The tale may be told between possessions Saturday night when Boise State and Utah State clash on the blue turf. If that’s the case, Broncos coach Bryan Harsin would be the first to tell you his team has work to do. The biggest hole in the 45-14 win at New Mexico was special teams. The Broncos had an offside penalty called on their first kickoff of the night. They also needed to use a timeout before Haden Hoggarth’s 34-yard field goal in the second quarter because they couldn’t get lined up properly—then later had a Hoggarth attempt blocked. Finally there was the 86-yard punt return for a touchdown by the Lobos’ Marcus Hayes. That one really bugs Harsin, who says he had warned the Broncos about Hayes. “We didn’t accomplish our goal of actually tackling him,” bemoaned Harsin.
With that said, the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week honor goes to…Utah State junior kicker Dominik Eberle. The German native provided invaluable points when the Aggies offense stalled at Colorado State Saturday, connecting on all three field-goal attempts in the harrowing 29-24 victory. Eberle also won the MW award in Week 2 after a 60-13 rout of New Mexico State. He kicked six field goals in that game, and—combined with six extra points—accounted for 24 points, tying an NCAA record. Eberle also tied a single-game NCAA mark with three of the field goals coming from 50 yards out or more. That makes Eberle’s foot potentially crucial in a game where Boise State is favored by three points.
Since it’s the week of the final home game, Harsin got the obligatory questions yesterday about Senior Night. He would not go there. “I don’t want to get into what they mean to us until we’re done,” he said. “We’re not done.” Harsin wouldn’t even wax nostalgic on Brett Rypien, whose memorable four-year career in nearing an end. “We don’t have enough time to go into what he’s meant to this program,” said Harsin. I asked about David Moa’s status for Senior Night—will he walk with the seniors, or might he get another chance next year via a medical redshirt? “I haven’t talked to him about it yet,” Harsin said. Here’s his bottom-line comment: “Right now is time to focus on Utah State.”
Talk of turnovers being the key to a game is sometimes coach-speak. Not this week. Something’s bound to happen this week in that department. Utah State is tied for first in the nation with 18 interceptions and leads the country in pick-sixes with six TDs. Two of those saved the Aggies Saturday at Colorado State. Can you say, “Take care of the ball?” Boise State is second in the nation in fumble recoveries with 14 and is tied for second in the country in fumble returns for touchdowns with three (two from Tyler Horton and the one from Desmond Williams Saturday night at New Mexico). The Broncos are plus-six in turnover margin the past five games.
As they prepare for one of the most important games of their collective lives, Harsin and his friend, Utah State coach Matt Wells, find their names being bandied about in conjunction with the new opening at Colorado. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic writes about it, addressing the elephant in the room for Harsin: “Would there be some reluctance because the Buffs hired Dan Hawkins from Boise and that didn’t work out?” I think there would be. On the subject of Wells, Feldman opines, “I’ve always felt Wells would be someone destined for a Power 5 job, and the timing might be ideal now.” That would be something for a guy who was on a semi-hot seat a year ago following 3-9 and 6-7 seasons. Feldman also brings up Jeff Tedford of Fresno State, among others. Now that sounds like a good fit.
Hawkins has successfully resurfaced in the college coaching ranks at UC Davis, and he has the Aggies in the FCS Playoffs in his second season. They are 9-2 and are ranked sixth in the FCS—and they have a bye into the second round on December 1. UCD will host the winner of this Saturday’s game between Northern Iowa and Lamar. The Aggies shared the Big Sky championship with Weber State and Eastern Washington, who also got first-round byes. A fourth Big Sky team, Montana State, made the field following its thriller of a win at Montana Saturday. The Bobcats, coached by former Boise State special teams coordinator Jeff Choate, host Incarnate Word this Saturday.
The Boise State men started quickly at the Cayman Islands Classic last night and led Creighton by as many as seven points midway through the first half. But the Bluejays mounted an 8-0 run late in the first half to take the lead for good and beat the Broncos 94-82. A 10-0 run early in the second half created separation, and Creighton would push the advantage as high as 20 points. Boise State didn’t quit, though, getting the margin down to nine on a pair of Justinian Jessup free throws with 2:13 left. R.J. Williams was the Broncos’ centerpiece, scoring 27 points and pulling down nine rebounds. But Boise State struggled again from the three-point line (offensively and defensively) and from the charity stripe. The Broncos meet St. Bonaventure on the consolation side this afternoon.
Louisville scored 74 points on the Boise State women last night, same as the Cardinals did against the Broncos in the NCAA Tournament last March. But this game was far more competitive—Boise State put up 55 points instead of 42 in a loss to the Cards, who at No. 5, equaled the highest-ranked team ever to play in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos led for more than nine minutes in the first half before a 7-0 run going into the the break put Louisville up for good. The Cardinals held Boise State star Riley Lupfer to 3-for-11 shooting, although all three of her makes were from beyond the arc. Lupfer scored 11 points. NCAA Player of the Year candidate Asia Durr led Louisville with 20 points.
It’s United Heritage Mayors’ Cup Part II tonight at Johnson Sports Center in Nampa, as College of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene meet in the 206th renewal of the Canyon County rivalry. No. 205, of course, was that classic a week ago in Caldwell when the Coyotes got by the Nighthawks in double-overtime 86-82. Since then, C of I has defeated Montana Tech and Embry-Riddle to improve to 7-0. NNU has moved to 3-0 with victories in Portland over Cal State San Marcos and Cal State Los Angeles (last week’s game against the Yotes was an exhibition for the Nighthawks). Tonight’s game counts for both teams.
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November 20, 2012: Conference realignment rears its ugly head again, as Rutgers announces it is leaving the Big East for the Big Ten in 2014. Maryland, a founding member of the ACC, had announced a move the Big Ten the day before. The sudden change in Big East membership was cause for concern at Boise State, which was set to join the Big East in 2013. The dominoes kept falling, with Louisville moving to the ACC and the seven Catholic non-football schools in the Big East choosing to break away. At the 11th hour on New Year’s Eve that year, the Broncos elected to stay in the Mountain West.
(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.)