You’ve seen the photos this week. Curtis Weaver says he sees them every day on his wall—the images of him sitting on the blue turf when the Mountain West championship game ended a year ago, tears in the snow. The 19-16 overtime loss to Fresno State bit Boise State hard, especially since it could have been avoided had a Broncos extra point not been blocked with eight minutes left. It’s funny how players approach such things as opposed to coaches. Weaver thinks about the feeling all the time. It fuels him. Coach Bryan Harsin? “That was last year,” he said. “I moved on. It was over the moment I walked off the field.” Maybe Harsin feels differently on the inside. If last year’s title game isn’t motivation, he has plenty of other things to get his motor going against Hawaii Saturday afternoon.
THIS BRIGHTENED WEAVER’S THURSDAY
Many of the watch lists that come out in the summer for college football awards are, like, a half-mile long. Some Boise State players are always sprinkled among them. When you get to December, things get serious. And the Broncos’ Curtis Weaver has been named a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award that goes to the nation’s top defensive end. He’s one of only five finalists, joining Bradlee Anae of Utah, Yetur Gross-Matos of Penn State, James Lynch of Baylor and Chase Young of Ohio State. The winner is slated to be announced December 11. Weaver’s current count this season is 13.5 sacks and 17 tackles-for-loss. He now has 34 career sacks.
LOOKING FOR A STRONG POCKET
Jaylon Henderson has done a good job eluding the rush the pass three games. Boise State has still allowed five sacks in that time, but that’s not bad (and Henderson’s scrambling ability has helped immensely). It’s against that backdrop that we talk about protecting Henderson in the Mountain West championship game. The Broncos have given up 26 sacks this year, ranking ninth in the Mountain West. Hawaii has only 15 sacks this season, 11th in the Mountain West, and registered only one in the loss at Boise State in October. A footnote in the sack department: the Broncos defense leads the league with 34 this season, but they had exactly zero sacks versus the Rainbow Warriors in October, the only time this year they’ve been shut out.
CT IN THE CATBIRD’S SEAT AGAIN?
I’m anxious to see the role of Boise State’s CT Thomas Saturday on the blue turf. The junior wide receiver’s season has gone peak-valley-peak. Two weeks ago I talked about his modest slump going into the Utah State game. Well, in the past two wins over USU and Colorado State, Thomas has 10 catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns. The most significant grab wasn’t one of the TDs, it was a fourth-quarter reception at CSU during the Broncos’ final touchdown drive. Thomas made a falling-down grab for a 23-yard gain, somehow scraping a foot on the turf at the CSU 16-yard line to remain in bounds. “He had the catch of the year right there,” said Harsin. “That was fantastic.”
NATIONAL LAURELS FOR THREE YOTES + TEDFORD RETIREMENT
Senior Kicker Kyle Mitchell became the just second first-team NAIA All-American in College of Idaho history on Thursday capping a year that saw him nail the longest field goal in college football this season, the walk-off 58-yarder that beat Montana Tech in October. Mitchell led the NAIA with 15 field goals and also booted 55 extra points. Yotes record-setting quarterback Darius-James Peterson and offensive tackle Josh Brown, an NFL prospect, were second-teamers. Elsewhere, word came out of Fresno State late Thursday night that Jeff Tedford is stepping down today as head coach of the Bulldogs due to health concerns. Fresno State was 4-8 this season on the heels of double-digit wins the past two years, including the 2018 Mountain West title.
BRONCOS IN THE NFL – RUNNING BACKS DIVISION
Doug Martin hasn’t found a new NFL home this year, and Jeremy McNichols is toiling on the Chicago Bears’ practice squad. So there are just two Boise State products in the NFL at the running back position: Alexander Mattison and Jay Ajayi. Mattison will go back to backing up Minnesota star Dalvin Cook when the Vikings host Detroit Sunday. Mattison had to take over when Cook was injured in the third quarter at Seattle last Monday night and played well, logging 22 yards on four carries and 51 yards on four receptions. Ajayi has appeared in two games since finally getting another shot with Philadelphia—he has just eight carries for 25 yards. The Eagles host the New York Giants this Monday night.
MW EARLYBIRD SPECIAL: ROUND 2
This is a week on an island in Mountain West basketball. The second segment of this early conference start forced upon everybody is Saturday night, and the Boise State men get Colorado State at home in ExtraMile Arena. The Rams are coming off a 79-57 home loss to undefeated San Diego State. The Broncos are hoping forward RJ Williams is grounded after a rocky trip to Albuquerque. Williams was ejected from Wednesday night’s 80-78 loss to New Mexico with about five minutes to go when he was assessed two technical fouls during a verbal scrap with the Lobos’ Carlton Bragg. Boise State needs Williams to deal with CSU star Nico Carvacho inside. The 6-11 senior scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds versus the Aztecs. Williams had only two points in The Pit.
At the same time, the Boise State women go to Colorado State. Both teams are 5-4. But the Broncos have some “Mallory mojo” going. Mallory McGwire, the 6-5 transfer from Oregon, had never so much as made a three-pointer in her collegiate career prior to this season. Now she’s made 10 treys, including the overtime game-winner against New Mexico Wednesday night in ExtraMile Arena. But that was only one example of McGwire’s “clutchness.” She scored 14 of her 21 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Add that to her 17 rebounds, and you’ve got an epic performance.
WIN COLUMN ELUSIVE FOR THE STEELIES
The Idaho Steelheads are surely craving a victory as they wrap up their series against the Allen Americans with two more games tonight and Saturday night in CenturyLink Arena. The Steelheads have dropped nine of their last 13 games (including overtime and shootouts). Since a hot 5-0-1 start in October, the Steelies have gone 6-8-5. Maybe a new face will help. Tye Felhaber is on assignment from the Dallas Stars after playing 18 games with Texas of the AHL. Felbaher, a 21-year-old forward, signed with Dallas on March 1.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!
December 6, 2014, five years ago today: Boise State wins its first outright conference title in five years and earns the Group of Five’s automatic berth in the New Year’s Six bowl games by beating Fresno State 28-14 in the Mountain West championship game at Albertsons Stadium. The Broncos had shared league crowns in 2010 in the WAC and 2012 in the MW. Senior quarterback Grant Hedrick was the game’s offensive MVP after rushing for touchdowns of 20 and 21 yards. Sophomore linebacker Tanner Vallejo won defensive honors after a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown. Boise State’s destination would be the Fiesta Bowl.
(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.)