Boise State football: The case for continuity

It was the natural progression of things. Zak Hill has had a pretty good season in this, his fourth year as offensive coordinator at Boise State. Hill juggled three quarterbacks (and to a lesser extent, three running backs) and still produced an offense that is first in the Mountain West in scoring at 36.8 points per game and second in total offense with an average of 441.5 yards. And oh yeah, his team is 12-1. It was hard not to notice, and Saturday Arizona State announced him as its new O-coordinator. The Sun Devils, who averaged just 25.2 points this season, fired offensive coordinator Rob Likens two weeks ago. Hill will finish the 2019 season the way he started it: watching Florida State’s defense. The Seminoles play ASU in the Sun Bowl on New Year’s Eve in El Paso.

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

It would also seem to be the natural progression of things to have wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau, officially Boise State’s co-offensive coordinator, run the offense at the Las Vegas Bowl. And Kiesau would be a fitting choice as Zak Hill’s successor. We’re talking continuity and experience. Kiesau has been an OC at Kansas, Washington, Colorado and Fresno State. Anything can happen, but I like the idea of Kiesau being promoted, and coach Bryan Harsin keeping it in the Bronco family with Matt Miller or Kirby Moore as the new wide receivers coach. Miller has been on a rapid upward trajectory at Montana State, where he’s offensive coordinator. Moore has been wide receivers coach at Fresno State the last three seasons. But the Bulldogs staff is in a state of flux after the retirement of coach Jeff Tedford.

BIGGER STAGES AHEAD FOR HIGHTOWER

Boise State’s John Hightower was drawing seventh-round NFL Draft projections this summer. Now it’s more like third round. Not enough for a Senior Bowl invitation (yet, anyway), but enough for an invite to the 2020 East West Shrine Game next month. There’ll be plenty of NFL scouts there to get a look at his game-changing speed and playmaking ability. Hightower has been a difference-maker this year. His 48 catches aren’t even top 10 in the Mountain West, but his 923 receiving yards are sixth, and his eight TD catches are tied for third. The last of those touchdowns, an ooh-and-ahh moment in the Mountain West Championship game against Hawaii, might be his best one yet.

AN HEIR-APPARENT FOR HATADA?

Overshadowed by the fact that Boise State needs to replace Curtis Weaver next season (assuming, as everybody does, that he enters the NFL Draft early) is the fact that Chase Hatada’s spot on the defensive line needs to be filled, too. Enter defensive end Shane Irwin, who gave his verbal to the Broncos on Sunday. Irwin is a 6-4, 250-pound junior college transfer from Long Beach City College who logged 8.5 sacks this season. National recruiting analyst Greg Biggins of 247 Sports calls Irwin “one of the top defensive prospects in the JUCO ranks. The Athletic’s Dave Southorn notes that Irwin redshirted at San Diego State in 2017 before going a different direction.

BRONCOS-HUSKIES ON THE ENTERTAINMENT METER

David M. Hale of ESPN.com ranks college football’s 40 bowl games, from least to most entertaining, and the Las Vegas Bowl is No. 6. Hale’s rationale: “Chris Petersen is coaching his last game at Washington against the team where his coaching career exploded into the mainstream. That’s arguably the best storyline of bowl season outside of the playoff. And while Washington has underperformed throughout the year, this remains one of the true powerhouse matchups of the postseason, and a chance to (hopefully) get a look at stellar freshman QB Hank Bachmeier at Boise State, who missed the latter half of the season with an injury, and get (perhaps) a last look at Washington QB Jacob Eason, who could become a first-round NFL draft pick in April.” That’s an interesting take on Bachmeier.

BRONCOS FIND THEIR TOUCH AGAIN

Boise State men’s hoops went from 38 percent from the field and 21 percent from three-point range at Tulsa last Wednesday to 59 and 52 percent, respectively, Saturday in a 100-57 romp over Alabama State in ExtraMile Arena. The level of competition was lower, but the way the Broncos shot would have been pretty good against air. Derrick Alston led the charge with his third career 30-point game, a 31-point effort that included 11-for-12 shooting from the field and 6-for-7 from deep. Alston keyed a 17-0 run late in the first half that put the game away. R.J. Williams was a monster on the boards, where Boise State had a 44-25 advantage. Williams pulled down 16 rebounds to go with his 12 points. It was the best performance on the glass by a Bronco in more than two years.

HODGINS COMFORTABLE IN HER SISTERS’ HOUSE

In a place where her older sisters became the top two scorers in Eastern Washington history, Braydey Hodgins made a memory Sunday. Boise State’s senior standout hit a layin with 2.2 seconds left in the game to finish a Broncos rally from an 11-point deficit and give them a 63-61 win in Cheney. Hodgins scored six of Boise State’s final eight points on her way to 17 for the game. Another catalyst for the Broncos was Rachel Bowers, who came off the bench to match her career-high with 19 points. This would have been a bad loss for Boise State, which trailed 56-45 with 6½ minutes left in the game. The Eagles came in at 1-5. Instead, the Broncos improve to 8-4 on the season.

MUCH-NEEDED W’S FOR THE STEELIES

The Idaho Steelheads got well over the weekend, sweeping a pair from Fort Wayne. The Steelheads’ offense cranked up again, helping build leads of 4-0 on Friday and 4-1 on Saturday before notching 4-2 and 5-4 wins in CenturyLink Arena. Captain A.J. White provided firepower with three assists in the first game and two goals in the second. Notable in net was Tomas Sholl, who on Friday picked up his first victory since the night before Thanksgiving. The Fort Wayne series concluded a long 12-game homestand that saw Idaho go 6-5-1.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by COMMERCIAL TIRE…keeping you and your family on the road.

December 16, 1973: O.J. Simpson of the Buffalo Bills gains 200 yards against the New York Jets to become the first NFL player ever to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season. Simpson finished the season at 2,003. Five other NFL backs later topped the 2,000-yard plateau—but it’s been 10 years since anyone did it. Chris Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards for the Tennessee Titans in 2009 (remember him at the 2007 Hawaii Bowl for East Carolina?).

(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.)

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