Boise State basketball: One week later, running on fumes

Add Boise State to the list of Mountain West teams that have been embarrassed at Air Force this month. The Broncos’ 74-60 loss in an empty Clune Arena was so deflating, you wonder if they just hit the wall after coming so close to beating Nevada last week. Boise State started well, building a 30-17 lead with four minutes left in the first half. The Falcons outscored the Broncos by 27 points the rest of the way. The box score was glaring. Air Force had a shocking 41-22 rebounding advantage against a team that prides itself on working the boards. Boise State shot only 36 percent from the field and got just six points from its bench. The Broncos had won four straight in this series, averaging 14 three-pointers per game in that streak. They went 5-for-25 from beyond the arc Tuesday night.

While Derrick Alston was solid, it was a major struggle for the rest of the Broncos. Alston poured in 24 points, second only to his 30-point night against San Diego State. Zach Haney was the only other Boise State player in double figures, but an ill-timed flagrant foul with 4:20 left in the game took away the Broncos’ last chance at salvaging a win. While falling to the floor, Haney grabbed the foot of Clint Joyce and took hjim down just after another foul was being called on Alston. The Falcons made three of four free throws and were awarded possession. They then drained a three, and a 57-55 game became a 63-55 game, and that was all she wrote.

WANTED: PEOPLE

The Boise State women host Air Force tonight, and one thing they crave is bodies in the seats in Taco Bell Arena. As the Broncos go for their 10th consecutive victory overall and 16th straight over Mountain West foes, their season attendance average sits at 1,200 per game. And that was actually skewed by the 4,125 that came out for Boise State’s game against Louisville in November. The Broncos drew 1,284 in their last home game against San Jose State. That is not commensurate with how good this team is, one that’s again garnering points in the AP Poll and has matched its best start in 25 years at 14-2. It may be like pulling teeth, but bit-by-bit the crowds will grow. How much progress will there be tonight?

ON THE SOAPBOX FOR KELLEN MOORE

As promised today, supporting material on the worthiness of Kellen Moore as Dallas offensive coordinator, should the Cowboys promote him to that job. Making the rounds the past few days have been clips from the “Jon Gruden’s QB Camp” series in April of 2012, when Moore was featured just after his senior season at Boise State. At the time, Gruden said he looked forward to the day that Moore gets into coaching himself. “The system of football at Boise is very demanding—they do more than many NFL teams,” said Gruden. “He could probably be an offensive coordinator for many teams.” Fancy that, doubting Dallas fans.

In one segment, Gruden shuttled rapid-fire through about 10 different Boise State formations and shifts on tape. “You guys are nuts,” he told Moore. “Our whole goal is to make it look as confusing as possible,” replied Kellen. And, Gruden pointed out, that forces defenses to communicate. “Whenever there’s communication, there’s miscommunication,” said Gruden. “Sometimes the communication is this: ‘What the hell are they doing!?’” Gruden went through the laundry list of Kellen’s perceived NFL liabilities and asked him what he thought when people say those things. “I think you smile at ‘em, say thank you—and remember their name,” answered Moore. Gruden’s closing line on the show as the two walked off the practice field: “I wish I could spend about three days with you.”

KTVB’s Jay Tust tweeted on the subject Sunday as he watched the NFL’s conference championship games. For those skeptics who think Moore’s limited NFL playing experience has anything to do with his qualifications as a coach, Tust pointed out this. The L.A. Rams’ Sean McVay never played in the NFL, Kansas City’s Andy Reid never played in the NFL, New England’s Bill Belichick never played in the NFL, and New Orleans’ Sean Payton was a quarterback for the Chicago Bears for three games during the 1987 NFL players’ strike. Payton completed 8 of 23 passes for 79 yards with one interception. I mean, come on. (And oh by the way, Kellen also played in three NFL games—legit ones—and in his last appearance threw for 435 yards.)

LENO AND LEIGHTON, PLAYING TOGETHER AT LAST

The college careers of Charles Leno Jr. and Leighton Vander Esch did not overlap at Boise State. But the two former Broncos will be teammates this Sunday at the Pro Bowl in Orlando. Leno, who was drafted in the seventh round by Chicago just before Vander Esch joined Boise State as a walk-on in 2014, has been added to the NFC Pro Bowl squad. Leno started all 16 games for the Bears this season and played all but eight offensive snaps. He was called for only six penalties in 2018, including just one holding call. The other five whistles were for false starts, and three of those were in the same game—at Buffalo in Week 10. So take away the Bills game, and Leno was stellar this season.

STOCK UP IN SEVERAL POLLS

Back to hoops—thanks to some fallout above Nevada in the rankings, the Wolf Pack has jumped to No. 7 in both polls this week. Where would the Pack be if Cody Martin’s deep three hadn’t fallen at the end of the game at Boise State last week? But it did. Nevada hosts Colorado State tonight. Elsewhere in the Mountain West, Fresno State rallied from a 31-11 first-half hole to beat San Diego State 66-62 Tuesday night, and UNLV breezed past New Mexico 74-58.

The 184th edition of the College of Idaho-Eastern Oregon I-84 rivalry, dating back to before there was an I-84, saw the Coyotes hold off the Mountaineers 71-66 in LaGrande Tuesday night. The Yotes are now 21-3. The big news out of women’s hoops in Canyon County comes from Northwest Nazarene, where the Nighthawks are now ranked No. 1 in the nation in the NCAA Division II SIDA Poll. NNU, 16-0 overall and 8-0 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, is No. 3 in the Coaches Poll. The Nighthawks have two challenges awaiting on the road this week, at Western Washington Thursday night and at Simon Fraser Saturday night.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by MAZ-TECH AUTOMOTIVE…your car says, “Take me to Maz-Tech!”

January 23, 1936: One of the most famous football players ever to come out of the state of Idaho, Jerry Kramer, is born. From Sandpoint he went to the University of Idaho, where he was a two-way All-American guard. Then with the Green Bay Packers, Kramer was a one-way guard, laying the most recognized block in NFL history—allowing Bart Starr to score the winning touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in the legendary “Ice Bowl” game in 1967. And finally, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year. Jerry Kramer…83 years old today.

(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.)