That was a bad, bad loss

An abominable second half left Boise State with a 61-53 defeat at last-place Air Force Saturday. Warning, citizens. There aren’t going to be any positives in this paragraph. An abominable second half left Boise State with a 61-53 loss at last-place Air Force Saturday. The Broncos’ slow-but-sure slide continues. After taking a 35-30 lead with 18 minutes to play, BSU connected on just one of its next 11 shots from the field over an 8½-minute stretch. The Falcons took advantage with an 18-4 run, during which they took a lead they would never relinquish. The Broncos made just six baskets in the final 18 minutes, shooting 27 percent and missing seven of their 11 free throw tries. They were 2-for-12 from three-point range in the second half. A Mikey Thompson three-pointer pulled Boise State to within three points of Air Force with just under five minutes to play. The Broncos were 0-for-5 from the floor the rest of the way.

This Boise State season has gone sideways since mid-January, and the slump peaked in Colorado Springs. “These guys looked like they were running in mental quicksand,” said coach Leon Rice on his Learfield Sports postgame show. The Broncos were devoid of their normal instinct, and the effort plays that had boosted them during their 10-game winning streak have dried up. How about this: the undersized, theoretically less-athletic Falcons out-rebounded Boise State by six in the game. James Webb III had only three boards. Three. That’s not the way to write an NBA resume. But, of course, it wasn’t only Webb. The Bronco bench contributed all of three points. “We’re going to find a new way,” said Rice, adding that he needs to “reinvent this team a little bit. We just haven’t been clicking for awhile.”

That was Boise State’s only game against Air Force this season, which is fine with the Broncos. But last season they feasted on these Falcons, especially Nick Duncan. In three games against Air Force last year, Duncan averaged 17 points and shot 15-for-28 from three-point range. Two of Duncan’s five career 20-point games have come versus the Falcons, including 23 in his last game against them in the Mountain West Tournament last March. On Saturday at Clune Arena, though, Duncan missed all three of his three-point attempts while shooting 3-for-10 overall and scoring eight points. Not much is making sense with this team right now.

Matt Paradis, Shiloh Keo and Jared Allen all played yesterday, so it was indeed the first Super Bowl ever featuring a Boise State Bronco, Idaho Vandal and Idaho State Bengal. Paradis did a solid job anchoring the Denver offensive line in the 24-10 victory. I’m going to give him an assist on the Broncos’ decisive fourth-quarter touchdown, when he gave C.J. Anderson one final little shove at the goal line. Keo was in on special teams for Denver, and Allen registered one solo tackle for Carolina. Sometimes I let my Scott Slant history clock wind too far back. In noting former Boise State players to appear in a Super Bowl last week, I blew right past Jeron Johnson, who played for the Seahawks last year. So Paradis is actually the eighth BSU representative to get on the field in the big one.

Boise State appears to be intent on fortifying the last line of defense this year with Gabe Franklin having officially been designated as safeties coach. The former Bronco All-WAC cornerback will work alongside new arrival Ashley Ambrose, currently listed as “defensive backs coach” by Boise State. In particular, Franklin and Ambrose will try to answer a forgettable four-game stretch in October and November. Boise State allowed a staggering 27.6 yards per completion combined in losses on the blue turf to New Mexico and Air Force. That was bookended by 387 passing yards allowed at UNLV and 336 at San Jose State.

Boise State was represented by Jeremy McNichols and Thomas Sperbeck at the 61st annual Touchdown Club of Columbus football awards banquet Saturday night in Ohio. McNichols and Sperbeck, accompanied on the trip by running backs coach Lee Marks, were recognized as two of 16 “Players To Watch” next season. The TDC’s top quarterback award was renamed the Kellen Moore Award after the former Boise State great won it in 2010 and 2011. This year’s honoree was Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. BYU’s Tanner Mangum, the Eagle High grad, was named Freshman of the Year.

Now that’s what you call a boomerang. The Idaho Steelheads, after being embarrassed 6-1 by Alaska last Wednesday, swept the Aces aside in the remaining two games of the series over the weekend. A couple of two-goal performances paced the Steelheads, with the first coming from Jake Fallon Friday night, accounting for all of Idaho’s scoring in a 2-1 decision. Newly-arrived Radoslav Illo potted two goals with one assist as he debuted for the Steelies in their 5-2 win Saturday night. The Slovakian forward played in his home country last season before entering the ECHL this season. Illo played four years of college hockey at Bemidji State.

It was a rugged weekend in Reno for the Idaho Stampede. Friday night the Bighorns blew out the Stamps 126-103—the Reno lead reached 35 points at one time in the fourth quarter. Saturday night was better, but the Stampede still absorbed a 117-105 defeat. J.J. O’Brien was a bright spot for the Stamps, scoring 45 points combined. The former San Diego State star went 18-for-31 from the field over the two games. The Stampede return home tonight to host the L.A. D-Fenders in CenturyLink Arena.

On the campus cruise, the Idaho men followed their satisfying rout of Southern Utah last Thursday with a surprising 72-70 loss at Northern Arizona Saturday. The College of Idaho men split their final homestand of the season, falling 101-75 Friday night to Warner Pacific before thumping Multnomah 91-58 on Saturday night. The Boise State women notched their eighth straight victory Saturday, building a 26-point fourth-quarter lead before coasting past Air Force, 61-48. Shalen Shaw paced the Broncos with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

In tennis, the Broncos beat the Broncos several hours before the Broncos beat the Panthers, meaning Boise State edged Santa Clara 4-3 yesterday. In wrestling, BSU’s home season ended on a sour note with a 32-9 humbling at the hands of South Dakota State. And in baseball, College of Idaho swept a four-game series from Minot State in Caldwell with one obvious highlight. One of the wins Saturday was a no-hitter, the Coyotes’ first in 58 years. Eagle High grad Mason Stidham went the first six innings and Kaleb Price finished the final three in a 13-0 blanking. The Yotes are now 8-0.

This Day In Sports…February 8, 2006, 10 years ago today:

Just two days after being seemingly left in the lurch by the resignation of Nick Holt, Idaho announces the return of Dennis Erickson as head coach. Holt had a 5-18 record in his two seasons, but Erickson—with two national championships and a legacy of college football turnarounds in his career—was expected to flip those numbers. We’ll never know, as Erickson lasted just 10 months before bolting for Arizona State, going 4-8 in his one season with the Vandals. He had started his head coaching career with Idaho in 1982, going 32-15 in four seasons.

(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.)