Step No. 1 in the recovery process

Boise State’s football condition has been upgraded from serious to fair. Boise State’s football condition has been upgraded from serious to fair after the Broncos’ 40-23 win to end the regular season at San Jose State Friday. That they were able to shake off their lethargy after halftime and finish against a team fighting for bowl eligibility was progress. There was a line of demarcation in this one. With the Spartans still leading 10-9 midway through the third quarter, a punt pinned Boise State on its own three-yard line. Then the Broncos embarked on a 14-play, 97-yard touchdown drive that culminated in Brett Rypien’s five-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy McNichols. (That, of course, was just the beginning for McWeapon.) The defense was rested, and some mojo reappeared over the remaining 18 minutes of the game. Boise State’s condition would be upgraded to good with a win in a bowl game.

The big play bug bit again in the first half, but Boise State was able to overcome it. San Jose State’s Kenny Potter connected with Hansell Wilson for 42 yards on the first play from scrimmage. The Spartans’ passing game, to be sure, was a problem—Potter threw for a career-high 336 yards. But Ben Weaver and Joey Martarano both picked him off in the fourth quarter. And all the while, the Broncos’ run defense rose up. Tyler Ervin, the leading rusher in the Mountain West, busted off a 40-yard run on his first carry. The rest of the way, though, Ervin managed just 12 yards on 10 attempts, 1.2 yards per tote. And as a team after that Ervin burst, San Jose State had a few nice runs but was held to 98 yards and 3.1 yards per carry.

On the other side, Boise State was helped by its own big plays on the ground, do you think? After struggling in the first half, the Bronco rushing attack netted an even 300 yards and better than 8½ yards per carry. The longest run from scrimmage in school history, one that San Jose State’s Frank Ginda won’t soon forget, saw McNichols dash 88 yards at the beginning of the fourth quarter. McNichols ran right through Ginda’s tackle and into daylight—and he did the same thing to Ginda on his 19-yard TD two possessions later. After his career-high 192-yard effort, McNichols now has 1,244 rushing yards and a nation’s-best 23 total touchdowns.

After all the frustrations with the deep ball the past two weeks, Boise State opted for the safety of the short passing game against San Jose State. Rypien connected on his first 11 passes and was 25-of-33 for the game, but he threw for only 197 yards. The longest pass play of the day was just 21 yards—and it went not to Thomas Sperbeck, but to A.J. Richardson. At the same time, Rypien threw exactly zero interceptions (the Broncos, in fact, went turnover-free for the second straight game).

The Mountain West championship game was set to be played at the Air Force Academy—until the Falcons stubbed their toes in a 47-35 loss at New Mexico Saturday night. That allowed San Diego State, which cruised past Nevada 31-14 in its regular season finale, to jump Air Force in the computer composite used when no conference team is ranked. The Falcons did not look like the team that took apart Boise State on the blue turf 10 days ago. The Aztecs, on the other hand, were their old ground-chewing selves—especially after losing quarterback Maxwell Smith to a season-ending MCL tear.

Hawaii is bringing back one of its fan favorites as head coach. Nick Rolovich, who’s been offensive coordinator at Nevada the past four seasons (the first under Chris Ault), has been hired to clean up the Rainbow Warriors’ mess. Rolovich played quarterback for June Jones in 2000-01 and had coaching stints under Jones and his successor, Greg McMackin. It’s going to be a project—Hawaii is in dire financial straits, and fan support in Aloha Stadium is at an all-time low. Rolovich gets a nice spiff out of the gate, as the Warriors will open the 2016 season in Australia against Cal. Hawaii, by the way, won its season finale Saturday night over Louisiana-Monroe, 28-26.

Idaho goes into the offseason on a winning note for the first time since its Humanitarian Bowl season in 2009 after beating Texas State 38-31 Saturday. On Senior Day in the Kibbie Dome, Elijhaa Penny made it count with a four-yard touchdown run to win it with 1:49 left in the game. That capped a 149-yard day for Penny, whose season total of 1,159 yards is the second-best total in the past decade for the Vandals. One key returnee for Idaho next season, quarterback Scott Linehan, finished his sophomore year by going 21-of-31 for 309 yards and two touchdowns as the Vandals rolled up 504 yards. There’s momentum now after a four-win season, three better than any campaign since 2010.

Boise State coach Leon Rice insists that playing ranked teams can only help the Broncos down the road, and you can’t doubt him after the Wooden Legacy. BSU defeated reigning Big West champion UC Irvine before falling to No. 3 Michigan State and, for a second time this season, to No. 11 Arizona. It would be one thing if the Broncos had absorbed beatings by 20 or 30 points, but they have lost by 12, 10 and nine points in their three meetings with Top 25 foes. Yesterday’s 68-59 loss to the Wildcats in the third-place game in Anaheim was both discouraging and encouraging. Boise State shot under 40 percent from the field, turned the ball over 15 times and had six shots blocked. But the Broncos regrouped when they could have folded, trimming a 19-point deficit to six points three times in the final 2½ minutes.

After a slow start at the Wooden Legacy, Boise State’s James Webb III gave NBA scouts some positive things for their notebooks in yesterday’s finale. Webb scored 11 points in the first half and 17 for the game to lead the Broncos. He also had a game-high 10 rebounds while recording the 10th double-double of his career. It was a tough finish to the tournament for Anthony Drmic, who went 1-for-12 from the field and had six turnovers against Arizona. Drmic was 2-for-18 from the floor combined versus the Wildcats and Michigan State. The Aussie looked like he could use some rest—ESPNU announcers Steve Quis and Brad Daugherty suggested he make take Wednesday night off against Willamette in Taco Bell Arena. Probably the best thing for Drmic.

The Idaho Stampede made it a little closer Saturday night, but Reno still handed them a 116-109 defeat in CenturyLink Arena. It was Treveon Graham’s turn to post a Stampede double-double, with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Jack Cooley added 22 points but had only five boards, an uncharacteristically low number for him. The Bighorns had routed the Stampede 121-97 Friday night—the struggling Stamps are now 1-7.

Speaking of struggling, that defines the Idaho Steelheads right now. The Steelheads’ nine-game road swing ended Saturday night with a 2-1 loss at Rapid City. Idaho won just two of the nine contests over 18 days. One of them was Friday night, when the Steelheads defense kept the Rush away from goalie Philippe Desrosiers, allowing only 14 shots on goal. That was the key in the 3-1 Steelies victory, their first in regulation in almost four weeks. It’s Desrosiers’ job between the pipes right now, as Maxime Lagace was recalled by the AHL Texas Stars on Thanksgiving. The Steelheads make a welcome return to CenturyLink Arena Wednesday night when they host the Florida Everblades.

This Day In Sports…November 30, 1974:

In one of the most amazing turnarounds in college football history, Notre Dame takes a 24-0 lead over USC in the second quarter and watches a disaster unfold. Behind tailback Anthony Davis, the Trojans roared back to score eight touchdowns in the next 16 minutes and trounce the Fighting Irish, 55-24, at the LA Coliseum. Davis scored six TDs during the rally.

(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.)