Finding the finish line

All too often, Boise State’s inability to close has cost it this season. It doesn’t happen in every game, nor does it happen in every loss. But all too often, Boise State’s inability to close has cost it this season. Exhibit No. 1, of course, is the 15-point lead that disappeared in about 5½ minutes at the end of the defeat at New Mexico Wednesday night. But bad second halves have been a regular occurrence. That goes back to December, even in the Broncos’ biggest win of the season over Oregon. They took a 17-point lead over the Ducks with 6:45 remaining in the game—and won 74-72. In the first game this season against New Mexico, Boise State led by four points with six minutes left and lost by five. And in their first meeting with Tuesday night’s opponent, UNLV, the Broncos trailed by one with less than five minutes left and lost by 10. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, and for Boise State, that’s not often a good thing.

The Mountain West will battle it out without Boise State this weekend. Here are the games that could affect the fifth-place Broncos as they try to hang onto first-round bye status in the Mountain West Tournament in three weeks. Utah State is at Fresno State tomorrow night, and Nevada visits UNLV. The Bulldogs and the Wolf Pack, tied for third right now, could go up a full game on Boise State with victories. And Wyoming visits sixth-place Colorado State, who can pull to within a game of the Broncos if it beats the rival Cowboys.

There’s a strong notion locally that Kamalei Correa would have benefitted his pro football future by remaining at Boise State for his senior season. But Mel Kiper Jr. may beg to differ. The ESPN Draft guru has revealed his latest mock draft, and he has Correa going No. 29 overall to the Arizona Cardinals. Scouts like Correa as an outside linebacker, but Kiper sees Correa’s pass-rushing skills as his most valuable asset. “Correa offers some of what we saw from a young (Dwight) Freeney as a quick-twitch edge rusher who can beat tackles with quickness,” writes Kiper. Correa followed an All-Mountain West 2014 season with a drop to seven sacks and 11 tackles-for-loss last fall, but he was the Defensive MVP of the 2015 Poinsettia Bowl.

Jared Allen has decided to ride off into the sunset, and he let everyone know yesterday with a video that shows him on a horse, riding off into the sunset (actually an overcast horizon). The former Idaho State great has retired after a 12-year NFL career that saw him amass 136 sacks, the ninth-most in league history, with Kansas City, Minnesota, Chicago and Carolina. As a Bengal senior in 2003, Allen was the Buck Buchanan Award winner as Division I-AA’s best defensive player before being drafted in the fourth round by the Chiefs. He was a five-time Pro Bowler and was NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2011.

Riviera Country Club didn’t exactly welcome back Graham DeLaet yesterday. The former Boise State star tied for eighth last year at the Northern Trust Open, but he ballooned to a four-over 75 in the first round of this year’s tournament. Troy Merritt fared much better, coming in at three-under 68, in a tie for 13th. Tyler Aldridge carded a one-over 72 in the first round. But hey, how would they like to be Jordan Spieth? The superstar shot a 79 yesterday.

With their four-game winning streak having been squashed by Rapid City Wednesday, the Idaho Steelheads can fall back on this: they have won seven of their last nine games on the road. And the Steelheads hit the road this weekend for two games at Wichita. The Steelies’ prospects would appear to be good—the Thunder have the ECHL’s worst record at 10-31-10. Do you remember? Former Steelheads coach Derek Laxdal was hired away from Wichita in 2005 when the Thunder were members of the Central Hockey League.

No sooner do I tab Tibor Pleiss as the Idaho Stampede’s yo-yo man this season than he yo-yo’s again. Pleiss was called up by the Utah Jazz on Wednesday—and sent back to Boise yesterday before he had a chance to don a Jazz uniform again. The 7-3 German center is expected to suit up tonight when the Stampede host the Grand Rapids Drive in CenturyLink Arena. Grand Rapids can get back to .500 with a win tonight, while time is running out on the Stamps’ quest to avoid another losing season—they come into the game at 13-22.

The Idaho men’s basketball team clinched its first winning season in four years last night with an 80-74 road win at Portland State. Perrion Callandret led the way with 19 points for the Vandals, who play at Sacramento State tomorrow night. Idaho State had won seven of its last eight games before being shocked 81-68 at Northern Arizona last night. It was only NAU’s fifth win of the season. The Bengals visit Southern Utah tomorrow night. And College of Idaho is set for its final game of the regular season tomorrow night at Walla Walla University.

Boise’s Brian Scott started 12th and finished 20th last night in Can-Am Duel 1 at Daytona Motor Speedway after being involved in two wrecks. As a result, Scott will be seeing a lot of taillights in the Daytona 500, where he’ll start in the No. 35 spot. Sunday will be a page-turning day for the Boise High graduate, who has competed in the NASCAR Xfinity and Truck series for the past nine years. Now Scott has security, driving full-time in the Sprint Cup Series for Richard Petty Motorsports. The prominent sponsors of his No. 44 Ford Fusion are Albertsons (Joe Albertson was his great-grandfather), and Shore Lodge (his dad, Joe, owns the famed McCall hotel).

On the campus cruise: Boise State remains in second place at the Mountain West Swimming & Diving Championships after Day 2. The Broncos have closed the gap, though, trailing Nevada by 29.5 points. The lights brighten for the ninth-ranked Boise State women’s gymnastics team tonight when it hosts Ohio State in Taco Bell Arena. Last year when these teams met in Columbus, the Broncos were No. 15 and the Buckeyes No. 23. Boise State won that night, taking three of the four team events and scoring a 196.025. And the College of Idaho women’s ski team is second behind Rocky Mountain after the first day of the USCSA Western Regional in Red Lodge, MT. The men begin competition today.

This Day In Sports…February 19, 1996, 20 years ago today:

Phoenix Suns star Charles Barkley becomes just the 10th player in NBA history with 20,000 points and 10,000 rebounds when he grabs 14 boards in a 98-94 victory over Vancouver. Barkley, also known as “Chuck” and “Sir Charles,” lived up to his nickname, “The Round Mound of Rebound.” Before he became famous as a quotable studio analyst, Barkley was an 11-time NBA All-Star and was named Most Valuable Player in 1993. He was also named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)