The need for people to populate the arena

The attendance at last Wednesday’s Mountain West opener in Taco Bell Arena, 7,538, was encouraging. The crowd for the 93-71 win over Colorado State was by far Boise State’s largest of the season, and it came on a weeknight. By all rights, the Broncos should top that number tonight against New Mexico. Let’s rewind a year. Boise State hosted the Lobos last year on January 17, a Tuesday, at 9 p.m. Not only was the tipoff impossibly late, it came at the height of our Snowpocalypse, and only 3,752 fans showed up. The weather stars and performance stars should be aligning to more than double last year’s count tonight. This Bronco team is 12-2 and is remarkably glued together, and it deserves consideration from fans who might like to help a winning run along in the early going of Mountain West play.

Not to go all “in the Bobby Dye days” on you, but when what was then the BSU Pavilion was rockin’ at an unprecedented level 30 years ago with crowds regularly hitting the 10,000-mark, there was noise on every defensive possession. Kind of like it is for every defensive snap on the blue turf. That’s the one thing that was missing in the Colorado State game. It’s the next step in the process. Boise State players will tell you it fosters maximum effort in hoops just like it does for football. Maybe the sleepy atmosphere a year ago played into the result that night, as New Mexico roared out to an 18-point halftime lead on the Broncos and won 81-70 behind Tim Williams, Elijah Brown and Sam Logwood (only Logwood remains this season).

The “new” New Mexico under new head coach Paul Weir uses a 10-man rotation and likes to bring it with 40 minutes of full-court pressure. The Lobos did that to Nevada and its top-heavy roster and lost by only three points last Saturday, with their bench outscoring the Wolf Pack’s bench 45-2. All 10 New Mexico players logged at least 10 minutes in the game. Boise State may not have the starting five talent of the Pack, but the Broncos have more depth. Every player in their primary seven-man rotation averages at least 20 minutes per night.

After Chandler Hutchison’s 32-point outburst at UNLV last Saturday, you get to wondering if he’ll hit 40 before his career is complete in March. Boise State has not had a 40-point game in almost 39 years, since Carl Powell scored 40 against Idaho State in February, 1979. The closest anyone has come in the past quarter-century was Derrick Marks’ 39-point effort against Idaho four years ago. If anyone can get to 40, No. 15 can. Hutchison was named the Mountain West Player of the Week yesterday for the second time this season after scoring 56 points in the victories over CSU and UNLV. The only flaw in Hutchison’s game right now is turnovers—he committed seven versus UNLV and has 29 in the last six games. Small price to pay, though.

Would Kellen Moore rather coach in the NFL or in college football? The former Boise State great’s day of reckoning may be near. His prospects of getting another shot as a quarterback next season in Dallas—or anywhere else—are slim. And everybody knows that Moore wants to coach over the long-term. So, the Cowboys indicate there could be a shakeup on their coaching staff. If offensive coordinator Scott Linehan survives it, he may want to segue Moore’s incomparable football acumen into the Dallas staff. Then again, maybe Kellen would prefer the college environment. If so, there are guys named Chris in Seattle and Bryan in Boise who would surely accommodate him.

The immediate coaching future of former Boise State defensive coordinator Marcel Yates has been cast into doubt after the sudden firing of Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez last night in the wake of sexual assault allegations. But for now, Yates will serve as the interim head coach at UA. He has been the Wildcats’ D-coordinator the past two seasons since leaving the Broncos. Rodriguez went 43-35 at Arizona, but he averaged less than six wins per season since taking the Wildcats to the 2014 Fiesta Bowl against the Broncos. Also, former Oregon State, Wisconsin and Utah State head coach Gary Andersen is returning to Utah as associate head coach under Kyle Whittingham. Andersen, was resigned abruptedly from OSU in October, will work with the Utes defense.

Catching up on college football’s postseason, the Mountain West bowl wrapup shows the conference going 3-3 after Utah State lost to New Mexico State 26-20 in overtime in the Arizona Bowl last Friday. USU’s Dominik Eberle missed an incomprehensible four field goals, including a chip shot in OT that clanked off the goalpost. But you have to be happy for New Mexico State, which had not been to a bowl game in 57 years. The Mountain West bowl record was okay in a Group of 5 kind of way. How would you like to be the MAC? The conference placed five teams in bowls—and four of them were blown out. To protect the innocent, we’ll just throw the scores out there: 50-3, 34-0, 36-14 and 37-14. (Okay, you recognize the latter one as Central Michigan’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl loss to Wyoming.)

The firing of Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis was unique as far as NFL firings go. It was a wrenching separation, because he was a players’ coach, and he gave a teary speech to the team after winning his final game Sunday, 22-13 over Houston. “If I never coached another day, another down, I’m good,” Pagano said, “because of you guys.” He finished with a 56-46 record and was 4-12 this season, done in by the absence of star quarterback Andrew Luck. The Colts were 11-5 in each of Pagano’s first three seasons, the first of which was interrupted by his bout with leukemia. We relate to Pagano locally because he was on the Boise State staff in 1987-88 and in 1989 married Tina Heffner, the older sister of Bronco wide receiver Terry Heffner. Pagano, therefore, has roots in Boise and spends time here virtually every summer.

Two NFL notes involving former Idaho Vandals: Elijhaa Penny set the table for 2018 with a nice finish for Arizona Sunday. Penny helped put the kabosh on Seattle’s playoff hopes with eight carries for 39 yards and a touchdown in a 26-24 win at CenturyLink Field. That accounted for more than one-third of Penny’s output in his first active NFL season. Penny, the older brother of the nation’s leading FBS rusher, San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, ran for 124 yards and two TDs this season, averaging 4.0 yards per carry. And Idaho’s career field goals and punting leader, Austin Rehkow, has been signed to a reserve/futures contract with the New York Giants. Rehkow will be eligible to participate in the Giants’ offseason team activities this spring. It doesn’t guarantee him a spot in training camp, but it’s a start.

This Day In Sports…January 3, 1993, 25 years ago today:

The Buffalo Bills pull off the greatest comeback in NFL history, rallying from a 35-3 third quarter deficit to shock the Houston Oilers, 41-38, in overtime in an AFC Wild Card game. Backup quarterback Frank Reich, subbing for an injured Jim Kelly, threw four touchdown passes—three of them to Andre Reed—to overcome a four-touchdown first half by Oilers quarterback Warren Moon. The Bills would advance to the Super Bowl for the third straight season and would lose for the third straight time.

(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.)