The motivation machine in Vegas

A Monday Seattle Times story by Mike Vorel pointed out that last winter, a sign was posted on the wall inside Washington’s locker room that said, “Win the bowl game.” It was in reference to three straight bowl losses by Chris Petersen’s Huskies—one in the College Football Playoff and two in other New Year’s Six bowls. At the time UW didn’t know its 2019 destination would be the second-tier Las Vegas Bowl, and under normal circumstances that would take some shine off the sign. The Huskies would be in a “how did we end up here?” situation against No. 19 Boise State, who is relishing the opportunity. But, because of Saturday’s sidebar, these aren’t normal circumstances. The Huskies will be motivated to win the game for Coach Pete. That’s becoming evident this week.

“It’s an honor (to play for him), honestly,” senior center Nick Harris told Vorel. “I know it sounds cheesy, but in retrospect he was probably one of the best college football coaches of all time and his stats speak for themselves. The people he’s built speaks for itself. The things he teaches and preaches to us, the values that he puts into us over and over, letting us know these things, it goes way beyond football.”

Boise State players can’t relate to this in Petersen terms, although they feel the same way about their coaches. After the Broncos’ 16-13 win over Washington on the blue turf in 2015, Boise State players swarmed Coach Pete at the end of the game. Probably half of them were his recruits. Now, there’s not a single Bronco left who played versus the Huskies that night. David Moa was on the roster but did not appear. Kekoa Nawahine, the only other player who committed to Boise State while Petersen was still coach, was on his LDS mission at the time. The current Broncos know of his legendary 92-12 run with their program and the first two Fiesta Bowls and all that. But to them, he’s just a highly-respected foe over whom a victory would be cherished.

SMOKE CLEARING ON MW TV, OR IS IT?

The Sports & Business Journal reported Monday that ESPN will be a thing of the past for the Mountain West moving forward—with the possible exception of Boise State football. SBJ’s John Ourand said Fox Sports would become the prime carrier of Mountain West football and basketball, with CBS Sports Network renewing its contract with the conference. The Fox games would air primarily on FS1. Revenue per school would jump from $1.1 million to $3 million per year, and Boise State would still receive an additional bonus for packaging its home games. Later in the evening, though, the Mountain West released a statement: “The story is inaccurate as reported. No deal has been signed by any party and negotiations are ongoing.” Stay tuned, I guess?

ALL-AMERICAN CHECKLIST

Curtis Weaver is racking ‘em up. The Boise State star notched two more second-team All-America honors on Monday, and they’re two of the more prominent ones: Associated Press and ESPN. He’s now appeared on six All-America squads, including first-team nods from Walter Camp and CBS Sports. And George Holani has landed on ESPN’s True Freshman All-America team. Holani, now the Broncos’ feature running back, is just 21 yards away from 1,000 rushing yards for the season. Unsung on Holani’s stat sheet are his 23 catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns. More icing on the cake for the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.

SCENE OF THE FRESHMEN STATEMENTS

Three Boise State juniors will be returning Saturday to a place that put them on the Bronco Nation map two years ago. Kekaula Kaniho was already familiar as a playmaker, having returned a fumble for a touchdown in a dominant win at San Diego State. But in the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl, Kaniho did his thing on ABC with an interception of Oregon’s Justin Herbert that he returned 53 yards for a touchdown. Through his junior year, Kaniho has lived up to his press clippings, as he was named first-team All-Mountain West this season. He’s not only second on the Broncos in tackles this fall with 59, he also has 11 tackes-for-loss and three sacks, big numbers for a guy who’s primarily a defensive back.

The Las Vegas Bowl against Oregon also represented an unexpected first start for cornerback Jalen Walker. Tyler Horton was scratched due to an injury, and Walker had to go all the way against the Ducks. He made six tackles, including one for loss, and he didn’t allow any explosive plays. This season has produced some ups and down for the talkative Walker, but he’s been really good the past four games, highlighted by his game-turning pick-six at Utah State. Then there’s safety Jordan Happle—DeAndre Pierce’s fill-in—if he plays Saturday. Happle made his first (and still only) career interception versus Oregon two years ago, but he’s missed the past two games due to injury.

RENAISSANCE MAN FOR THE SAN DIEGO STATE OFFENSE?

The San Diego State offense struggled for much of the year. In fact, that’s probably the reason the Aztecs weren’t in the Mountain West championship game. A lot of it fell on the shoulders of senior quarterback Ryan Agnew. Now, SDSU may have found a successor for 2020 who can reignite things on Montezuma Mesa. Jack Sears, a transfer from USC, has committed to coach Rocky Long’s program. Sears comes in with something to prove, as he was unable to crack the top three in the Trojans’ quarterback room in fall camp this year. Sears played in only one game for USC, throwing for 235 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in a 38-35 loss to Arizona State in 2018.

NO STRUGGLES YET FOR AZTECS HOOPS

Meanwhile, all is well on the men’s basketball front at San Diego State. The 10-0 Aztecs, one of only four undefeated teams left in the country, are up to No. 20 in both the AP and Coaches Polls. SDSU has a chance at another quality win when it faces Utah this Saturday. Utah State is now buried in the “others receiving votes” category after suffering its second loss of the season, 68-64 to BYU Saturday in Logan. On the Cougars’ front, it’s important to note that star post Yoeli Childs is active again, and he’s been tearing it up. Childs did not play in BYU’s 72-68 loss at Boise State last month.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…we’re payroll, we’re risk, we’re HR, we’re business!

December 17, 1994, 25 years ago today: Boise State’s magical season ends with a 28-14 loss to Youngstown State and coach Jim Tressel in the Division I-AA championship game at Huntington, WV (on Marshall’s home field). The Broncos finished 13-2 with a record-setting season from running back K.C. Adams, who would end up playing just that one year. Three days later in a press conference, coach Pokey Allen would announce he had a rare form of cancer, beginning an agonizing two-year battle that would claim his life.

(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.)

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