Scott Slant Wednesday Weekly: Danielson and the Boise State defense

It’s kind of short-sighted to wonder how Spencer Danielson will be able to lead the Boise State football program the rest of the way. Danielson led the Broncos to a No. 6 national ranking in total defense last season. But he doesn’t have the talent on defense this season that he had last year. He just doesn’t. There aren’t fail-safe anchors like Scott Matlock, JL Skinner and Tyreque Jones. But let’s look at the genuine progress the Broncos have made on that side of the ball, and how Danielson has been getting it done at halftime. In the three games since the bye week, Boise State has been allowing just 292 yards per game—which happens to be the team’s final number in 2022. In the first half since the bye, the Broncos have given up 193 yards per game, and only 99 in the second half. Danielson has worked his tail off.


One thing that came up during our roundtable discussion after Andy Avalos’ firing on Sunday Sports Extra: Boise State players love Danielson as much as he loves them. And the Broncos will probably run through a wall for Danielson when they take on Utah State in a rather pivotal game Saturday night. We don’t quite know what to make of this revelation, but Danielson said the program was working through a process for a possible return of wide receiver Eric McAlister to the team. We don’t quite know what to make of this, either: star running back Ashton Jeanty returned to drills Tuesday, and Danielson is excited to have him. That doesn’t necessarily mean Jeanty’ll be in against the Aggies, nor that he’ll still be on the team a month from now, but this is not what a lot of people expected even 72 hours ago.


As Boise State searches for a new coach, don’t forget that there’s competition from a peer, even for Bryan Harsin perhaps. Brady Hoke is retiring from San Diego State at the end of the season, and The Athletic has a couple of names on their speculation list for both schools. One is Harsin, who would probably do just fine with the Aztecs. Another is former Broncos wide receiver Kirby Moore, who’s much better known for his coaching acumen at Fresno State and, now, Missouri. In case you haven’t noticed, the Tigers are ranked 9th in the CFP, and Moore is their offensive coordinator. Mizzou leads the nation in red zone scoring percentage after ranking No. 90 last season. One of the names not on Boise State’s dart board list that is on San Diego State’s: Oregon State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren, a former Idaho quarterback.


We know what’s at stake for Boise State in Logan Saturday night. The Broncos are trying to keep their nation’s-best streak of 25 straight winning seasons alive, and they need two more wins to do it. If they can get by the Aggies, they’ll be bowl-eligible and will have two chances to get to victory No. 7. If they don’t, they’ll have to beat Air Force on the Blue the day after Thanksgiving and follow that with a bowl win. USU, like Boise State, is 5-5 and is looking to clinch bowl eligibility Saturday night. The Aggies’ second chance next week would be a little easier than that of the Broncos, as Utah State finishes at New Mexico. As for the series, well, it doesn’t tell you how difficult this is going to be for Boise State. The Broncos have won 19 of the last 20 games against the Aggies.


It was like a conference game in a conference atmosphere as Boise State men’s hoops beat San Francisco 63-58 Sunday afternoon. With the masked man, Tyson Degenhart, back in the lineup, the Broncos had their full arsenal against the Dons, and they needed it as a crowd of 10,250 urged them on. The meat of the Boise State schedule comes in two parts this season. The second is the Mountain West test. You could argue that the Broncos are already in the first after the tense win over USF. Next up is Clemson this Sunday on the Tigers’ home floor, followed by the ESPN Events Invitational Thanksgiving weekend. Like the Broncos, Clemson has a week off before this game. Last time out, the Tigers squeezed out a 68-65 win on Sunday over a good Davidson team that was coming off an upset of Maryland.


Boise State’s newcomers are still finding their roles. Cam Martin and O’Mar Stanley are establishing themselves inside, Roddie Anderson III is still getting his feet wet at point guard, and Andrew Meadow will be the true freshman getting minutes. And no sooner were we talking about this year’s new guys than a couple of next year’s new guys officially materialized last week. The Broncos announced the signings of Julian Bowie of Pocatello and Pearson Carmichael of Bend, OR. Bowie was last season’s State 4A Player of the Year at Poky High, and has starred for Utah Prospects on the AAU circuit since. He’s a top 100 national recruit according to Lindy’s. Carmichael was the Oregon 5A Player of the Year last season and led Summit High to a runnerup finish in the state 5A tournament.


Bad news for Leighton Vander Esch. We just hope it’s not long-term bad news. The former Boise State star has been ruled out for the rest of the season by the Dallas Cowboys. Vander Esch injured his troublesome neck against San Francisco 5½ weeks ago and was eligible to come back this week. But symptoms linger, and now there are concerns about his future. LVE is only 27 years old—he has his whole life ahead of him. His health needs to come first. And Vander Esch was having such a solid season: 35 tackles and a fumble recovery returned for his first NFL touchdown. Hope it’s not over for Riggins’ one-time first-round draft pick.


The last game of the regular season is a crucial one for Idaho, and it might be a must-win for the Vandals if they’re to reach the FCS Playoffs for the second straight year after last week’s 31-29 loss at Weber State. The opponents Saturday are none other than Cody Hawkins’ up-and-coming Idaho State Bengals, but they’ll have to deal with the Kibbie Dome, which promises to be rockin’. Idaho is 7-3, which you would think is enough for the postseason, but you never know. ISU has shown massive improvement this year and is coming off a hard-fought 21-14 loss to Cody’s dad, Dan, and the UC Davis Aggies. The Bengals are 3-7, but it doesn’t feel like that.


It’s a good time for College of Idaho to hit the reset button, and the Coyotes have a week off to do that after a discouraging 31-16 loss at Southern Oregon that doused their Frontier Conference championship hopes. Despite the defeat, the Yotes were given a first-round bye in the NAIA Playoffs and will play an opponent to be determined at a place to be determined a week from Saturday. This will be C of I’s second trip to the NAIA Playoffs since the football program was resurrected in 2014.


The Idaho Steelheads are as hot as they were last year—hotter, in fact, after taking two of three road games over the Wheeling Nailers last weekend and improving to 8-2. The Steelheads continue to score like it’s nobody’s business. They set a franchise record last season with 290 goals and had 38 through the first 10 games. This year after 10 contests the Steelies have tallied 50 goals. Three of them came from captain A.J. White in last Sunday’s 7-4 win, marking White’s second pro hat trick. The Steelheads return to Boise this week and will host the Allen Americans in a three-game series beginning tonight in Idaho Central Arena.


I’m not sure how the math goes, but it sure seems like Troy Merritt needs to make the cut this week at the RSM Classic in St. Simons Island, GA. The event wraps up the PGA Tour fall schedule, and the top 125 in the fall FedEx Cup standings retain fully exempt status on the tour next year. Merritt is No. 123. He’s made the cut in all five of his starts this fall, but a tie for 72nd last week at the Bermuda Championship has left him just above the line of demarcation.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by THE SANDWICH SHOP…Broadway’s never had it so good!

November 15, 1960: Former College of Idaho star Elgin Baylor scores an NBA record 71 points and pulls down 25 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New York Knicks, 123-108, at Madison Square Garden. His record would be broken the next year (and re-set again later with a legendary 100-point game) by Wilt Chamberlain. Baylor played at C of I five years earlier before transferring to Seattle University and ultimately being named MVP of the 1958 NCAA Tournament as the Chieftains made the championship game.

(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.)

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