Now that Boise State’s punishing 38-7 loss to Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl has sunk in, there’s a bigger picture to consider. The gap between the Group of 5 and Power 5 conferences only gets wider. The Huskies were an extremely talented team that underachieved this year but put together a gem in Chris Petersen’s finale. The Broncos’ talent is elite in a Group of 5 sense, but the difference was obvious. The Mountain West touts its nine wins this season over Power 5 schools, but not one of them had a winning record going into bowl season. Only Florida State and Missouri managed 6-6 records. Air Force has a chance to give the Mountain West a 10th victory tonight in the Cheez-It (formerly Cactus) Bowl against Washington State. If the Falcons win, the Cougs will be 6-7.
CLEVELAND READY FOR HIS NEXT CLIMB
After a brief hiatus, Boise State’s stretch of starting left tackles drafted into the NFL could extend to six of the last seven. Ezra Cleveland announced earlier this week he would forego his senior year with the Broncos to enter the NFL Draft. The run started with Daryn Colledge 14 years ago and continued with Ryan Clady, Nate Potter, Charles Leno Jr. and Rees Odhiambo. If Cleveland is chosen, the only interruption would be Archie Lewis, who started just one year in 2016. All of the others were multi-year starters. Cleveland has started 40 of Boise State’s last 41 games. He could have benefitted from one more season as a Bronco, but there are lots of NFL teams looking for left tackles next year. No word yet from Curtis Weaver on his status.
EASON SKIPS, TOO
Washington quarterback Jacob Eason, who finished the season with an effective, workmanlike performance against Boise State last Saturday, is also bypassing his senior year for the NFL Draft. Eason had an up-and-down season, completing 64 percent of his throws for 3,132 yards and 23 touchdowns with eight interceptions. But he has the NFL measurables at 6-6, 227 pounds. ESPN guru Mel Kiper Jr. ranks him as the No. 4 overall quarterback in the draft behind LSU’s Joe Burrow, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert. Current projections generally put Eason in the second round next spring.
SHOE’S ANALYSIS FITS
Former Boise State tight end and Bronco staffer Derek Schouman (you know, the guy who caught the overtime touchdown in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma) has posted “armchair thoughts” after every game this season, and they’ve been incredibly insightful. Schouman’s final observations at the end of his Las Vegas Bowl thoughts are worth sharing: “Seasons are long and tough. We won 12 games, swept the conference, battled injuries, overcame losses or deficits, and gained invaluable experience at multiple positions. But we got whooped. Outcoached by a legend. Outplayed with speed. It doesn’t matter. Our season was successful and there is a lot to be happy about.
“I hate losing as much as the next guy, and the ultimate competitor inside me feels this season was a failure because we lost two games. But the reality is, it’s going to happen. You win and lose and there are no guarantees. That’s what makes sports so awesome—competition! The guys need to stay positive (Hank, don’t let this game define or bother you!), take a much needed break from ball, commit to improvement, and come back next off-season hungry. The future is bright for Boise State football. Go Broncos!”
TUMULTUOUS TIMES IN BIG D
Former Boise State star Leighton Vander Esch’s upcoming neck surgery has become merely a sidebar to the chaos surrounding the final week of the regular season for Dallas. Vander Esch’s season is over, but he’s expected back sometime in the spring. Will Kellen Moore be back with his offensive coordinator’s headset? Coach Jason Garrett and his staff may not make it too far past Sunday’s game against Washington. Former Cowboys executive and Pro Football Hall of Famer Gil Brandt came up with this confounding factoid: “The Cowboys have the best point differential (+82) and yardage differential (+1,426) of any sub-.500 team in the Super Bowl era. Last year when they won the NFC East with a 10-6 record, they had a point differential of +15 and a yardage differential of +233.” Yet right now, they’re 7-8.
BRONCOS HOOPS IN A GROOVE?
Boise State men’s basketball has some legit momentum going into its final non-conference game tomorrow against Cal State Northridge in ExtraMile Arena. The Broncos come home from the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu with two wins in three games after fending off UTEP 72-67 on Christmas Day before a handful of fans in the Stan Sheriff Center. Derrick Alston, who made the all-tournament team, capped his stay on Oahu with a 23-point, nine-rebound, six-assist effort.
The takeaway: Boise State has overcome its close-game struggles from last season, as there were several big plays at the end that closed out the Miners. One was a bucket with 1:11 left from Abu Kigab, who notched his first collegiate double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The Oregon transfer totaled 31 points and 13 boards in his first three games as a Bronco. Kigab led the team in scoring in the loss to Georgia Tech, struggled a bit in Monday’s victory over Portland, and was a key ingredient against UTEP. He replaced Alex Hobbs in the starting lineup in Hawaii—the net effect was that Hobbs returned to his old role as a sixth-man catalyst.
STEELIES TRY TO WHITTLE AWAY VS. ALLEN
After a long winter’s nap, the Idaho Steelheads try to pick up where they left off when they host Allen tonight and tomorrow night in CenturyLink Arena. The Steelheads are on a five-game winning streak, their longest of the season, topping their four-game streak that opened the campaign in October. They haven’t won six in a row since the end of the 2017-18 season. The Steelies will try to do it against the first-place team in the ECHL Mountain Division. The Americans have 48 points in the standings, nine better than second-place Idaho.
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December 27, 2012: After 51 seasons, the final football game in WAC history is played as San Jose State defeats Bowling Green in the Military Bowl, 29-20. The WAC had started to splinter when Boise State moved to the Mountain West in 2011 and Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii followed suit the following year. All-time WAC football high-water marks included BYU’s national championship in 1984, the Cougars’ Ty Detmer capturing the Heisman Trophy in 1990, and Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl victories in 2007 and 2010.
(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.)