Boise State’s quarterback battle took a back seat in the spring game Saturday to what might be the Broncos’ strongest position group. Man, this team has wide receivers. John Hightower made a couple of his classic catches on deep balls. The second, from Kaiden Bennett, looked like it was overthrown, but Hightower flat-out ran under it and dived to get it. Khalil Shakir showed his shakes on a beautiful 53-yard catch-and-run touchdown from Jaylon Henderson. Hightower and Shakir had three catches each, for 92 and 96 yards, respectively. Makes you wonder what it would have been like with both players healthy in late November—and on the first of December. Among the new faces, Stefan Cobbs put an exclamation point on a great spring, with three grabs for 69 yards. Cobbs also got in on the long-ball launches with a 35-yard reception.
The only conclusion to be drawn in the QB competition after Boise State’s spring game: let’s wait ‘til Chase Cord is healthy before any assumptions are made. Four-star recruit Hank Bachmeier didn’t have a terrible day—he was 3-for-3 for 33 yards before misfiring on his final four attempts (with the help of one drop). But the other four quarterbacks who played all had better numbers, especially Henderson, who appears to have come miles from where he was a year ago. The senior was 9-for-13 for 187 yards and the game’s lone TD pass. Bennett’s running ability was evident in the game. Bennett, the other true freshman in the race, scrambled three times for 29 yards on his first possession.
Some things to keep in mind coming out of Saturday’s session: 1) rushing numbers in this game are traditionally underwhelming, and 2) the sample size for Robert Mahone was really small. While Andrew Van Buren led the Broncos with 47 yards on 12 carries, including a nifty 20-yard dash, it was Mahone who was in on the first possession of the day. Mahone carried four time for 22 yards on that drive and was running hard, pushing the pile. He had just one more attempt on the day, a three-yard touchdown. Maybe that gave the coaching staff enough intel on Mahone for the afternoon. Van Buren ran well, too, and he snagged a 23-yard swing pass from Jaylon Henderson. Van Buren also had a couple drops late in the scrimmage, though.
DEMARCUS ABOUT TO MAKE A BIG DEPOSIT
DeMarcus Lawrence is now the richest former Boise State Bronco in history, in NFL terms. In fact, his new contract with Dallas would make him the richest former player in the NFL at most schools. Patience paid off for both Lawrence and the Cowboys Friday, as they settled on a five-year, $105 million deal, with $65 million guaranteed. He gets more cash in the first year of a contract—$31.1 million, including his signing bonus and roster bonus—than any non-quarterback in NFL history. That’s $31.1 million. Lawrence had been putting off his shoulder surgery during negotiations with the Cowboys. Now he can get it done. The operation will keep him out until training camp this summer. Lawrence played last season with a torn labrum.
The college playing careers of Broncos often begin innocently. This is from the Scott Slant column on December 19, 2011: “Boise State rarely dips into the junior college ranks, but with Shea McClellin, Tyrone Crawford and Jarrell Root finishing their careers at defensive end Thursday (in the Las Vegas Bowl), now is as good a time as any. Scout.com reports the Broncos got a verbal yesterday from D-end Demarcus Lawrence out of Butler County Community College in Kansas. Lawrence is a 6-4, 250-pounder who, according to Scout.com, also had offers from Clemson, Kansas State, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Tennessee. Lawrence is the 15th commit of Boise State’s 2012 recruiting class.” Maybe those offers should have been a hint.
MUSS JUMPS INTO ‘PIG SOOIE’
With seven seniors departing the program and big money knocking, it was a good time for Eric Musselman to head out. And now it’s official: Musselman has left Nevada to become the head men’s basketball coach at Arkansas. He’s agreed to a five-year deal with the Razorbacks at $2.5 million per year and is set to be introduced in Fayetteville today. Musselman made just over $1 million this season with the Wolf Pack. In four seasons in Reno he went 110-34 and got the Pack has high as No. 6 in the polls earlier this season. He took Nevada to three NCAA Tournaments, including last year’s Sweet 16 run. Sustaining his success will be a massive challenge for the Wolf Pack.
REGULAR SEASON ENDS WITH A THUD
A division title just wasn’t in the cards for the Idaho Steelheads. They still had hope Saturday night with a 2-0 lead over Utah early in the third period at West Valley City, but the Grizzlies scratched out two goals, the second one with just 2:21 left in regulation to send the game into overtime. Utah made quick work of the OT, scoring just over a minute in to end it. At the same time, the Tulsa Oilers were clinching the ECHL Mountain Division with a 6-1 rout of Kalamazoo. The regular season wrapped up Sunday with the Steelies absorbing a 7-4 loss to the Grizzlies. At least Idaho has something to avenge as the Kelly Cup Playoffs begin this Friday in CenturyLink Arena—it’s Utah that serves as the Steelheads’ first round opponent.
GYMNASTS’ WAIT EXTENDS ANOTHER YEAR
The path to a first-ever berth at nationals was going to be harder than ever this year for the Boise State women’s gymnastics team. First, the Broncos would have to get through an NCAA West Regional semifinal meet Friday night, and they did that, beating Washington and Southern Utah to join Denver in advancing to the regional final against Oregon State and Florida. Boise State was solid Saturday night, but the other finalists were “solider,” and the Broncos ended their season in fourth place with a 196.075. They’re guaranteed a top 16 finish in the final rankings for the fourth straight season. By the way, sorry about the screwup on Boise State women’s softball on Friday. The Broncos’ bye week threw me off. They play at Idaho State tomorrow.
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April 8, 2013: Rick Pitino becomes the first head coach ever to win a national championship at two different schools, leading Louisville to an 82-76 victory over Michigan in an entertaining NCAA title game. The Cardinals, who were the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, won their first national crown since 1986 on the same day Pitino was named as an inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The word “shame” came into play when Pitino was implicated in a federal investigation involving bribes to recruits, which resulted in Louisville firing him for cause in October of 2017.
(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.)