Boise State’s game at San Jose State Friday presents the Broncos with a test of intestinal fortitude. Boise State’s game at San Jose State Friday presents the Broncos with a test of intestinal fortitude. The Spartans have a lot to play for—most of all a sixth win that will make them bowl-eligible for the first time in three years. A bowl berth would be only SJSU’s third in the last 25 years. Down there, they don’t take bowl games for granted. Boise State is playing for pride, and the importance of that right now cannot be overstated. The first thing the Broncos have to do Friday afternoon is run out onto the field with a purpose. I have never seen them enter Albertsons Stadium the way they did last week. Kevin Keane charged out with the Hammer, but it looked as if half of the rest of the team just jogged out instead of the full-bore sprint that you usually see.
San Jose State has never beaten Boise State. The Spartans are 0-11 against the Broncos, with one loss in 1978 and the rest in the WAC from 2001-10. And that will be an insignificant stat come Friday. This San Jose State team, coming off a 42-23 road rout of Hawaii, is bent on that bowl game. “It’s very exciting,” coach Ron Caragher said last Saturday night after the victory at Aloha Stadium. “We put ourselves in a position to be bowl-eligible going into the last game of the year.” Also exciting to Caragher is how his Spartans played in the first half against the Rainbow Warriors. SJSU scored five touchdowns, with quarterback Kenny Potter throwing for three and rushing for two more. The Spartans amassed 344 yards of total offense before the intermission and led 35-0. “That’s the best first half of football we’ve played in three years,” said Caragher.
There’s also the Gene Bleymaier factor—and, to a lesser extent, the Al Borges factor. Bleymaier, the San Jose State athletic director, was fired after a 29-year stint in the same post at Boise State in 2011. Boise was his home for half of his life, and Friday will probably be an emotional day for him. Borges, the Spartans’ offensive coordinator, is more removed from Boise State, but he has never hidden his affection for the city.
Borges was Pokey Allen’s offensive coordinator when the Broncos made the 1994 Division I-AA national championship game. He was a karaoke master of sorts back then, particularly adept at “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison and “Come A Little Bit Closer” by Jay & The Americans. Borges has led a rather nomadic football life since. He was hoping to land the Boise State head coaching job in 1997 until Houston Nutt came in and swept it out from under him. That may still strike a sour note for Borges, although the athletic director at that time was indeed Bleymaier.
One of the biggest challenges for Boise State Friday is dealing with the blitz. San Jose State has dissected the tape of the New Mexico and Air Force games and has duly noted that the Lobos and Falcons brought the house against BSU’s still-evolving true freshman Brett Rypien, and it worked. The Broncos have to tweak their protection schemes, or else. Wrote one Scott Slant reader this week, “Poor Brett must feel like one of those guys in a dunk tank—he just keeps climbing back up in the chair so some schmuck can throw the ball and dunk him once more. He’s a good sport. But he shouldn’t have been party to back-to-back losses on the blue and sending the seniors out with a helpless feeling.”
Three former Boise State Broncos go after a CFL ring on Sunday as the 103rd Grey Cup unfolds in Winnipeg. All three, Brandyn Thompson, Jerrell Gavins and Jon Gott, play for the Ottawa RedBlacks, who take on the Edmonton Eskimos. Gavins has had a solid season for Ottawa, with four interceptions for 69 yards and a touchdown. He made five tackles in the RedBlacks’ 35-28 win over Hamilton in the semifinals. Ottawa’s quarterback, incidentally, is Jeremiah Masoli, the one-time Oregon Duck whose throws Gavins and Thompson defended in their Bronco days.
Thou shalt not overlook UC Irvine. The Boise State men’s basketball team professes not to, knowing that the moment it does, it’ll drop into the consolation bracket of the Wooden Legacy in Fullerton, CA, tomorrow. The undefeated Anteaters were 21-13 last season, winning the Big West and going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. UCI, seeded 13th, gave Louisville a supreme scare before falling 57-55. It’ll be a fascinating matchup for the smaller but quicker Broncos, who have to deal with 7-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye. He averaged 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore and considered declaring for the NBA Draft before electing to return to school.
There’ll be a hearty crew of NBA scouts at the Wooden Legacy, and Ndiaye is obviously one of the reasons. Another is Boise State forward James Webb III, who is getting his share of pro attention. Pretty amazing for a guy who was hardly playing a year ago right now. In fact, it was the day after Thanksgiving that Webb, after going scoreless in while playing a total of 13 minutes in the first five games, came off the bench in the second half to lead the Broncos in scoring at North Carolina State. Then through the final 29 games last season, Webb started 27 of them, averaging 12.4 points and 8.8 rebounds with eight double-doubles. He scored just nine points Monday night against Concordia but pulled down 13 rebounds. How sneaky can Webb be around Ndiaye’s massive wingspan tomorrow?
This had to be the best United Heritage Mayors’ Cup series of all. College of Idaho avenged a 100-96 overtime loss at Northwest Nazarene two weeks ago with a tense 75-71 win over the Crusaders in the 200th meeting between the Canyon County rivals last night in Caldwell. Melba’s Joey Nebeker led the Coyotes with 21 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three blocks before a raucous full house at the J.A. Albertson Activities Center. The Yotes rallied from a 34-30 halftime deficit three nights after seeing their 37-game home winning streak snapped by Metro State. NNU’s Detwon Rogers led all scorers with 23 points.
A 59-58 lead at the end of the third quarter turned into an 85-78 loss last night for the Idaho Stampede in upstate New York. The Westchester Knicks won an ugly offensive game, holding the Stampede to 32 percent shooting from the field while hitting just 40 percent themselves. Jack Cooley scored 13 points and grabbed 22 rebounds for Idaho. Tonight the Stampede play a game in Canada for the first time as they face Raptors 905, Toronto’s D-League affiliate, in Mississauga, ON. The Stamps then return to CenturyLink Arena Friday night to play the more familiar Reno Bighorns.
The Steelheads are spending Thanksgiving in Rapid City, SD, where they face the Rush tonight, Friday and Saturday. It marks the Steelheads’ first-ever visit to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Idaho beat Rapid City 5-1 in the season opener last month, but the Steelies lost to the Rush the next night and have won only four games since. Colton Beck has been the beacon for the Steelheads so far this season. The 25-year-old forward has scored 13 points (four goals with nine assists) in his last six games, and his 22 points overall currently rank second in the ECHL.
This Day In Sports…November 25, 2005, 10 years ago today:
Caldwell native Gary Stevens announces his retirement after a 26-year Hall of Fame horse racing career during which he won over 5,000 times. Stevens’ victories included three Kentucky Derbys, two Preakness Stakes, and three Belmont Stakes—and in three years he won two legs of the Triple Crown. Stevens would come out of retirement in 2013 to win the Preakness and the Breeders Cup Classic that year. He began his career while he was still a Capital High student in 1979, with his first win coming at Les Bois Park aboard a horse named Little Star.
(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.)