULE
Boise State did the expected against a 1-8 team Tuesday night, sending Northwestern State to 1-9 with a 95-54 rout while hitting a shade under 60 percent from the field in ExtraMile Arena. The Broncos’ largest lead of the night was their last at 41 points. Tyson Degenhart scored 20 and Chibuzo Agbo 17 for Boise State, but the main takeaway from this one was Roddie Anderson III finding some rhythm after struggling for much of the early season. Anderson reached double-figures for the first time as a Bronco, putting up 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting. His most important stat of the night, though, was zero turnovers. Boise State tied the school record for home winning streak with its 19th straight victory. The Broncos will try to break it when they host Cal State Fullerton Sunday afternoon.
This homestand is doing what it was supposed to do so far for Boise State. The 109-70 win last Saturday over Western Oregon—the Broncos’ first 100-point game in three years—bred confidence, especially for sixth-year senior Max Rice. When his first three-pointer went in against the Wolves, Rice acknowledged after the game it was a load off his shoulders. Then he couldn’t stop. Rice hit five more threes and went 8-for-8 from the free throw line to score 28 points, the second-most of his career. On the team side, the Broncos made progress on the boards, outrebounding Western 43-14. All 14 eligible Broncos got into the game, and all but two scored.
STEELIES WIN A DIFFERENT WAY
A week ago the Idaho Steelheads started their road trip to Kansas City with a rare loss, but when the weekend was over they were back in their ordinary perch atop the ECHL Mountain Division standings after winning the last two contests. Goaltending has not been as good as it was during the Steelheads’ 2022-23 season, so Bryan Thompson’s performance last Saturday was a welcome sight. Thompson recorded his first professional shutout as the Steelies team that’s accustomed to winning 5-3 games was victorious 1-0. The Steelheads return to Idaho Central Arena tonight for the first of a three-game series against the Rapid City Rush.
HISTORIC SEASONS END IN HEARTBREAK
Two playoff thrillers on opposite sides of the country ended landmark seasons for Idaho and College of Idaho last Saturday. The Vandals had a 16-7 second quarter lead on Albany but managed only two field goals the rest of the way in a 30-22 loss in the FCS quarterfinals in the Kibbie Dome. It doesn’t diminish Idaho’s landmark 9-4 season. Reality sets in now, though, as four Vandals starters, including quarterback Gevani McCoy and running back Anthony Woods, have entered the transfer portal.
C of I was oh-so-close to its first NAIA championship game last week in West Palm Beach, FL. Three times the Coyotes were inside the Keiser University five-yard line, and three times they were denied on a fourth-and-goal in a 28-21 loss to the Seahawks. The last time was with 27 seconds left in the game from the Keiser four-yard line. The Yotes finished the season 10-3—they are firmly entrenched now as a national NAIA power.
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December 13, 1983, 40 years ago today: Detroit edges Denver 186-184 in triple overtime, making it the highest-scoring game in NBA history. Isiah Thomas scored 47 points and John Long added 41 for the Pistons. Kiki Vandeweghe led the Nuggets with 51 points, followed by Alex English with 47. Incredibly, only two three-pointers were made all night (the NBA three-point line was only four years old at the time). Seven years later, Denver also lost the NBA’s highest-scoring regulation game, 162-158 to the Golden State Warriors.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)