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Thursday, January 3, 2019.
It was the tale of two catalysts as Boise State opened Mountain West play Wednesday night with a 69-55 win at Wyoming. It was the ideal reset after a 5-8 run through non-conference play. At the offensive end it was Alex Hobbs, who scored 12 of his game-high 17 points in the second half to help build a 22-point lead before the Broncos coasted to the finish line. Not to be overlooked are the seven rebounds and six assists logged by Hobbs. One of the differences in this one was offensive opportunities. In the loss to Oregon, Boise State squandered possession after possession with its 19 turnovers. Versus the Pokes, the Broncos turned it over just six times while forcing 15.
The Cowboys, now 4-10, are not exactly explosive, but they do have All-Mountain West guard Justin James, who came into the matchup averaging 22.4 points per game. Marcus Dickinson was assigned to him in Laramie—and James went 1-for-14 from the field and was held to just seven points. Dickinson can be forgiven for going 1-for-7 from the field himself. As coach Leon Rice said on his KBOI postgame show, Dickinson was “locked in” defensively. Rice pointed out that Dickinson was also the guy who guarded Oregon star Payton Pritchard last Saturday and held him to 1-for-10 shooting. That’s a combined 2-for-24 from two marquee players.
WILL THE BRUINS MAKE A FUSS OVER MUSS?
Nevada’s Eric Musselman is in the conversation as UCLA begins its search for a replacement for the fired Steve Alford. Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com notes: “With a lot of talent set to leave Reno after this season, it would make for an easier exit than last year or in 2020. Musselman would of course listen if UCLA called: it’s UCLA. He’s traveled a path more varied than almost anyone in college coaching at this point, and hasn’t stayed in one place longer than four seasons in the past 21 years. The 54-year-old Musselman is 95-29 as a college coach (after Wednesday night’s 72-49 rout of Utah State), all games with the Wolf Pack. If Nevada winds up dominating in Mountain West, the iron will probably never be hotter for him.” The Bruins would be crazy not to talk to him.
IMPORTANT FIRST STEP FOR THE BRONCO WOMEN
As the Boise State women try to defend their Mountain West championship, Wyoming is one of the main roadblocks. But the Broncos evaded round one Wednesday night by opening conference play with a 72-64 win over the Cowgirls in Taco Bell Arena. Of course, they’ll face Wyo again later in the season on the road. Wyoming led this one by a point at halftime before a 21-10 Boise State run created enough separation to fuel a victory. The Broncos had only one player in double figures, but that’s all it took—Riley Lupfer poured in 22 points, including four three-pointers.
ANOTHER ONE-AND-DONE ON THE DEFENSIVE STAFF
The biggest rebuilding task for Boise State’s defense in the offseason isn’t on the depth chart, but on the coaching staff. A second position coach has left the Broncos for greener pastures (literally), as cornerbacks coach Jeff Popovich has accepted a cornerbacks/special teams spot at Georgia Tech, where he’ll be in charge of kickoff and punt coverage. The Power 5 provides more money to Popovich and his family, but perhaps just as importantly, Georgia Tech is in his part of the country (even though he’s originally from Tucson). Popovich played at Miami in the late 1990s and has had coaching stops at UTSA and Florida International, working with new Yellowjackets coach Geoff Collins at the latter. Popovich leaves after just one year with Boise State, same as defensive line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a, who departed for USC.
RYPIEN THE RUSHER
One little piece of drama that ended up being resolved by the cancellation of the First Responder Bowl last week: would Brett Rypien finish his senior year with positive yards rushing for the first time? Going into the game Rypien had 85 carries for a net 12 yards this season, and that’s where he finishes. It’s a nice stat considering the duress under which he constantly found himself. But seriously folks, every interaction we’ve seen, heard or read between the media and Rypien since the astonishing end to his career in Dallas have been first-class, with emotional tributes to the Boise State program and honest acknowledgment of the lows as well as the highs. Rypien holds a deserved spot among the Bronco greats.
MARTIN LEAVES A MARK – NOW WHAT?
It was the sourest of seasons in Oakland, as the Raiders were not only saddled with a 4-12 season, they don’t yet have a place to play in 2020. Coach Jon Gruden’s judgment was questioned from Week 1, but his faith in Doug Martin down the stretch was not. Martin finished the season with back-to-back 100-yard games and accumulated 624 of his 723 rushing yards this season after Raiders starter Marshawn Lynch was lost for the season in late October. He averaged 4.2 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns, all in the past six games. Now, what happens to the former Boise State star this year? Martin turns 30 in 10 days and does not have a contract for 2019.
MERRITT PLAYS WITH THE LUMINARIES
This is a great way for Troy Merritt to tee off the 2019 portion of the PGA Tour season. Merritt is part of an exclusive 34-player field in the Sentry Tournament of Champions today at Kapalua, HI. The former Boise State star qualified as the winner of the Barbasol Championship last summer. When we left off in mid-November, Merritt had made the cut in all four of his tournaments and had a top five finish at the season-opening Safeway Open. He’s 49th in FedExCup standings with earnings of $322,233.
AN AWARD AMIDST AN AVALANCHE OF GOALS
The way the Idaho Steelheads have been putting the puck in the net, they had to have somebody in the running for ECHL Player of the Week honors. Defenseman Nolan Gluchowski got it on Wednesday. Gluchowski scored one goal and added five assists in two games at Rapid City last week. The 24-year-old notched an assist in a 9-1 rout of the Rush last Friday and followed that up with five points—a goal and four helpers—in a 6-1 romp on Saturday. Do the math and you can figure out the big story here. The Steelies have scored a whopping 28 goals in the past four games going into their weekend series at Tulsa.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!
January 3, 2004, 15 years ago today: The Humanitarian Bowl gets a one-time-only opportunity—a spot on ESPN’s schedule all by itself on a Saturday in January. Furthermore, it was sandwiched in between the BCS bowls. But the game was a blowout, with Georgia Tech’s P.J. Daniels running for 307 yards, still the most ever in a bowl game, in a 52-10 Yellowjackets rout of Tulsa in Bronco Stadium. Helped by seven sacks, Tech held the Golden Hurricane to minus-56 yards rushing.
(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.)