A difference in distribution this time

Maybe it was a hangover from the celebratory night last Saturday, but Boise State’s get-up-and-go almost got up and went last night in Taco Bell Arena. Not sure how the Broncos won it, but they did, ending the game on a 10-2 run and beating Utah State 71-67. Boise State started both halves tentatively, twice trailing USU by seven points in the early going and watching the Aggies start the second half on a 22-8 run to take a nine-point advantage. The Broncos were 3-for-16 from the field during that nightmare stretch. And their normally stout defense often let them down. But the bottom line: Boise State is 16-3, matching the program’s best 19-game start set by the 1987-88 and 1988-89 squads. Now the Broncos play for first place in the Mountain West Saturday night at Nevada.

Utah State, acutely aware he was coming off a 44-point game, was in Chandler Hutchison’s grill from the opening tip last night. As a result, he went scoreless for the first 13½ minutes of the game and was just 2-for-9 with five points with seven minutes left in the contest. Then Hutch went clutch. From there he was 5-for-6 and scored 11 of his 16 points, all but clinching the victory on a jumper with 15 seconds remaining. Until then, Boise State had to find other ways to stay with the inspired Aggies, and it got an impactful 14 points from Lexus Williams. And after recording zero bench points against San Diego State, the Broncos got 30 versus USU—from two guys. Marcus Dickinson put up 16 points, more than he had in the last five games combined, and Alex Hobbs bounced back with 14.

The Broncos only turned the ball over eight times. That may have been the difference. But they didn’t have their hops against Utah State. Boise State went into the game No. 9 in the country in rebounding margin at plus-8.8 per game. The Aggies outrebounded the Broncos last night by five. There are going to be games like that in the grind of an 18-game conference season, though. Nevada trailed San Jose State 26-24 at halftime last night on the Spartans’ lifeless home floor before pulling away for a 71-54 win to remain unbeaten in Mountain West play. There were some lessons learned by both combatants in advance of Saturday night’s showdown in Reno.

Boise State made it into mid-January with only one football staff shakeup (defensive line coach Steve Caldwell to Arkansas), but now there are two. Ashley Ambrose, the Broncos’ defensive backs coach the past two seasons, has accepted the same post at Colorado. Ambrose, with help from safeties coach Gabe Franklin, presided over a secondary that improved by leaps and bounds during its Mountain West championship season. Boise State was 32nd in the country in pass efficiency defense, collecting 15 interceptions and allowing 17 touchdowns. Ambrose carried weight on the recruiting trail, too. He had a 13-year NFL career and was 1996 NFL Defensive Back of the Year.

Brock Purdy may become the poster guy for players who wait before signing National Letters of Intent next winter. Purdy, the quarterback from Gilbert, AZ, whose official visit to Boise State was last weekend, picked up a full scholarship offer from Alabama Tuesday to go with the Broncos, UCF and Iowa State, among others. Going into the early signing day on December 20, the most prominent offer Purdy had was from Northern Arizona. So, regardless of which way he decides to go, will Purdy’s experience influence more 2019 recruits to gamble and wait for better offers to show up the first part of next year? If it happens that way, it’ll hurt the Group of 5, as Power 5 schools will be scrambling to cover gaps they didn’t fill on the early signing day. Next December could look a lot different in the college football war rooms.

While Jay Ajayi preps for the NFC Championship Game, one of his predecessors at Boise State has to be wondering about his future. Two years after finishing second to Adrian Peterson in the NFL in rushing, Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin had to deal with the continuation of a PED suspension that began at the end of last season, and he never bounced back, rushing for just 406 yards in 2017. Martin hasn’t had a 100-yard game since that memorable 2015 campaign. “I think having a hard time getting the run game going was, you know, Doug just wasn’t ever the same,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said. The Bucs like what Peyton Barber did down the stretch, and Martin is seen as No. 2 on the depth chart right now at running back—at best.

Troy Merritt is set to tee off today at the Career Builder Challenge in La Quinta, CA, but we don’t know when we’ll see fellow former Boise State star Graham DeLaet back on the PGA Tour. DeLaet, who was forced to withdraw from three tournaments last season due to ongoing back pain, tweeted Tuesday that he “recently underwent conservative treatment that included an intradiscal stem injection to assist with my back mobility and long-term stability.” DeLaet said it usually takes 7-10 days to heal and that he’s “doing everything possible to rehab and return to the course fully healthy.” DeLaet’s back issues date back to 2011, when he was able to play in only two tour events before shelving himself for the season.

The way former Boise Hawk Josh Harrison lays it out, he may be the next Pittsburgh Pirates mainstay to be traded. They’ve already dealt their two biggest stars, with Gerrit Cole going to Houston and Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco. While professing his love for the Pirates and their fans, Harrison said, “If indeed the team does not expect to contend this year or next, perhaps it would be better for all involved, that I also am traded. I want what is best for the organization that gave me a chance to be a Big Leaguer.” Harrison has spent all seven of his major league seasons with Pittsburgh, compiling a .281 career batting average. He played for the Hawks in 2008, hitting .351 with 25 runs batted in.

This Day In Sports…January 18, 1983:

The International Olympic Committee presents Jim Thorpe’s family with replicas of his Olympic medals, 70 years after they were taken away. Thorpe, known 100 years ago as the greatest athlete in the world, won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Summer Games in Stockholm. Later that year Thorpe would lead his football team, the Carlisle Indian School, to the national collegiate championship. But his Olympic medals were stripped when it was reported he made $25 a week playing semipro baseball a couple years earlier. The IOC restored the medals in 1982.

(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.)