Getting out of the gate will be huge

Sluggish first halves have been a big factor down the stretch for Boise State, and they’ve come in many forms. Sluggish first halves have been a big factor down the stretch for Boise State. The Broncos need a complete game next Wednesday in the Poinsettia Bowl, lest a quality team like Northern Illinois keep them under its thumb for an entire 60 minutes. BSU has trailed at the half in its last three games. The struggles have come in many forms. Sometimes it’s red zone toe-stubbing—the Broncos scored just two touchdowns in nine red zone trips total in their home losses to New Mexico and Air Force. Sometimes it’s the lack of third down conversions, and sometimes it’s just a lack of playmaking. But every position group is involved.

It often begins with the ground game. Remember that 192-yard dandy turned in by Jeremy McNichols in the regular-season finale at San Jose State, a 40-23 Boise State win? McNichols had all of 27 yards on nine carries at halftime as the Broncos trailed 10-9. He did have the 83-yard touchdown on the first play against Air Force, but he was essentially neutralized the rest of the way. Even the 55-27 win at UNLV on Halloween is a case study. While Brett Rypien was slicing and dicing through the air, McNichols was netting 13 yards on nine carries in the first half. He was, of course, nails in the second half, rushing for 109 yards after the intermission. Against NIU, McNichols isn’t going to want to wait. And Boise State’s offensive linemen knows a lot of it is on them.

Boise State was able to announce four members of its 2016 recruiting class yesterday as mid-year signees. Three of them were already known commits. The fourth is a newbie—graduate transfer Will Adams from Auburn. Adams is a 6-7, 303-pound offensive lineman from Tyson, GA, who made 12 appearances for the Tigers this season. He’s simply a good player who’s looking for more playing time. Among the other three signees is Cedrick Wilson, a transfer out of Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. Wilson is a necessary commodity for the Broncos, a 6-3 wide receiver, and is coming off a season that saw him finish third in the nation with 116.1 receiving yards per game and fourth in the country with 17 touchdown catches. He was named a second-team NJCAA All-American.

Rounding out the group are two guys who graduated early from high school in order to enroll at Boise State next month. Kole Bailey, a 6-5, 285-pound offensive lineman from Twin Falls High was one of the Broncos’ first commitments in this class, giving his verbal back on June 19. Bailey is the top-ranked recruit in the state of Idaho according to Scout.com and 247Sports Composite. The other “greenshirt” is Tyson Maeva is a 6-0, 230-pound linebacker from San Diego. Also on the recruiting front, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo has decided not to take the BYU job, which means his son Ali’i can comfortably remain a Boise State commit.

Lots of MAC teams have traveled west to play non-conference games over the years—at Boise State in particular. That’s why it’s so amazing to hear that the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl marks Akron’s first trip west of the Rockies since a 31-21 loss to the Broncos on the green turf of Bronco Stadium in 1979. Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and Toledo have all trekked to the blue turf. In fact, the Chippewas of CMU visited Boise State in its first-ever game as an FBS school in 1996. Ohio, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois have all played at Idaho in the past five years.

What’s the best thing that’s happened to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl so far this month? The tubing hill is open at Bogus Basin. The snow experience has been not so good for visiting teams that past few years. The trip to the tubing hill is always scheduled for both squads—but has been seldom realized. The bowl has had to use go-karting as a substitute. The players like it, but it’s not a uniquely Idaho thing. They love snow-tubing (although I can’t remember the last time they were able to do it). The forecast is coming into focus now for next Tuesday’s game on the blue turf. “Rain likely. Cloudy, with a high near 40. Chance of precipitation is 60%.” Lifted that right from the National Weather Service. Kind of like last year? Well, it’s still early.

You never know what’s going through an offensive coordinator’s mind. That’s why it’ll be interesting to see how much Tampa Bay uses Doug Martin on Thursday Night Football tonight at St. Louis. The former Boise State star logged 81 yards on only 11 carries last Sunday as the Buccaneers rushed the ball only 19 times the entire game in their 24-17 loss to New Orleans. In the Bucs’ last two losses, Martin has had a total of seven rushing attempts in the second half. Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith would have you believe it was because his team fell behind. A seven or 14-point deficit wouldn’t seem to be enough to abandon the running game, though. Hope the Buccaneers take the lead tonight. Martin has secured his second career 1,000-yard season and currently stands at 1,214, just 36 yards behind NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson of Minnesota.

It was good to get that Paris Austin sighting in the first half in Boise State’s win over Oregon last Saturday. It could have been a turning point in Austin’s true freshman year. He’s run the gamut now in the past nine months, from the hero of Bishop O’Dowd’s CIF championship last March to celebrated Bronco recruit with high expectations. Austin showed flashes when the bell rang last month, scoring six points in 21 minutes on Opening Night at Montana. But 31 of his 49 points this season have come against Concordia and Willamette—then came his notorious benching two minutes into the Portland game for defensive deficiencies.

Austin sat all 40 minutes of the Loyola Marymount contest, but he worked his way back into the good graces of Leon Rice and played nine intense minutes against the Ducks, with two points, two assists and two rebounds. Austin’s season numbers not very relevant right now, but they’ll be worth another look a month into the Mountain West schedule. Going into Sunday afternoon’s game against Bradley, he’s averaging 4.9 points per game and is shooting 53 percent from the floor.

One of the Idaho Stampede’s NBA assignees has been called back up (it’s not Tyus Jones). The Utah Jazz have recalled center Tibor Pleiss, who spent just over two weeks with the Stampede. The 7-3 German reported to the Jazz in time for last night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans in Salt Lake City (he didn’t play in the 104-94 loss). Pleiss has seen action in four games for Utah this season. With the Stamps, he appeared in seven games and recorded double-doubles in four of them. He averaged 11.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

Safe to say it was a bizarre night in CenturyLink Arena. Before last night’s game was 10 minutes old, Utah had scored three goals, and Idaho Steelheads coach Neil Graham had pulled starting goalie Maxime Lagace. The Grizzlies tallied again off Philippe Desrosiers later in the first period to take a 4-0 lead—then the Steelheads mounted an epic offensive explosion. The Steelies scored eight straight goals, getting two apiece from Kyle Jean and Rob Linsmayer. Utah potted a harmless goal with 31 seconds left in the game, and the Steelheads won 8-5 for their first three-game winning streak of the season. Idaho hosts the Allen Americans tomorrow and Saturday.

This Day In Sports…December 17, 1960:

Charles O. Finley, an insurance man from Gary, IN, gets permission from the American League to buy the Kansas City Athletics. In 1968 he moved the A’s to Oakland, where he became known as a P.T. Barnum of baseball. Finley replaced the team’s traditional elephant mascot with a live mule, dressed the A’s in yellow and green, introduced white cleats, experimented with orange baseballs, and paid his players to grow mustaches. With those as their trademark, the A’s won three straight World Series championships from 1972-74.

(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.)