With Senior Night coming up tomorrow, Boise State will say goodbye to 14 seniors before kickoff against Air Force. Among them are the final eight players on the roster from the Chris Petersen era. One, Gabe Perez, actually played for Coach Pete, seeing a lot of action as a true freshman. The others redshirted in 2013: Alec Dhaenens, Mason Hampton, Cameron Hartsfield, Archie Lewis, Jake Roh, Austin Silsby and Andrew Tercek. Roh has had the greatest impact out of that group, although it didn’t look like it was headed that way a year ago. Roh had just 10 catches in an injury-plagued 2016, but his senior year has been amazing. He already has a career-high 38 receptions and has equaled his career best with 408 yards. And his nine touchdown catches are the most in the nation among tight ends.
The easy feature guy among Boise State’s other six seniors tomorrow night is Cedrick Wilson. After seeing him for the first time in the spring of 2016, we sensed that Wilson would make an immediate impact out of Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. And, boy howdy, he did. John Patrick and I have calculated that Wilson is on the cusp of becoming the top junior college wide receiver statistically in Boise State history. The previous best was Rodney Smith 20 years ago. Wilson now has 109 career catches to Smith’s 117. Cedrick has already topped Smith’s career yards, 2,030 to 1,689. And Wilson is three short Smith’s career touchdown mark, with 17 to Smith’s 20. With three—or four—games to go.
Air Force threw for 279 yards on only nine completions in its upset of Boise State on the blue turf two years ago (on Senior Night to boot). The Falcons sucked in the Broncos’ back seven with option play fakes and went over the top, and you know the cadets will watch for that tomorrow night. The guy who has emerged as the new Jalen Robinette, Air Force’s former star receiver, is Marcus Bennett. Since the end of September, Bennett has 11 catches for 253 yards and three touchdowns. His yards-per-catch over that stretch are typically Falcon, an average of 23 yards a grab. Bennett’s breakout game came in a wild 48-45 loss at Navy, when he logged five receptions for 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Like last year, the focus on Boise State’s game versus Air Force ranges from finishing the season, to finishing in the fourth quarter, and all the way down to just finishing drives. In their final two games against Air Force and Baylor last year, the Broncos were 1-for-8 scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Earlier this season, it was just a matter of Boise State getting to the red zone in the first place as the offense struggled. Now the Broncos are getting there. They’ve averaged 47 points over the past three games, and in that time they’ve scored 10 TDs in 13 red zone trips. The Boise State offense seems to exude confidence now—that wasn’t necessarily the case versus the Falcons last year.
By the time kickoff hits tomorrow night, Boise State players will know what happened in Wyoming’s game against Fresno State. The Broncos themselves won’t admit to scoreboard-watching, but fans will. We know that if the Bulldogs beat the Cowboys, not only does Boise State clinch the Mountain Division, the Mountain West championship game matchup will be set between Fresno State and the Broncos. What we still don’t know right now is the status of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, who’s nursing a shoulder injury from last week. Pokes coach Craig Bohl says it could be a “gametime decision.”
Idaho’s bowl chances likely won’t be derailed Saturday in the Kibbie Dome, as the Vandals are favored over Coastal Carolina. But the spread is down to 7½ points, as Idaho will have to do it without quarterback Matt Linehan, who coach Paul Petrino says won’t be able to play in his Senior Day game. “There is (still) a chance he comes back this year,” said Petrino, whose Vandals have two games left following Saturday’s Kibbie Dome finale. Petrino’s son, Mason, will start at QB against Coastal Carolina, backed up by true freshman Colton Richardson. The Chanticleers may be 1-9, but this game is not a layup. Just two weeks ago they led Arkansas into the final two minutes before falling 39-38.
Boise State star Chandler Hutchison was 1-for-12 from the field yesterday in the opening game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off against UTEP. Until the final 13 seconds of the contest, that is. During that frantic final stretch, Hutchison scored five points on a dunk, a layup and a free throw to finish a stirring comeback as the Broncos beat the Miners 58-56. Boise State had seen a nine-point halftime lead become a 54-45 deficit with three minutes left after going into the icebox in the second half. “There are some nights when the ball just bounces bad for you,” coach Leon Rice said. “Being a competitive animal and being able to fight through it is what we want our guys to be able to do.” Well, they did. Now the Broncos take on Illinois State in the semifinals this morning after the Redbirds upended South Carolina 69-65 yesterday.
There was no more defining sequence in this Boise State effort than a defensive stand in the final minute. With 31 seconds left, the Broncos forced UTEP to use its final two timeouts when it couldn’t inbound the ball. After the Miners’ next two inbound plays, Boise State wisely fouled, as there were still three fouls to give. The fifth inbound came with 19 seconds remaining, and a Miners player stepped out of bounds when he caught the pass, resulting in a crucial turnover. It was thanks to a Bronco defensive alignment called “Face,” according to Marcus Dickinson. “I told the guys (in practice) this is crazy, but this silly little thing will win us two or three games this year,” said Rice. “Sure enough, tonight it helps us.”
Around the horn going into the weekend: the hottest Idaho Steelhead going into this weekend’s games at Rapid City is Steve McParland. In the Steelheads’ 4-3 win over the Rush Wednesday night, the 26-year-old forward snapped Rapid City’s streak of 35 straight successful penalty kills when he tallied on a first-period power play. McParland has scored six goals in his last seven games. Troy Merritt started well at the RSM Classic yesterday in Sea Island, GA. The Boise State grad carded a four-under 68 and is tied for 18th after the first round. And the NCAA Cross Country Championships will be run tomorrow in Louisville, with both the Boise State men and women’s teams in the field. The athlete to watch, of course, is Bronco fan favorite Allie Ostrander. I think I’m hearing a “Go Allie-O” or three out there.
This Day In Sports…November 17, 1968:
In pro football’s most notorious TV game of all-time, the New York Jets take a 32-29 fourth quarter lead on a field goal in an AFL showdown at Oakland. NBC then cut away from the game to show “Heidi”, a two-hour children’s special. NBC’s phones in New York just about blew up. All the while, the Raiders were scoring twice in the final minute to win, 43-32. The controversy forced a network policy change—and pro games have been shown in their entirety ever since.
(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.)