Imagine, if you will, the scenario Jim Grobe walked into May 30. He had been urged to become the interim head coach at Baylor, as it was too late for the Bears to go through the hiring of a new head coach upon the firing of Art Briles. “Here’s a guy who was a high-character guy, a high-value guy, who’s run a program before,” said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin of his foe in the Cactus Bowl December 27. But Grobe had to adher to the system Baylor already in place, and he had to work with all the previous assistants. Grobe’s son, Kendal, is still the offensive coordinator. The Bears started 6-0 and finished 0-6. Is it really that surprising? “Probably one of the most unique situations in college football that you’ll ever see,” Harsin said. “Not many people would step up and be in the role that he’s decided to be in.”
Grobe coached at Wake Forest for 13 years, leading the Demon Deacons to the 2006 ACC championship and a berth in the Orange Bowl. But Grobe resigned (and retired, for all practical purposes) at the end of 2013 after five consecutive losing seasons. “You admire him—and look forward to meeting him and getting a chance to play against him,” said Harsin. Tommy Elrod, the Wake Forest broadcaster accused of leaking game plan information to opponents, coached under Grobe. But that’s beside the point. No suggestions of impropriety are being attached to Elrod’s coaching years.
Not only will Grobe have talented true freshman quarterback Zach Smith to work with one more time in the Cactus Bowl, new Baylor coach Matt Rhule will have Smith as a sophomore (and beyond). There was some doubt cast on that Wednesday when Smith suggested he’d wait until after the Boise State game to decide whether to return next season. But Smith later clarified on Twitter that he’s “100% in with my brothers.” The Bears are more stable than you think going into this game. Grobe says said none of the members of his coaching staff, all of whom will be free agents two weeks from now, have left for other jobs and plan to coach against the Broncos.
Recognition for a great season has been hard to come by for Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols (although maybe that’s a local look through blue-and-orange colored glasses). But McNichols was named a third-team selection on the Athlon Sports All-America squad yesterday. He leads the nations with 27 total touchdowns, is fourth in all-purpose yards with 2,185, and is fifth in rushing yards with 1,663. Now, does McNichols have one game or one year left at Boise State? And how about this one? New Bronco quarterback signee Rathen Ricedorff has been named a first-team junior college All-American.
We’re getting our first peek at the weather for next Thursday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. As brutal as this weekend is going to be, game day is looking closer to normal. Not warm. Just normal. The latest forecast says partly sunny and a high of 33 for Idaho and Colorado State. When fans really want to be there, a 33-degree high will be just fine. And Vandal fans want to be there. We had a 39-degree day for Utah State and Akron last year, but not enough people wanted to be there.
Bowl season attendance becomes more of a challenge every year. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl has experienced it the past few years but gets a respite this year with its Idaho-Colorado State matchup. Vandal fans will be out en masse. Will it outdraw the New Mexico Bowl, the first game of the bowl season tomorrow? The Albuquerque Journal points out that, despite an 8-4 season, New Mexico averaged a scant 18,708 fans at home this season. That’s down from 22,562 last year, which was down from 26,944 in 2009, the first year of the miserable Mike Locksley era. Just 11 years ago, New Mexico drew a record 38,341 fans per game. The Lobos lost their fan base, and not even Bob Davie—and a second straight hometown bowl game—can get it back. And UTSA is not lighting a fire in the Land of Enchantment.
Later in the day tomorrow, San Diego State and Houston face off in the Las Vegas Bowl in one of the best Group of 5 matchups in the postseason. The Aztecs’ Donnel Pumphrey will seek to become college football’s career rushing leader—he currently has 6,290 yards, 108 away from breaking the record of Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne. On the other side, Houston’s defense is third in the nation in rush defense, allowing just 97.9 yards per game. The Cougars’ transition team will be on full display. Star quarterback Greg Ward Jr. will be finishing his career, while new coach Major Applewhite will be making his debut after being promoted to replace Texas-bound Tom Herman.
Sunday’s game in Taco Bell Arena will mark the 93rd time Idaho State and Boise State have met in hoops since first facing off during the 1968-69 season (BSU leads the series 51-41). But it’s the first time the Broncos and Bengals have played in five years. ISU is 2-8, having endured an early season that has included road games at New Mexico, Utah State, Texas Tech and Wisconsin. Idaho State has a couple home games against more down-to-earth opponents in advance of its trip across the state. The Bengals breezed past Bristol 80-61 last Saturday night, and they host Montana Tech tonight. The first game of Sunday’s doubleheader pits the Boise State women against Portland, with coach Gordy Presnell gunning for his 600th career victory.
Unless something shocking happens, it’ll be Branden Komm between the pipes tonight when the Idaho Steelheads try to break a four-game losing streak against Rapid City. About 2½ weeks after being assigned to the Steelheads by the Texas Stars, Philippe Desrosiers has been recalled and is back in the AHL. Desrosiers played five games with the Steelies, with lukewarm results. He was 1-1-1 for Idaho with a 3.63 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. The games tonight and tomorrow night against the Rush are the final two of the calendar year in CenturyLink Arena.
Other goings-on this weekend, the Northwest Passage Ski Mountaineering Race begins this afternoon at Brundage Mountain, as elite racers navigate their way up the slopes and down again for a shot at the 2017 Ski Mountaineering World Championship in Transcavallo, Italy. The No. 24 College of Idaho men’s hoops team hosts No. 7 Northwest Christian tonight and Corban tomorrow night in Caldwell. And the Idaho Vandals finally get to play in Cowan Spectrum tomorrow when they host Northwest Nazarene. NNU is 4-4 and is coming off its win over C of I in the Mayors’ Cup 10 days ago. The Crusaders have designated this game as an exhibition. The Vandals are 4-5.
This Day In Sports…December 16, 2005:
Dan Hawkins ends what was at the time the best coaching run in the history of Boise State football when he is introduced as the new head coach at Colorado. Hawkins went 53-11 in five seasons at BSU with four straight WAC championships and bowl appearances and three Top 15 finishes. Offensive coordinator Chris Petersen was simultaneously announced as the Broncos’ new head coach. Ironically, it was that day BSU first practiced in Hawkins’ pet project, the Broncos’ new indoor practice facility.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)