With Boise State playing in the Mountain West championship game last Saturday—and the Las Vegas Bowl, as usual, falling on the first day of bowl season—this is more like a typical bye week. The Broncos won’t get the full complement of allowed bowl practices in, but they are able to stay in a routine. What it might not provide is enough time for key injuries to heal. Star tight end Jake Roh appears to have at least a shot to get to play against Oregon. For running back Alexander Mattison, a recovery by December 16 would be a surprise after the scary wrenching of his leg against Fresno State last Saturday. It’s not a knee injury; Mattison was on a knee scooter at the team banquet on Sunday. The Broncos’ contingency plan for the Ducks likely includes not only the irrepressible Ryan Wolpin, but a dose of Robert Mahone.
Predictions are rolling out for bowl season. Adam Rittenberg Of ESPN.com had this for the Las Vegas Bowl before a certain guy went to Tallahassee: “The uncertainty surrounding Oregon coach Willie Taggart’s future makes this a tough call, but after watching the Ducks since quarterback Justin Herbert returned from injury, it’s tough to pick against them, even against a solid Boise State defense. Prediction: Oregon 35, Boise State 32.”
ABC and ESPN have cobbled together an on-air A-team for the Las Vegas Bowl. Rece Davis will handle play-by-play for Boise State-Oregon, Kirk Herbstreit will do analysis, and Molly McGrath will be on the sideline. Herbstreit will be announcing his fourth Vegas Bowl—and his first in five years. Coincidentally, he was in the booth for all three of the Broncos’ previous appearances in the game.
Upon further review, the NFL has elected to eliminate George Iloka’s suspension and instead fine the veteran Cincinnati safety about $36,500 for his illegal hit on Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown on Monday Night Football. Iloka’s agent, Ron Slavin, had appealed, saying that “while we still believe George did nothing wrong on the play and the helmet-to-helmet contact was a result of Antonio Brown’s lowering his head as he braced for contact, we felt and argued that a suspension was particularly egregious.” The NFL, however, denied the appeal of Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster, upholding his one-game suspension for an illegal hit on the Bengals’ Vontaze Burfict and raising the ire of the Steelers, who call it a double-standard.
Has Zach Haney gained some separation from Boise State’s other two big guys in the post? Despite Haney’s big game at Oregon, the jury may still be out. The 6-10 Haney is getting by far the most minutes of the junior trio on the block that also includes Robin Jorch and David Walker. Haney scored eight of the Broncos’ first 10 points and netted 17 points and seven rebounds in last Friday night’s thriller against the Ducks after putting up 13 points three days earlier versus Loyola Chicago. Then he went scoreless Sunday in the victory over Portland. Jorch and Wacker are each getting just under eight minutes per game, with Wacker averaging 2.3 points and Jorch 1.7. RPI alert: Loyola Chicago, which lost at Boise State by 34 points last week, toppled No. 5 Florida 65-59 last night.
Idaho got an RPI boost as well last night. And the Vandals left no doubt in the Battle of the Palouse. Idaho racked Washington State 91-64 in Cowan Spectrum, the Vandals’ largest margin of victory over the Cougars in 55 years, as Brayon Blake contributing another monster game with 26 points and eight rebounds. Victor Sanders added 19 points and Perrion Callendret 16. Blake and Callendret each went 4-for-4 on three-point tries as Idaho shot 56 percent from beyond the arc.
The Boise State women play one of their two marquee home games of the season tonight when they host Washington in Taco Bell Arena. The Huskies no longer have NCAA Division I career scoring leader Kelsey Plum—they’re 4-3 on the season. The Broncos are 3-3 after guard Braydey Hodgkins, their leading scorer, outdueled older sister Delaney Hopkins of Eastern Washington Sunday in a 61-57 road win. UW rolled past Boise State 92-66 last year in Seattle. The Broncos host their former coach, June Daugherty, and Washington State on Monday night.
Ryan Faragher got plenty of goal support from his fellow Idaho Steelheads while taming his former team last night in West Valley City. Faragher, who played the last three seasons for Utah, stopped 30 of the Grizzlies’ 32 shots in a 5-2 Steelies victory. Rookies Justin Parizek and Shane Hanna kick-started the effort with first-period goals as Idaho won its sixth straight road game. The same two teams now travel to Boise for games tomorrow and Saturday.
Back to football: Idaho exits the Sun Belt with three first-team all-conference selections. Senior running back Aaron Duckworth represents the offense, and senior defensive end Aikeem Coleman and junior linebacker Tony Lashley have been named first-team All-Sun Belt on defense. Amazingly, Duckworth was the only 1,000-yard rusher in the Sun Belt this season, totaling 1,025 yards. He’s the first Vandal to lead a conference in rushing since Joel Thomas in the Big West in 1996–ironically, the awards for that duo serve as bookends to Idaho’s FBS era. Coleman led Idaho with seven sacks, and Lashley’s 123 tackles were the most by a Vandal in 10 years.
I received last week’s Sports Illustrated in the mail yesterday, a particular source of frustration for me. But that’s another story. Appearances by Idahoans are rare in SI’s “Faces In The Crowd,” feature, but here’s another, Layton Gallagher of Silverton. Writes SI: “Layton, a Senior running back at Wallace High, rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-22 win over Clark Fork and, two weeks later, for 140 yards and three scores in a 50-30 victory over Potlatch High. On the season he ran for 431 yards and six touchdowns and added 379 return yards. Layton was born without his left hand.”
This Day In Sports…December 7, 1996:
In the first-ever WAC championship game, BYU defeats Wyoming 28-25 in overtime in Las Vegas. The Cougars, led by quarterback Steve Sarkisian, would go on to beat Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl, finishing the season 14-1 and ranked No. 5 in the final AP Poll. The WAC title game was established when the league expanded to 16 teams in 1996. But it would last only three years, abandoned after the 1998 season when eight mutineers broke away and formed the Mountain West Conference.
(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.)