New Year’s Eve storylines

You’ve gotta like the 4 p.m. tipoff for tomorrow’s Boise State-Colorado State game in Taco Bell Arena. It’s a timely prelude to New Year’s Eve festivities. Plus, it’s a game with a couple sidebars. This is a rematch of the Mountain West Tournament clash between the two teams last March that provided the Broncos with a disappointing early exit after an 88-81 Rams victory. And it stirs memories from earlier last season, when Boise State had a victory stolen away by a bad call in Fort Collins. James Webb III banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer in overtime, with the ball leaving his hand well before the backboard light went on, giving the Broncos an apparent victory. But the officials used a stopwatch to check it, then waved it off. The Broncos lost 97-93 in double OT—two days later the Mountain West admitted the call was wrong.

Nick Duncan has nine games left in his career in Taco Bell Arena, and none at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan. His parting shot to the harassing Utah State student section at the end of Boise State’s 83-80 win Wednesday night was a certain one-fingered salute. The Australian senior—and the school—had to answer for it yesterday. In a statement, athletic director Curt Apsey called Duncan “deeply apologetic,” and Duncan added, “I apologize for my actions at the end of last night’s game. I pride myself on being above all of the noise I hear when we go on the road, but last night I let it get the best of me. I need to be better than that.” He’s heard that noise at USU for four years. And there’s certainly more to come elsewhere.

The emergence of forward David Wacker continues for Boise State. It’s about making plays at crunch time. The guy who was on the floor for a combined eight minutes against SMU and Evansville a month ago played 28 minutes at Utah State. While the Aggies were tying the game—and then taking a 61-58 lead—Wacker scored seven of his nine points in the game and converted a putback to give the Broncos the lead for good with just over four minutes left. The 6-10 sophomore from Converse, TX, also pulled down seven rebounds. Wacker may be getting some separation now from fellow big men Zach Haney and Robin Jorch.

If there are some late-arriving fans for the Colorado State game tomorrow, maybe that means something good is happening for Washington in the Peach Bowl? The 14-point underdog Huskies are given no chance against Alabama, except for those who believe in Chris Petersen. Coach Pete is the same as he’s always been. In Atlanta, reporters wanted to know if he was frustrated he didn’t get a shot at a national championship at Boise State in 2006 and 2009. “That’s just not how I think,” Petersen replied. “We didn’t talk one time about going to BCS games when that was the rage at Boise. Never at one time did we say this was our goal. I didn’t come to Washington saying we got to go win a national championship. There’s a lot more that goes with this in terms of kind of our philosophy on helping these kids be built for life.” Voila.

Brett Rypien needs Rathen Ricedorff, and I say that in a positive way. After a sophomore year that saw solid stats through incredible peaks and valleys (and the latter characterizing the end of the season), Rypien can only improve with a push from Boise State’s new junior college transfer quarterback. Rypien finished with 3,646 passing yards and 24 touchdowns against eight interceptions. His 62 percent completion percentage is at the root of his challenges, but his pass efficiency rating was 155.7, up over last year’s 140.9 and ranked 15th in the country. This is not a guy you put out to pasture.

Ricedorff might seem like a situational guy on the surface with his 210 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns at Mesa Community College this season. But he threw for 4,082 yards with 47 TDs through the air versus eight interceptions. And not three days after he committed to Boise State, Ricedorff was named a first-team JC All-American. I mean, that is an eye-opener. He seems to be a good teammate—not one coming in to look over Rypien’s shoulder, but to help him. With that said, Ricedorff would be ready for prime time should he be needed. The Broncos didn’t have that with Tommy Stuart, as popular as he was.

Doug Martin is getting support from his Tampa Bay teammates for admitting his substance problems, accepting his four-game suspension from the NFL, and seeking rehab treatment. “It takes a big man to step up and say, ‘I need help,’” said Buccaneers center Evan Smith. But it could cost the former Boise State star a lot of money. The suspension voids the $7 million in guaranteed money he was set to make next season. That casts further doubt on Martin’s future with the Bucs. He’s already going to lose at least $1.5 million in base salary for the final game of this season and the first three games of next season.

The Idaho Steelheads wrap up their holiday road trip tonight and tomorrow night in Rapid City. We’ll see who Steelheads coach Neil Graham starts between the pipes. Branden Komm had been rolling nicely, but he allowed six goals in Wednesday night’s 7-4 thrashing at the hands of the Rush. Fellow goalie Philippe Desrosiers was returned by the AHL’s Texas Stars earlier that day—maybe he’ll get a shot. Chippiness may be an issue this weekend. At the end of the first period Wednesday night, the teams combined for 88 minutes in penalties in a line brawl that included Idaho’s Anthony Luciani, Corbin Baldwin, and Rob Linsmayer.

Back to hoops: the Boise State women routed Utah State 76-56 in the Mountain West opener last night in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos burst out to a 23-point halftime lead and coasted to their 11th win of the season against one loss. Shalen Shaw led Boise State with a double-double—19 points and 10 rebounds. Now the Broncos get an instant litmus test as they hit the road to face Colorado State. Tomorrow’s game at Moby Arena is seen in Fort Collins as one of the biggest of the season for the three-time defending Mountain West champion Rams.

The national women’s hoops game of the night last night was UConn at Maryland, and the Terrapins almost took down the Huskies before a crowd of 17,950. But Connecticut held off a Maryland rally and won its 87th straight game 87-81. Mountain View High grad Destiny Slocum more than passed this exam, though. The Terrapins’ true freshman point guard scored a game-high 23 points with five second-half three-pointers and dished out seven assists. In men’s basketball, College of Idaho heads to Washington for Cascade Conference games at Evergreen and Northwest tonight and tomorrow night—without head coach Scott Garson. He and his wife (if they haven’t already this morning) are about to welcome a newborn baby.

This Day In Sports…December 30, 1988:

The final game in the college career of Barry Sanders, who leads Oklahoma State to a 62-14 rout of Wyoming in the Holiday Bowl. OSU was in control 24-7 in the third quarter after two touchdown runs by Sanders. Then the Heisman Trophy winner really went off. When it was done, Sanders had rushed for 222 yards and five touchdowns.

(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.)