At his postseason press conference, Boise State coach Bryan Harsin mentioned Troy three or four times. Harsin’s already in one-game-at-a-time mode, and the Broncos’ next game is against the Trojans on the blue turf on September 2. Lest you think Troy will come in as one of those anonymous opponents that Boise State feasts on, this game could dictate how the 2017 season goes. A week before Thanksgiving, the Trojans were 8-1, with their only loss coming by six points at Clemson, a team you’re probably familiar with. Troy lost two of its final three games in the regular season, but it beat Ohio in the Dollar General Bowl to finish 10-3. Same as the Broncos. There’s a litmus test right out of the gate on Labor Day weekend.
Another takeaway I had from Harsin’s presser was his excitement over the Boise State tight end position, one that was mainly relegated to run-blocking until the Cactus Bowl. “Wasn’t it great to see Roh out there making plays?” said Harsin. Jake Roh hauled in six catches for 54 yards in the loss to Baylor after logging only four receptions during the regular season. It was part of an eight-catch night by the tight ends in Phoenix. For the year, the group had less than half the production it did in 2015 on all counts, going from 59 catches for 736 yards and five touchdowns to 29 receptions, 319 yards and two TDs. It all started with Roh. “He wasn’t healthy the entire season,” said Harsin. “He had a great bowl game.” Harsin did say there were missed opportunities with the tight ends in 2016, too.
Boise State garnered more points than expected in the final rankings of .the season, earning 19 in the AP Poll and 20 in the Coaches Poll. If you count beyond the Top 25, that’s a ranking of 32nd and 30th overall, respectively. The Broncos will face San Diego State next season for the first time since 2014, and if the game was played today, the Broncos would be definitive underdogs. The Aztecs parlayed their 34-10 Las Vegas Bowl win over Houston into a No. 25 finish in both polls this season.
Do this week’s points that mean Boise State will get votes when the preseason polls come out in August? Interesting question. Those who come up with the “way too early” top 25 lists have had every opportunity to throw cold water on the Broncos, but they generally aren’t. USA Today’s Paul Myerberg puts Boise State all the way up at No. 16, writing, “The top-ranked team from the Group of Five ranks will again be a favorite for double-digit wins during the regular season. Look for quarterback Brett Rypien to take another step forward and become a top-10 player at his position nationally.” Myerberg is undeterred. Same with CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd, who ranks the Broncos No. 19 and calls them “a New Year’s Six favorite.” ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach did not include Boise State in his premature rankings.
Things have worked out quite well for safety Jeron Johnson. The former Boise State standout went four months without an NFL job before being signed five weeks ago by Seattle, the team with which he started his career as an undrafted free agent in 2011. Johnson has re-established himself as a special teams standout during this second tour of duty as a Seahawk, making one of the hits of the night when he nailed Detroit’s Andre Roberts on a fourth-quarter kickoff return during Seattle’s Wild Card win last Saturday. Johnson has also been getting some snaps on defense. Now he accompanies the Seahawks to Atlanta for the Divisional Round on Saturday.
While Boise State enjoys a weekday bye, Mountain West play is already underway this week. UNLV won 71-66 last night at New Mexico, who was trying to bounce back from the Nevada game, the one in which the Lobos blew a 25-point lead midway through the second half. Hangover effect? Who knows? And San Diego State took care of business at home after last Saturday’s loss in Taco Bell Arena, cruising past San Jose State 76-61. Utah State visits Wyoming tonight while the Broncos’ next opponent, Fresno State, is at Air Force. The Bulldogs are regrouping after being stunned by San Jose State 69-62 last Saturday when the Spartans cashed in on technical free throws after Bulldogs coach Rodney Terry was ejected from the game.
When your eyes scan the bench at Boise State men’s basketball games, you see all these new faces in coats and ties alongside coach Leon Rice. Has Rice struck gold with his new hires from the offseason? There’s Phil Beckner from Nebraska, Mike Burns, last season’s interim head coach at Pacific and former Eastern Washington head man, and director of basketball operations Jake White. They must have at least something to do with the Broncos’ unexpected surge the past month. Zach Haney, the star of the show in last Saturday’s win over San Diego State, would second that. “Yeah, I’ve just been working with Coach Beckner,” Haney said of his improved scoring. “We’ve been getting in the gym and shooting along with a bunch of other stuff. It’s really built up my confidence to where I just let it go, and it goes in.”
The Idaho Steelheads face a big three-game series against Colorado beginning tonight in CenturyLink Arena. The Steelheads trail the Eagles and the Allen Americans by just two points in the ECHL Mountain Division standings. The Steelies will be welcoming a new face in forward Mike McMurtry. The 24-year-old former Northeastern star was assigned to Idaho yesterday by the AHL’s Texas Stars. McMurtry has appeared in 26 games this season with Texas, scoring five goals and adding five assists. The Steelheads will be taking on a solid netminder, Colorado’s Clarke Saunders. He was ECHL Goaltender of the Week in mid-December after a stretch that saw him go 3-0 with two shutouts. Saunders is now 12-4 on the season.
This Day In Sports…January 11, 2007, 10 years ago today:
Ten days after leading Boise State to its legendary upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, Chris Petersen accepts the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award as national coach of the year. Petersen had gone unbeaten as a rookie coach, the first college football head coach to post a 13-0 record in his first year since Yale’s Walter Camp in 1888. Under Petersen, the Broncos won their fifth straight WAC championship and were the only undefeated team in the country.
(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.)