There may never be another Group of 5 story like Boise State’s. One reason: it’s gone on for such a long, long time. The Broncos got their 10-win season with the conquest of Utah State Saturday night, and I’ve always thought that was a big deal. It’s their third in a row and 16th in the past 20 years. There were four such seasons in the 1970’s, two in the 1980’s and three in the 1990’s (including the one in 1999 that started the current run). Then there were eight in the 2000’s and seven so far this decade, with one season to go. This is Boise State’s 51st season of four-year football, and there have been 10-win seasons in 24 of them. That’s 47 percent. I’m comfortable in saying something like this is not going to happen again in the Group of 5 universe.
The Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week was an easy choice this week. Boise State’s Alexander Mattison gets the honor after his 37-carry, 200-yard, three-touchdown performance against Utah State. A year ago right now, Mattison was banged up—and he ended up exiting the Mountain West championship game against Fresno State with a lower leg injury. The middle of last season was where Mattison did his damage. This year, it’s the stretch run. In the first seven games of the season, Mattison averaged 17 carries, 71.6 yards per game, and 3.9 yards per carry with one 100-yard game. In the last five games he’s carried the ball 27 times per game and averaged a 142.8 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry, with four 100-yard games. It’s been quite a show.
The media doesn’t bother asking coach Bryan Harsin about injuries anymore, lest they get a standard “we’re hoping they’ll be back.” Just the nature of the college football information flow these days. Boise State had hoped it would have wide receivers John Hightower and Khalil Shakir back for Utah State, but no dice. If they’re out in this Saturday’s Mountain West title game, the rest of the cast has shown it can produce. Versus the Aggies it was sophomore CT Thomas leading the way with six catches for 89 yards. He was especially effective on long second and third downs.
The tight ends haven’t been terribly effective this year in the passing game, but they sneak up when you least expect it. John Bates had the crucial 30-yard catch on the Broncos’ second touchdown drive, and Garrett Collingham’s first career touchdown reception was a difference-maker in the fourth quarter (his other TD this season came on the ground). One-third of Bates’ career grabs, four out of a modest 12, have come against Fresno State. At least we know he isn’t shy against that formidable Bulldogs defense. Chase Blakley didn’t have a catch against USU—the only time in November he’s been shut out.
TEDFORD AND COLORADO? WELLS AND TEXAS TECH?
Harsin’s name is being tossed about for various head coach openings, as it usually is this time of the year. But the other championship game coach, Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford, seems to be in the middle of the fray. Tedford is reportedly on the short list for the Colorado job, which has also been linked to Harsin and Utah State coach Matt Wells. Some, like Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, see Wells as an intriguing possibility for Texas Tech. “Wells has never coached in Texas but he is highly thought of in coaching circles, and the timing is good here for him because he’s 10-2,” writes Feldman. “This year his team is averaging 47 points per game, third only to Oklahoma and Alabama. That’s a nice selling point, especially for a place that loves offense like Lubbock.”
MARTIN’S JUST DOING HIS JOB
Doug Martin may be in the wrong place at the wrong time with Oakland, but he’s keeping his chin up. Jon Gruden isn’t using the former Boise State star as an every-down back, but he did log 11 carries on Sunday for 51 yards and a touchdown (his first as a Raider). Martin also had three catches for 21 yards, and he did it all on 28 snaps in a 34-17 loss at Baltimore. And hey, I saw Ryan Dinwiddie puffing on a big ol’ cigar on Facebook. The Boise State alum and Calgary quarterbacks coach is getting a Grey Cup ring as part of the Stampeders team that beat the Ottawa Redblacks 27-16 in Edmonton Sunday for the CFL title.
LAST TIME AROUND FOR MW/MVC
The Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge is now in its final season, with three games tipping off the series tonight, including Boise State at Drake. Many are glad to see the event go, hoping it will be replaced by a Mountain West/Atlantic 10 Challenge, but occasionally there is some sizzle. One of the other games tonight features a rematch of the Sweet 16 contest last March between Nevada, which is up to No. 5 in the new AP Poll, against Final Four participant Loyola Chicago, a game won 69-68 by the Ramblers. The MW has the all-time lead over the seven seasons of competition with the MVC, 38-28. Boise State is 4-1 in the Challenge.
One of Boise State’s most impressive offensive performances in history came against Drake, a 108-64 rout in Taco Bell Arena seven years ago. That kind of explosion will not be replicated tonight, even with the Broncos’ leading scorer, RJ Williams, expected back after the shoulder injury he suffered a week ago at the Cayman Islands Classic. Boise State was without both Williams and Alex Hobbs in the tournament finale. It’s hard to figure how these teams match up tonight. Drake is 3-1 so far, but its wins have come against Buena Vista, Texas State and UMKC. The Bulldogs’ only loss came at Colorado, where the Buffaloes prevailed 100-71.
BRAVES BANKING ON A FORMER HAWK’S COMEBACK
Josh Donaldson, the only former Boise Hawk to win an American League Most Valuable Player award, has signed a one-year, $23 million deal with the Atlanta Braves. Donaldson was besieged by injuries last year, first with Toronto and then with Cleveland after a midseason trade. He played just 52 games and batted .246. But the Braves are counting on the player who smashed 41 homers and drove in 123 while winning the 2015 MVP award with the Blue Jays, one year before fellow ex-Hawk was named National League MVP with the Cubs. Donaldson played for Boise in 2007, hitting .346 with nine homers and 35 RBIs.
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November 27, 1958, 60 years ago today: Boise Junior College wins the national JC championship with a 22-0 win over Tyler, Texas, before 8,500 fans on Thanksgiving Day at old Bronco Stadium. The Broncos were coached by Lyle Smith, who recorded his fifth undefeated season with the win. Smith led BJC for 21 seasons, going 156-26-6. That included a 37-game winning streak from 1947-50. Smith retired from coaching after the 1967 season and became the first athletic director for Boise State College.
(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.)