Four days after Boise State’s appearance in the LA Bowl comes Early Signing Day today. No rest for the weary. This event has all but wiped out the significance of National Letter of Intent Day in February. The ship sails now. To be sure, high school recruiting overall has faded a bit in the transfer portal era, but this is still big to the Broncos. They’ve lost only one commit since the firing of Andy Avalos (although it was a big one—Burley’s Gatlin Bair), and there are still 16 high school players on the list today. With the quarterback room not completely full, it’s important to note that Boise State is expected to sign Kaleb Annett of Newport Beach, CA. And Ashton Jeanty and Breezy Dubar will have a reinforcement in the form of running back Dylan Riley of Moreno Valley. CA. Plus, four defensive linemen.
What to make of the 2023 Boise State football season? It was the best of times—it was the worst of times. Depression, drama, hopelessness, hope, achievement, exhilaration and a big “dadgum it” at the end with the loss in the LA Bowl. The Broncos finished 8-6, with their most losses in 26 years. But this season was a testament to perseverance and tenacity. At various times, like after the losses at Colorado State and Fresno State, this team was given up for dead. But the incredible response to Spencer Danielson and the Mountain West title are what will be remembered. I don’t spend time worrying whether the season was a success or not, but the championship matters. The takeaway from 2023 is that the Boise State program still has strong bones to have survived this chaos and to have kept this roster mostly intact.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE…
You could say that Boise State running backs coach James Montgomery couldn’t have gone wrong with Jeanty and George Holani in the room this season. But you can also say that Jeanty was better this year than last, and Montgomery had something to do with it. Montgomery has been retained by coach Spencer Danielson for a second year on the Boise State staff after coming in from Fresno State last winter. With some bowl games left to play, the Broncos are currently No. 6 in the nation in team rushing at 214.9 yards per game. Montgomery the only one on the Boise State staff who can claim two straight Mountain West championships—the Bulldogs won a title last December on the blue turf.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE, PARTS II, III, IV
Also announced Tuesday: the retention of Boise State offensive line coach Tim Keane, EDGE coach Jabril Frazier and wide receivers coach Matt Miller. How about Keane? Remember three years ago when Boise State’s O-line was getting skewered as the running game was averaging just 3.3 yards per carry? This season it was a robust 5.4 yards per attempt, 10th in the country, as the unit road-graded for Jeanty and Holani. The Broncos also allowed only 1.14 sacks per game, 12th in the nation. Frazier, a former Bronco EDGE himself, gets credit for an improved pass rush as the 2023 season progressed.
Miller has done a lot of juggling in the Boise State wide receivers room this season. In August, Miller had to plot a course without last year’s leading pass-catcher when Latrell Caples was lost for the season due to injury. He had a dynamo emerge this season in the form of Eric McAlister, who then left the program the first week of November. Miller scotch-taped together a replacement with a combo of Austin Bolt and Prince Strachan. Bolt came up big in the Mountain West championship game, and Strachan led the Broncos in receiving in the LA Bowl. Miller, Boise State’s all-time leading receiver, will be going into his fifth season as a full-time Broncos staffer.
DIFFERENT KIND OF FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL RETURN
Saturday will mark Utah State’s record fifth appearance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl when the Aggies face George State on the blue turf. One USU player will be competing in the game for the second time, and that’s where the story takes off. Aggies quarterback Levi Williams was the 2021 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Offensive MVP—for Wyoming. Williams had exactly 200 yards rushing and a bowl record-tying four touchdowns on the ground in the Cowboys’ 52-38 win over Kent State. He then went into the transfer portal and landed in Logan. This will be the final game of Williams’ career, as his plan is to become a Navy Seal.
The extended forecast comes into view for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, always something to monitor. It won’t be frigid (although Georgia State may disagree), with partly sunny skies and a high of 39. Couldn’t be a more normal December 23. Slick turf is highly unlikely. Utah State should feel right at home. The Aggies and Panthers are both 6-6, so one of them is going to clinch a winning season—and the other a losing season. And that would especially be a downer for Georgia State, which has lost its last five games after a 6-1 start.
BRONCOS BEGINNING TO CLICK
Boise State had three highly-touted transfers join the men’s basketball program this season: Cam Martin from Kansas, O’Mar Stanley from St. John’s and Roddie Anderson III from UC San Diego. But chemistry isn’t instant. Martin and Anderson in particular took a while to settle in, and that was a factor in the three losses on Boise State’s East Coast road swing last month. Anderson was plagued by poor shooting and a rash of turnovers. His shooting is improving a bit—and his taking-care-of-the-ball is improving a lot (no turnovers the past two games). And Anderson is now doing one thing Marcus Shaver Jr. used to do really well—finding Max Rice in his sweet spot. Rice is so good when he has catch-and-shoot opportunities in open space. He’s 15-for-27 from three-point range over the past three games.
A BLOOMING BASKETBALL RIVALRY
Next up for Boise State is what has become an annual neutral-and-neutral series with Washington State—this year’s game will be at Spokane Arena Thursday night. There have been two of these matchups so far, with the Broncos winning two years ago in Spokane and again last season in Idaho Central Arena. So these are pseudo home games for both teams, but neutral sites help in the computers. A win-win. It’s been fun, and the way things are going, Boise State-Washington State will be an annual thing for some time to come. The Cougars are 8-2 but their schedule has been a bit soft. TeamRankings.com has Wazzu’s slate rated No. 176 in the country right now, while Boise State’s is No. 52.
THESE STEELIES KNOW HOW TO WIN
There are going to be bumps in the road—the 7-4 loss to Rapid City on home ice last Saturday, for example. But earlier in that series we saw that nothing fazes the Idaho Steelheads. Last Wednesday night, they were down 4-2 to the Rush midway through the third period and rallied to win 5-4 in overtime. And who better to score the game-winner than captain A.J. White? The Steelies, who have sold out 13 of their 14 home games this season, have a one-off in Idaho Central Arena Friday night before the two clubs head for West Valley City on Saturday. Idaho is 19-5-1 and is still in first place in the ECHL Mountain Division.
STING RAY ROBB’S DESTINY
Payette’s favorite auto racing son, Sting Ray Robb, is right where he wants to be now. Robb has been named driver of A.J. Foyt Racing’s No. 41 Chevrolet next season in the NTT IndyCar Series. Robb, still only 22 years old, paved the way with 147 points in his IndyCar Series rookie year last season, finishing 23rd while driving for Dale Coyne Racing. He ended the year with a 12th-place finish in Monterey, CA. You’ve heard his story—Robb is named after what you think he’s named after.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…payroll, process and prosperity for your business.
December 20, 1985: Two years after his final season on Monday Night Football, Howard Cosell retires from ABC. That autumn, Cosell had been pulled off ABC telecasts of the World Series following the release of his book “I Never Played The Game,” which criticized many of his network colleagues, especially former athletes who he felt didn’t earn broadcasting jobs. He was a color commentator during Monday Night Football’s first 16 seasons, mostly alongside Frank Gifford and “Dandy Don” Meredith. Cosell was known as “arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a showoff.” His words.
(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.)