Broncos answer the halftime wake-up call

For a team that spent much of November and December in a fog, Boise State has had one impressive start in Mountain West play. We’ll find out what it all means tomorrow night when No. 10 Nevada comes into Taco Bell Arena, but the Broncos do have momentum after dispatching San Jose State 87-64 in the eerie quiet of the Event Center. Boise State kind of sleepwalked through the first half and led only 37-34 at the break, but the Broncos turned on the jets in the second half and grew their lead to 20 points less than six minutes in. All in all, they connected on a season-high 15 three-pointers and got 32 points from their bench. Boise State is 3-0 going into the biggest game of the season.

Unlike Boise State’s win over San Diego State, this one didn’t feature a 30-point outburst by one player. Instead, it was a nice spreading of the wealth. Five Broncos were in double figures, led by 18 points from Alex Hobbs and Patrick Dembley, both of whom went 6-for-11 from the field and drained four shots from beyond the arc. Justinian Jessup was right behind with a 17-point day that included his second career dunk. Derrick Alston, he of the 30-point explosion versus the Aztecs, put up a more pedestrian 11 points. Alston played only seven minutes in the first half and went scoreless. But he got it going after the intermission—his back-to-back three-pointers completed the 21-4 Boise State run that started the second half.

WHAT TO MAKE OF MEASURING STICKS

Now Nevada and Boise State have a common conference opponent: San Jose State. In a 92-53 rout last Wednesday, the Wolf Pack outscored the Spartans 50-20 in the second half. In the Broncos’ victory Saturday, they outdistanced SJSU 50-30 in the second half. So, Nevada by 10 tomorrow night in Taco Bell Arena? To be sure, the Pack’s 27-point loss at New Mexico nine days ago was an aberration. Not only is Nevada proving it—the latest evidence being a 74-64 win at Fresno State Saturday night—but the Lobos are, too. They have two bad losses since knocking the Wolf Pack from the unbeaten ranks. It’s hard to gauge how far Boise State has come judging by its Mountain West opposition so far, but the Broncos’ margin of victory is more than 20 points per game.

WHO NEEDS THE MARQUEE WIN ON AUGUST 31?

Boise State always used to appear on lists like this. Oregon 2009, Virginia Tech 2010, and Georgia 2011, for example. CBSSports.com ranks the “10 most intriguing games” of the 2019 season, and the Broncos’ opener against Florida State in Jacksonville is No. 8. But writer Ben Kercheval’s approach to this one is a bit different. “Boise State makes its living (so to speak) off of games like these as it battles for Group of Five supremacy,” writes Kercheval. “But somehow this feels like a bigger moment for Florida State. The Seminoles are coming off of a 5-7 season and while it’s understandable that coach Willie Taggart needs time to even put together an offensive line, he’ll only get so much if he continues to lose. Boise State always wants to prove itself against college football’s blue bloods, but Florida State could use a win here.”

EWU’S A MARQUEE OPPONENT, NO MATTER HOW IT’S LABELED

Idaho announced Friday it’s hosting fellow Big Sky member Eastern Washington in a non-conference game in the Kibbie Dome on September 21. The Eagles aren’t on the Vandals’ 2019 league slate due to the 13-team conference’s scheduling rotation. It may seem like a band-aid fix to scheduling problems, but why not? Idaho isn’t getting any FBS teams at home, and all those opponents from the other side of the country during the Sun Belt days didn’t move the needle. This gives the Vandals a good gate—and a rival who made it to the FCS national championship game nine days ago. Beginning next year, the Big Sky will institute a policy that guarantees each school will play its two protected rivals every year. Idaho’s two rivals will be EWU and Montana. Idaho opens the 2019 campaign at Penn State on August 31.

A RARE BENCH SIGHTING FOR LVE

Leighton Vander Esch’s NFL rookie season is over following Dallas’ 30-22 loss to the L.A. Rams Saturday night in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. Vander Esch was held to four tackles—and was held out of the game in favor of veteran Sean Lee for a Rams’ touchdown drive in the second quarter. LVE appeared to get a dressing-down from a Cowboys defensive staffer; then he returned and played most of the second half. A lot of Dallas fans were incensed that the former Boise State star was in the sidelines at all. Vander Esch simply credited the L.A. duo of C.J. Anderson and Todd Gurley, who were relentless in rushing for 123 and 115 yards, respectively. “You’ve got to give it up to them,” said Vander Esch. “They ran their butts off today.”

BROOMS OUT IN DOWNTOWN BOISE

The Idaho Steelheads decisively won what the club billed as the “Battle of the Fishes,” finishing a sweep of the Toledo Walleye over the weekend with two more wins before a couple of full houses in CenturyLink Arena. The only one in doubt at the end came Friday night, when the two teams went to a shootout before the Steelheads prevailed 4-3. Goalie Tomas Sholl improved to 14-4-0 on the season, making 27 saves while stopping four of five attempts in the shootout. Five different Steelies scored Saturday night in a 5-3 victory. Colton Point took his turn between the pipes and logged 27 saves.

NIGHTHAWKS AND YOTES ON A ROLL

College hoops are hoppin’ in Canyon County these days. Northwest Nazarene won again Saturday night, gliding past Simon Fraser 88-72 in Nampa. The Nighthawks remain tied for first with a 5-1 mark in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play. And College of Idaho comes home with a sweep of its Portland road trip over the weekend. The Coyotes led wire-to-wire in a 75-57 win at Warner Pacific Friday night and rallied past Multnomah 99-88 Saturday night with a 17-2 run down the stretch. The Yotes, second-ranked In NAIA Division II, are 19-2 overall and 8-1 in Cascade Conference play.

99 DIVIDED BY 12

When a team scores 99 points and its leading scorer has a grand total of 14 points, that screams “balance.” Boise State women’s coach Gordy Presnell played 12 players against San Jose State Saturday, and all 12 scored in a 99-68 romp that gave the Broncos a school-record 13th straight Mountain West victory. Most of the attention focused on a player who scored six points, Marijke Vanderschaaf, who returned to the court for the first time since suffering a torn ACL in December of 2017 and was able to play 5½ minutes. On Sunday it was women’s gymnastics in Taco Bell Arena, with Boise State cruising past Air Force and San Jose State. The Broncos posted a 196.40 score, their highest ever in a season opener, and handed co-coaches Neil Resnick and Tina Bird their 200th career victory.

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January 14, 1973: Miami’s “No-Name Defense” leads the Dolphins to a 14-7 win over Washington in Super Bowl VII, finishing the first and only unbeaten/untied season in NFL history. Safety Jake Scott was named MVP after grabbing two of Miami’s three interceptions, but the most memorable play of the game was a blocked field goal attempt, with Dolphins’ kicker Garo Yepremian making a feeble try at a pass. The Redskins’ Mike Bass picked it off and returned it for Washington’s only score.

(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.)