Idaho Sports Talk with Bob Behler


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SCOTT SLANT: Now it’s Rocky every year

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020.

Boise State fans don’t have to wait until 2021 to see Rocky Long again. During his years as San Diego State head coach, the Broncos would face him just two out of every four years. But they’ll compete against him this fall, and next fall, and the one after that—as long as he’s in Albuquerque. Long has returned to the school where he played quarterback and later coached, as he’s been hired as defensive coordinator at New Mexico under new head coach Danny Gonzales, his one-time player and assistant. It’s a game-changer in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West. Long was coach at UNM from 1999-2008 and went 65-69. The Lobos haven’t been the same since. He was 81-38 in nine seasons as head coach of the Aztecs. Boise State will reacquaint with Long at New Mexico next season.

THE GUYS WHO NEED TO BE GOOD…ARE SO FAR

With winter conditioning in full swing at Boise State, the team has started handing out its weight room awards. The Iron Men for Week 1 were two of the most important players on the team in 2020, Avery Williams and Demitri Washington. Williams has two-pronged motivation going into his senior year: defending his crown as Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year, and improving on a season at cornerback that didn’t live up to expectations. Williams would like to recreate his sophomore year after going interception-less and breaking up just four passes in 2020. Washington is increasingly seen as Curtis Weaver’s heir-apparent at STUD end/linebacker. Ironically, Washington had three sacks over the last three games of last season—and Weaver zero.

BRONCOS OVER ONE HUMP

Under the radar (maybe) is the fact that Boise State hoops has equaled its win total from last season. The disappointing record of 13-20 has turned into 13-8 with at least 10 games to go. Halfway through the Mountain West schedule, the Broncos are in a four-way tie for fourth place in the conference at 5-4—the top five get byes in the Mountain West Tournament in March. B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press pulled out this nugget: “Boise State was ranked No. 119 in the KenPom computer rankings before the Utah State game. After the crazy comeback and a 34-point road win at Fresno State, Broncos now sit at No. 90. That’s a 29-spot jump in eight days. Don’t see quick rises like that very often.”

AZTECS ARE NOW ALL-TIMERS

When it takes 21 straight wins to open the season to break the school record for “best start,” you’ve got a pretty good basketball program. So it is with San Diego State, which reached the 21-0 mark after holding off UNLV 71-67 Sunday afternoon. SDSU, the only undefeated team in the country, stayed at No. 4 in both polls Monday. Malachi Flynn led the Aztecs with 21 points in Las Vegas, something he does often on the road. Flynn is averaging 13.9 points at home this season—and 19.9 points away from Viejas Arena. San Diego State will be in ExtraMile Arena on President’s Day weekend.

BOISE STATE COACHING TREE CATCH-UP

You probably heard about the comings and goings on Justin Wilcox’s staff at Cal over the weekend. First, former Boise State star Gerald Alexander left the Bears staff after three seasons to become defensive backs coach with the Miami Dolphins. It’s a stretch to say Alexander is headed for familiar territory, but he did play two games with the Dolphins in 2011. He’s also coached at Arkansas State, Washington, Indiana State and Montana State. Alexander, now 35, was a senior when Wilcox was a first-year defensive coordinator under Chris Petersen at Boise State in 2006. Alexander finished his career with an interception against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

Second, Wilcox hired Marcel Yates to replace Alexander at Cal. The two coached together on Petersen’s staff at Boise State from 2006-09, when Yates was secondary coach. Yates was a Broncos assistant for 11 seasons over two stints, leaving in 2016 to become D-coordinator at Arizona. He was fired from his Wildcats post at the end of last October. Yates played for Boise State from 1996-99—one of the players who saw the entire transformation from the 2-10 season his freshman year to 10-3 with Big West and Humanitarian Bowl championships as a senior.

This transaction is one that’s not nearly as noticeable, especially if you’re, well, young. Phil Snow is the new Carolina Panthers defensive coodinator, hired by new coach Matt Ruhle after spending the past three seasons as Ruhle’s D-coordinator at Baylor. Snow was an assistant at Boise State from 1982-86, beginning as defensive backs coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator his second year. That was an era of stout defense for the Broncos. Snow’s unit ranked sixth in the nation in Division I-AA total defense in 1986 (the first year of the blue turf).

THE MAMBA CUP

The outpouring of emotion following the death of Kobe Bryant has been staggering. Some were very close to the epicenter of Sunday’s tragedy, including the Hoop Dreams eighth-grade girls basketball team from Boise. As detailed in a story by John Wustrow at IdahoPress.com, the team was playing in the Mamba Cup on Sunday in Thousand Oaks, CA, and was waiting to watch “The Mambas,” Bryant’s team that included his daughter, Gianna. Wustrow writes that “the Boise team had connected with Bryant after playing the team he coached in another Mamba Cup game last month. Bryant was so impressed with their play, he invited them to come back for the tournament this past weekend.” Hoop Dreams coach George Rodriquez had developed a special connection with Kobe. Check out Wustrow’s story.

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January 28, 2017: Serena Williams cements herself as the best women’s tennis player of all-time when she wins a record 23rd career major championship at the Australian Open, surpassing Steffi Graf’s Open Era standard. And this one couldn’t have been set up any better, as the 35-year-old Serena was going against her 36-year-old sister, Venus, winning 6-4, 6-4. One day later, the Australian Open produced more nostalgia—and drama—as 35-year-old Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal in five sets. It was Federer’s 18th title in a major, but his first since 2012.

(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.)

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SCOTT SLANT: On all cylinders in Save Mart

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Monday, January 27, 2020.

Never before this season had we seen Boise State move the ball as crisply on offense nor pursue more doggedly on defense. Any questions about the Broncos’ ability to handle success following the rollicking comeback versus Utah State were answered Saturday evening with an 87-53 thrashing of Fresno State. Not only was it Boise State’s biggest margin of victory in a conference road game in nearly 16 years, it was the Bulldogs’ worst loss ever in Save Mart Center. You can point to any of a number of Boise State runs as the key to the rout, but I’ll go with this one. After Fresno State had pulled to within 47-37 with just over 13 minutes remaining in the game, the Broncos finished on a 40-16 run. Their largest lead of the night, 34 points, was the last one.

Boise State is pretty good when it has multiple weapons clicking at the same time. It hasn’t been happening with regularity, but the Broncos had it going at Fresno State. In the first half, Justinian Jessup took his turn, setting aside his road-shooting woes to hit four three-pointers. Jessup finished with 19 points and a game-high eight rebounds. In the second half, Abu Kigab was the main man, putting up 14 of his game-high 23 points. It’s the fifth time in Kigab’s 11 games as a Bronco he’s scored 15 or more points. Also, Derrick Alston and R.J. Williams each scored 14 points and combined for nine assists. And RayJ Dennis, in his next outing following his epic performance against USU, had only four points, but he dished out five assists.

KOBE

The joy of Saturday night’s victory—of any victory—was deflated by the gut-wrenching news that Kobe Bryant died at the age of 41, along with Bryant’s daughter Gianna and seven others, Sunday morning in a helicopter crash. Kigab was one of the millions crushed by Bryant’s death, tweeting, “You are the reason I wear number 24 on the court! You inspired me and so many others to find the best versions of ourself! Thank you for everything you’ve done both on and off the court! You’ll live with us forever!” The Lakers played the Seattle SuperSonics in an exhibition game in the BSU Pavilion in October, 1996. Kobe was a new Laker, fresh out of high school, two months after his 18th birthday. He didn’t suit up, but he was on the bench in a sweater and slacks as everyone wondered how good he would be. So very good, on so many levels.

BACHMEIER’S BIG RESET BUTTON

Spring football promises to be valuable for Hank Bachmeier, as the Boise State sophomore is likely to get almost all of the No. 1 reps at quarterback. Coach Bryan Harsin guested on Idaho SportsTalk Friday and said Chase Cord’s health status for spring drills is undetermined. “Chase has had some things cleaned up, and he’s rehabbing right now,” said Harsin. Mike Prater mentioned that Cord’s right arm/shoulder is currently in a sling. If Cord is limited, this will be the second straight spring that he’s missed snaps. He was out all last spring while healing the torn ACL he suffered in practice in October, 2018. Bachmeier is moving on from his last on-field memory, the 119-yard passing night against Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl.

FOUR OPTIONS = ONE, REALLY

Developments in the world of Boise State football have provided word count opportunities for national writers. Bill Bender of Sporting News penned a column headlined, “Weighing Boise State’s four best options if it leaves Mountain West.” The routes he came up with (in order) were the AAC, independence, the Pac-12 and the Big 12. It’s important to quickly point out that independence would be bad news, and that Bender downplays the chances of the latter two options ever happening. One key factor? Attendance. While the Broncos were No. 1 in the Mountain West last season, they were No. 67 overall in the FBS. A Big 12 schedule would surely make a difference, but would it really sell out Albertsons Stadium every time out? That’s what would have to happen short of any expansion plans for the facility.

Writes Bender: “When the Big 12 held an audition of sorts for possible expansion, Boise State was one of the best candidates in the pool. But the Broncos would have the 10th-best home attendance in the Big 12, only ahead of Kansas. Every other school in the conference ranks in the top 50. It’s a deal where Boise State fits from a football perspective—they would be able to compete with Kansas State, TCU and Iowa State on a yearly basis—but the regional interest in the Broncos simply wouldn’t justify their inclusion.” True, maybe. A move to the Power 5 would mean a significant attendance bump, though. In 2011, TCU’s last season in the Mountain West, its average attendance was 33,686. In 2012, the Horned Frogs’ first year in the Big 12, their average was 46,047, 104 percent of capacity.

STEELIES STOPPED COLD SUNDAY

It’s unusual for Idaho Steelheads standout goalie Tomas Sholl to be pulled during a game, but after allowing five goals through the first two periods Sunday in Tulsa, coach Everett Sheen had to make a move. Colton Point came on to finish the 6-2 loss to the Oilers, the Steelheads’ second defeat of a three-game weekend. The Steelies’ first two contests were at Kansas City, and they did manage a 4-3 shootout victory Friday night. Captain A.J. White started the scoring for Idaho in that one, and he finished it when he was the only player on either team to find the net in the shootout.

AROUND THE HOOPS HORN

The Fresno State women went on a stunning 35-point fourth-quarter scoring spree Saturday afternoon to blow past Boise State 85-80 in ExtraMile Arena. It was a devastating loss for the Broncos, who had a 17-point lead in the second quarter and a 10-point advantage with less than nine minutes left in the fourth. Two controversial moments helped the Bulldogs at the end: a charge called on Jayde Christopher with 16 seconds remaining when the opponent’s feet didn’t appear to be close to stationary, and a no-call when it looked like Riley Lupfer was fouled on a three-point attempt with three seconds left. Boise State now sits three games behind Fresno State in the Mountain West race.

Ricardo Time went 1-for-5 from the field for No. 3 College of Idaho Friday night. But the bucket he made was one he’ll never forget. Time drained a three-pointer with two seconds left to carry the Coyotes past No. 15 Southern Oregon 73-72 in Caldwell. The Yotes trailed 72-64 with 55 seconds left—then scored the final nine points of the game to win it. C of I followed with a 70-59 win Saturday night over No. 5 Oregon Tech, led by Nate Bruneel’s 25 points. The Yotes’ win streak is now 13 games. And Northwest Nazarene won its fifth game in a row Saturday night, beating Concordia in Portland 75-60. The Nighthawks have moved into a tie for third in the GNAC.

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January 27, 2013: Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin becomes the first former Boise State player ever to score a touchdown in the Pro Bowl, pulling in a 28-yard pass from a fellow standout rookie, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. The score helped the NFC rout the AFC 62-35 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. Martin’s first year in the NFL produced 1,454 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, plus 49 receptions for 472 yards and another TD. His 1,926 yards from scrimmage were the third-most in the NFL that season. He also set a Bucs’ record by rushing for 251 yards in a November game at Oakland.

(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.)

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SCOTT SLANT: Time for RayJ’s next stage

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Friday, January 24, 2020.

Tomorrow is the second day of the rest of RayJ Dennis’ basketball life. The Boise State true freshman broke out last Saturday like no one else before him, scoring 19 points in the last 3½ minutes of regulation to key the Broncos’ overtime conquest of Utah State. Fresno State had to adjust its set when watching tape of Dennis, but the Bulldogs have seen it now and will have a plan for him Saturday evening in Save Mart Center. Dennis should be a different player moving forward now that he’s tasted success and developed confidence. He had scored only 20 points over the previous nine games, but coach Leon Rice sensed something, having started Dennis the past four contests.

SENIOR SUPPORTING CAST

When you watch a highlights package of last Saturday night’s epic comeback and overtime victory (and there are lots of them out there), you see Justinian Jessup almost as much as you do Dennis. It was Jessup who drove the wagon in the OT, giving Boise State its first lead of the game with a layin and free throw a minute and a half in, then drilling a clinching three-pointer with a minute remaining. Jessup ended up with 15 points for the game and has been in double-figures in seven of the Broncos’ eight Mountain West games. He now has 284 career three-pointers, just 16 short of the conference record held by BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. Despite a couple of clunkers, Jessup is shooting 43.5 percent from beyond the arc in league. He did not hit one last year at Fresno State, though.

HOW REALISTIC IS THIS AAC TALK?

Is this lawsuit—er, complaint—just smoke and mirrors, or does Boise State have options for its football program in this dispute with the Mountain West? Dan Wolken of USA Today says yes. Writes Wolken: “The Mountain West’s peer league, the American Athletic Conference, is watching this soap opera closely, considering whether the time is right to make a play that would significantly strengthen its brand as the best football league outside the Power Five, kneecap its rival and fill a hole in its membership that was created when UConn announced it was leaving last summer.” Wolken says the wild card is whether the American conference would feel it needs the Broncos and would see their value as a football-only member.

WEAVER AT WORK IN JERRY WORLD

There’ll be some fun and games, literally, in the midst of serious NFL Draft prep for Curtis Weaver. The former Boise State star has been selected for the State Farm All-Star Football Challenge at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, a week from tonight on ESPN2. Twenty-four players will be divided into six teams for a series of skills contests—five teams representing each of the Power 5 conferences and the sixth featuring four Group of 5 standouts, called the “Wild Card” team. Weaver will be joined on that unit by former Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. Cameras will likely be drawn to Weaver’s effervescent personality.

TREASURE VALLEY COLLEGE QUINTET IN HONOLULU

The Hula Bowl is kind of a throwback college all-star game, and it returns Saturday after a 12-year absence, thanks to a deal with CBS Sports Network. The game in Honolulu includes players from the U.S., Japan and Australia. Five are from local teams, including College of Idaho offensive tackle Josh Brown, who already has one postseason appearance under his belt. Brown played every offensive snap for his squad in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl last week. He’ll be joined at Aloha Stadium by four Boise State representatives: defensive tackles David Moa and Sonatane Lui, tight end Garrett Collingham and safety Kekoa Nawahine.

A DRAG FOR DELAET

You hate to hear this, considering the ordeal Graham DeLaet’s back has put him through the past two-plus years. But the former Boise State star had to withdraw Thursday from the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines due to, yes, back problems. DeLaet just returned to the PGA Tour last October after missing two years due to a back injury. He was playing the 2019-20 season on a medical exemption. This is a sudden setback, as the former Boise State star was really looking forward to this tournament. “My game actually feels pretty close right now, you always know,” DeLaet said on the practice green on Monday, according to the Edmonton Sun. “Sometimes you kind of fake it and you say that, but right now it does.”

EXTRAMILE ARENA SHOWDOWN

The Boise State women’s biggest Mountain West game of the season is coming Saturday against Fresno State, and it’s not hard to figure out why. The Broncos were the preseason pick to win the Mountain West, but it’s the Bulldogs whom they’re chasing. Fresno State is 8-0 in conference, with Boise State two games back. This is the Broncos’ only shot at the Bulldogs this season. Braydey Hodgins will be a key—it seems she found her offensive game again with 17 points at Utah State last Saturday. All ghe while, Hodgins became the fourth member of her immediate family to become a 1,000-point collegiate scorer. Her mom, the former Karen Murray, did it at Washington, and her older sisters Delaney and Hayley both reached the milestone at Eastern Washington, where they are the top two career scorers.

RANKED VS.RANKED – AND STEELIES IN THE MIDWEST

There’s very little margin for error this weekend for College of Idaho if it is to extend its 12-game winning streak. The Coyotes are No. 3 in NAIA Division II—tonight they get No. 15 Southern Oregon at the J.A. Albertson Activities Center, followed by No. 5 Oregon Tech Saturday night. Last weekend C of I became only the third Cascade Conference team ever to start a season 11-0 in league play. One of the previous two was the Yotes’ 1995-96 team that went on to win the national championship under Marty Holly. And the Idaho Steelheads, who have dropped three of their last four games, play at Kansas City tonight and tomorrow night and at Tulsa on Sunday. The Steelheads lost 2-1 in a shootout at Utah on Martin Luther King Day.

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January 24, 2015, five years ago today: Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors scores 37 points in one quarter, the most in NBA history, in a 126-101 win over the Sacramento Kings. Thompson went off in the third quarter, going 13-for-13 from the field, 9-for-9 from beyond the arc, and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line. The nine three-pointers were also an NBA record for one quarter. The former Washington State Cougar finished with 52 points before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter.

(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.)

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SCOTT SLANT: Not your everyday fireworks

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Thursday, January 23, 2020.

“We will not support any change to this provision and are in the process of weighing our options to move forward,” said Boise State in a statement last Friday. The university was upset about Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson’s insinuation that this will be the last time the Broncos’ home football games will be sold separately outside of the confererence’s TV contract. Turns out Boise State was executing one of its “options” at the same time, as it filed a lawsuit (or complaint, depending on who you talk to) against the league that day in Ada County District Court. The terms sheet signed in December, 2012, when Broncos football returned to the MW after an annulled marriage with the Big East, contains no expiration date attached to the separate marketing of Boise State home games.

This is not just posturing for 2026, when the new Mountain West contract ends. Despite assuring Boise State the week of the Mountain West championship game that it was “the driving force behind the new, and much more favorable and profitable, deal with Fox” (according to the university), the meetings that followed discussed phasing out the Broncos’ bonus—even eliminating it immediately. Sometimes you’ve got to suck it up to keep the peace. Co-exist, you know. But this has gone beyond kumbaya. There was already motivation for any team facing Boise State, as the resentment has been building for years. It’s doubly so with this latest development. Then again, it might work both ways now.

SEMANTICS

Late in the day, both sides walked it back a bit when they released a joint statement: “Last week Boise State filed a complaint regarding media rights against the Mountain West Conference, however, that action alone does not formally begin a lawsuit. The University and the Mountain West are currently in discussions in hopes of bringing this matter to a resolution without litigation.” In his story at ESPN.com, Mark Schlabach calls it a “lawsuit.” Repeatedly. Whatever. Sounds like Boise State called the Mountain West’s bluff—and that the conference, perhaps, wasn’t expecting that. (We’ll see if the American Athletic Conference thinks about striking while the iron is hot.)

OUT OF THE WAY EARLY, FORTUNATELY

Boise State only plays Colorado State once this season, and it’s already done: the 75-64 win during the Mountain West’s early-bird week last month. Are you beginning to think the Broncos got the Rams at the right time? CSU has won seven of its last eight games, the latest an 86-68 cruise past Fresno State Wednesday night. Before that was a 105-72 humiliation of New Mexico last week. The Rams have climbed into a tie for third in the conference at 5-3 (they’re 14-7 overall).

ANOTHER HARD-TO-GAUGE FOE

As for Fresno State, it’s been a struggle for the Bulldogs this season. They’ve dropped six of their last eight games and have fallen to 6-13 overall and 2-6 in the Mountain West as they await Boise State Saturday evening in Save Mart Center. Fresno State is shooting just 41 percent from the field for the season. But the Bulldogs are deceiving, having lost a lot of close games. And they swept the Broncos last season. Boise State legendarily went 1-9 in games decided by one possession or in overtime in 2018-19, and one of the those was a 65-63 loss in Fresno. The Broncos are 3-1 in such games this season, including the epic comeback win over Utah State last Saturday night.

HIGHTOWER RAMPING UP

There’s not a lot of report card stuff out there on former Boise State star John Hightower following the East-West Shrine Bowl last Saturday in St. Petersburg. Hightower did fine, with two catches for 24 yards, one carry for 12 yards and a kickoff return for 16 yards. His next stop, hopefully, is the NFL Combine in Indianapolis late next month. If he does get his invite, scouts would like to see Hightower put on some low-bodyfat weight between now and then. He was listed at 6-2, 172 pounds on the Broncos roster last fall. There’s concern about Hightower’s ability to play off press coverage from NFL athletes. Once he finds space, though, look out.

DELAET BACK ON IN LA JOLLA

All eyes will be on 44-year-old Tiger Woods today as he makes his 2020 debut on the familiar grounds of Torrey Pines at the Farmers Insurance Open. Toiling in relative anonymity will be former Boise State star Graham DeLaet, making his second start of the new year. DeLaet, who turned 38 on Wednesday, missed the cut two weeks ago at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Fellow former Bronco Troy Merritt is taking this week off from the PGA Tour.

BATTER UP

We’ve always talked about college baseball in the Treasure Valley in terms of College of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene. This is the year we add in Boise State, and it happens in about four weeks when the Broncos open at Texas. But the Coyotes start first. C of I makes its 2020 debut today with a doubleheader against Taylor University in Chandler, AZ, the fourth straight year the Yotes have opened the season in January. They’re looking to rebound from last year’s difficult 16-35 campaign. NNU’s season opener is Friday, February 7.

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January 23, 1980, 40 years ago today: In his State of the Union message, President Jimmy Carter announces the U.S. Olympic team will not participate in the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the previous December. The U.S. was one of 65 countries that did not go to the Moscow Games, although those missing presented a number of reasons for their absence. To retaliate, the Soviet Union led a boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles that included 14 countries.

(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.)

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SCOTT SLANT: Does ‘W’ mark the spot?

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020.

One consensus takeaway from Boise State’s truly unbelievable comeback win over Utah State last Saturday night is that it could become a season-maker. That’s an interesting concept moving forward after the most improbable ending of the college hoops season. The 18-point rally was gutty, gritty and thrilling, and it was a perfect storm with RayJ Dennis catching fire the way he did. Was it just an out-of-body experience for the Broncos, or is this who they will be the last seven weeks of the season? They don’t have the benefit of tapping right into the massive momentum rolling out of the historic night, as they have the Mountain West’s mid-week bye tonight and don’t get back on the court until this Saturday night at Fresno State.

I haven’t seen this math on the stunning performance by Dennis. A lot has been made of Boise State trailing Utah State by 18 points with 4:10 left. But the Broncos were still down 18 until 3:37 remained, when R.J. Williams hit a pair of free throws—and Dennis re-entered the game. The true freshman, of course, scored 19 points in less than 3½ minutes. And for ease of calculation, let’s round it up to four minutes. A college basketball game is 40 minutes long, so take the final four minutes of regulation and multiply by 10. RayJ could have scored 190 points if he had stayed that hot all night. Safe to say he’s a starter for good.

AZTECS ARE BLOWING UP THE MOUNTAIN WEST

San Diego State nailed its 20th win of the season last night, and it was only January 21. The Aztecs entered Viejas Arena as 23-point favorites over Wyoming—the Cowboys covered, but it was still a 72-55 rout. SDSU, of course, hasn’t lost yet and is the only unbeaten team in the country. At No. 4, the Aztecs have equaled their top AP ranking ever, last reached nine years ago when they also started 20-0 with Kawhi Leonard and finished 34-3. San Diego State is now 9-0 halfway through its Mountain West schedule, and it’s hard to fathom anybody getting the best of the Aztecs down the stretch. By the way, Utah State bounced back with a vengeance last night, smothering Air Force 72-47 in Logan.

BOLT IS LEGIT

As if he needed to, Borah High’s Austin Bolt completely validated Boise State’s signing of him last month at Monday night’s Blue-Grey All-American Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Bolt started by hauling in touchdown passes of 12 and 37 yards—then he caught a 25-yard TD toss in overtime to give the West a 37-30 win over the East and was named the game’s offensive MVP. Considering the national talent in that high school football showcase, you can say that Bolt’s jaw-dropping senior season was not a mirage. That capped a good three-day stretch in Boise State’s recruiting world. There are two new verbals: graduate transfer linebacker Brock Miller from North Carolina State and two-way lineman and one-time USC commit Kyle Juergens from San Juan Capristrano, CA, who is slated to play on the O-line for the Broncos.

GRAHAM A GOOD GROUP OF 5 GET

At this time of year, two weeks before the traditional National Letter of Intent Day, good coaching candidates aren’t growing on trees, especially when Group of 5 schools are out looking. Hawaii was in a predicament with Nick Rolovich having bolted for Washington State last week, but the Rainbow Warriors have landed an experienced coach to replace him. Todd Graham, who parted ways with Arizona State at the end of the 2017 season, has been hired to replace Rolovich. Graham has also served as head coach at Pittsburgh, Tulsa and Rice. His four-year stint at Tulsa may be the best indicator of what he could do at Hawaii. Graham went 36-17 with the Golden Hurricane, who gave Boise State its closest regular-season call when the Broncos went undefeated in 2009, falling 28-21.

CORREA HAS HAD HIS BREAKOUT

No former Boise State Bronco in the NFL has more momentum going into the offseason than Kamalei Correa of the Tennessee Titans. The Titans’ Cinderella run came to a halt in Sunday’s 35-24 loss at Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game, but not before Correa registered a team-leading 10 tackles. Six of them were solo, including one sack of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The tackles total shattered Correa’s previous career-high of six set in a win over Indianapolis on December 1. He seems poised for a feature role on Tennessee’s defense in 2020.

NEW HOME FOR TYLER RAUSA’S TOE

If you follow former Boise State kicker Tyler Rausa on social media, you know that he often posts video of his kicking sessions (many of them on the blue turf). Rausa’s been training hard for a shot, and he got one Tuesday by signing with the new DC Defenders of the XFL. Rausa set a Broncos record for single-season field goals when he nailed 25-of-30 in 2015. The XFL season opens Saturday, February 8.

A BLEYMAIER IN THE BIGGEST BOWL

So who is the lone local tie in Super Bowl 54? Bishop Kelly grad Joe Bleymaier is in his fourth season on the Kansas City Chiefs staff and is now the assistant quarterbacks coach and pass game analyst. It’s been fun work with Mahomes at the helm at QB. Bleymaier, the son of former Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier, got into coaching as an intern for three years under current Chiefs coach Andy Reid in Philadelphia a decade ago. Bleymaier played college ball at Delaware and was part of the Blue Hens’ 2003 Division I-AA national championship team.

I sat with Gene Bleymaier and his wife Danell on a flight from Oakland to Boise on Monday and got updated. Yes, they are going to the Super Bowl in Miami to root Joe on. Gene was hoping for a Green Bay-Kansas City Super Bowl for nostalgia’s sake. Not only would his son be on one sideline, it would have been a rematch of the first Super Bowl, then called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. The Packers beat the Chiefs 35-10 in January, 1967, and Gene attended as a 14-year-old in the L.A. Coliseum. We talked about a wide range of college sports issues. But unfortunately, none of that stuff was on the record…

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January 22, 2017: The Los Angeles Lakers suffer the worst loss in their storied history, falling 122-73 to the Dallas Mavericks. The 49-point thrashing edged the Lakers’ two previous worst margins of defeat of 48 points, one of which came in a 123-75 rout at Utah the previous March. That was toward the end of the worst season in franchise history, a 17-65 campaign in 2015-16. L.A. was trying to rebuild under new coach Luke Walton, but this was a setback, to be sure.

(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.)

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Friday, January 17, 2020.

I always felt like Matt Miller had unfinished business at Boise State. His senior year ended unceremoniously with a ligament injury in his leg that finally put him on the shelf for good at the end of September in 2014. At that point Miller was already the Broncos’ career receptions leader with 244 catches. How many more would he have had with nine games left that season? Now Miller gets to oversee other Boise State pass-catchers gather numbers as he returns to his alma mater as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Miller well-versed in the Broncos’ M.O., having spent three seasons (plus a redshirt year) under Chris Petersen, and one under Bryan Harsin. He’s humble, disciplined and knowledgable .

Miller brings great coaching experience from his four-year stint at Montana State (less than two hours from his hometown of Helena). Miller toiled under coach Jeff Choate, the former Boise State assistant, who promoted him to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at MSU midway through the 2018 campaign. The Bobcats then made the FCS Playoffs each of the past two seasons. Miller was also recruiting coordinator at Montana State—do not forget that piece of the puzzle. He has history here. It’s hard to forget Miller’s first collegiate touchdown catch, opening the scoring for the Broncos in the 35-21 win over Georgia at the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta in 2011. Partly because it was the 100th TD pass of Kellen Moore’s career.

LOCAL HERITAGE OF THE SHRINE GAME

With Boise State’s John Hightower getting ready for what’s now called the East-West Shrine Bowl tomorrow in St. Petersburg, we reflect on the days when it was big—and fans really turned out. I’ve always liked Boise State’s history in the East-West Shrine Game. It was the first major all-star game to invite any Broncos during the Division II days, beginning with the late Don Hutt in 1974. Of Boise State’s representatives over the years,11 have made NFL: Charles Leno Jr., 2014; Tyrone Crawford, 2012; Brandyn Thompson and Winston Venable, 2011; Daryn Colledge, 2006; Quintin Mikell, 2003; Matt Hill, 2002; Dempsy Dees, 2001; Dave Stachelski, 2000; and, last but not least, Cedric Minter and David Hughes, 1981. Brett Rypien played in last year’s East-West Shrine Game and is still waiting for his first NFL snap.

A BLUE & PURPLE MIXTURE

You could have a Bronco and a Coyote playing alongside each other on the offensive line in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Saturday at the Rose Bowl. Set to represent Boise State is John Molchon, who could sneak into the tail end of the draft this spring. Molchon professes to be healthy after playing through on a broken foot during the fall. College of Idaho’s Josh Brown will also be in uniform Saturday. The 6-7, 305-pound Brown was a consensus NAIA All-American this past season, leading the Yotes to an undefeated regular-season and a Frontier Conference title. He is one of only four non-Division I athletes selected to play in the game.

MCCARTHY’S TRADITIONAL GAME PLAN CHANGES

In one fell swoop Thursday, new Dallas coach Mike McCarthy confirmed that not only will Kellen Moore be retained as offensive coordinator, he’ll also contine to be the Cowboys’ play-caller. “I love calling plays,” McCarthy told SI.com last week. That comment had a lot of observers assuming he’d keep doing that in Jerry World, especially since he had called plays for most of his 13 years with the Packers. But McCarthy obviously likes Moore’s mind. “I wanted to make sure we were able to capitalize on what has been established here,” McCarthy said in an ESPN.com story. “Between us we can take this offense forward another step.” The Cowboys led the NFL in total offense this season under Kellen.

SEASON AT A CROSSROADS

Boise State men’s basketball was supposed to be much improved this season. To be sure, the record is—even at 11-8 with losses in three of the last four games. A real sign of recovery would be a 20-win season, a level the Broncos had reached for six straight seasons before the 13-20 disappointment last winter. There are 12 guaranteed games left on the schedule (including the first round of the Mountain West Tournament). So Boise State will have to go 9-3 to assure itself of 20 victories. That makes Saturday night’s game against Utah State in ExtraMile Arena rather huge. An upset of the Aggies is essential. The other issue is the conference tournament—the top five teams in the regular season get first-round byes, and the Broncos are currently in eighth place.

AGGIES READY FOR REJUVENATION?

What is this curiosity known as the 2019-20 Utah State men’s basketball team? The Aggies, the defending Mountain West Tournament champions and preseason conference favorites, were once ranked 15th in the country in December. But USU is just 1-3 since the new year dawned. On the other hand, the Aggies have wins over LSU and Florida in their portfolio. Neemias Queta, the 7-foot handful from Portugal, has played only seven games this season due to injury, but he’s active now (and Boise State doesn’t match up well against him). Utah State is rested for its test in Boise, enjoying this week’s Mountain West mid-week bye after taking down Nevada 80-70 last Saturday in Logan. Queta had 19 points and seven rebounds in that one. Lest we forget Sam Merrill…

HODGINS HONES IN ON 1,000, C OF I GOES FOR A DOZEN

Boise State’s Braydey Hodgins has been in single-digits in scoring in six of the past seven games. That has drawn out Hodgins’ inevitable march toward 1,000 points. But you’d think she’ll get it Saturday when the Broncos visit Utah State. Hodgins doesn’t need double-figures now, as she’s just seven points away from becoming the 22nd thousand-pointer in Boise State history. On the men’s side at College of Idaho, the Coyotes try to extend their winning streak to 12 games with matchups Saturday and Sunday against Walla Walla at the J.A. Albertson Activities Center. The Yotes are doin’ it with defense. On Wednesday night, Eastern Oregon came to Caldwell averaging a whopping 98 points per game and left with a 67-58 loss.

PRO-POURRI

The standings say the Idaho Steelheads should be solidly favored over Tulsa, especially in CenturyLink Arena. But the Oilers upset the apple cart Wednesday night in a 4-1 victory. The Steelheads are in second place in the ECHL Mountain Division with a 22-13-5 record. Tulsa is in sixth with a 17-21-3 ledger. The two teams face off twice more this weekend. On the PGA Tour, Troy Merritt needs a whale of a second round to make the cut at The American Express (the one-time Bob Hope Desert Classic). The former Boise State star opened with a one-under 71 Thursday at PGA West—better than what he carded last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii—but he’s tied for 95th.

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January 17, 1997: The NBA issues an 11-game suspension to Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman for kicking cameraman Eugene Amos in the groin during a game at Minnesota. After a missed free throw, Rodman went after the rebound and tripped over some camera equipment that was sitting just over the end line. Upset about his fall, he proceeded to kicked Amos. Rodman agreed to a $200,000 settlement with the cameraman, so if you factor in the 11-game suspension without pay, the incident cost Rodman over $1 million.

(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.)

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Reckless Fall Predictions From BSU’s Spring Game

By Chris Lewis

Now that the spring game is done, we’re without Boise State football until fall camp begins. With this season’s depth chart as mysterious as ever, here are my reckless predictions on how it’ll shake out on offense.

QBs:

On Saturday, August 31, when Boise State takes its first offense snap in Jacksonville against Florida State, Hank Bachmeier will be the starting quarterback. That goes against what I saw in the spring game, where he was third on the list on who stood out to me. However, the more I envision the season, the more I realize that this is the most realistic and logical outcome.

First of all, I can’t count on Chase Cord being healthy. It’s the second time tearing his ACL, which is concerning for a QB that relies on mobility and usually means a more careful rehab. It happened in early October, which would mean week 1 is less than 11 months since the injury. Plus, even at the NFL level, quarterbacks who rush back from injury usually struggle early in their return.

That leaves Jaylon Henderson, Kaiden Bennett and Bachmeier as the main contenders. Henderson is the only one of that group with college experience, but nothing about his profile says bonafide starting QB. Boise State is his third collegiate stop, and his numbers weren’t impressive at his previous two stops. Also, he wasn’t a high-pedigree HS QB entering college. Henderson playing mop-up duty last year in a few games didn’t showcase much either. While he has the experience edge (which showed in the spring game), he doesn’t seem like the highly-talented QB that Boise State would ideally like to trot out there.

Bachmeier does meet the high-pedigree and talent criteria. He’s a four-star recruit that had offers to big programs. Plus, his game is more “pro-style” than the other true freshman option Bennett, who is also significantly smaller. Boise State has shown that they aren’t afraid to start a true freshman QB if that quarterback is mature enough to handle it. If the coaches determine that Bachmeier won’t be scarred by the situation in Jacksonville, he’ll be the guy.

RBs:

This group is harder to project than the quarterbacks. Coach Bryan Harsin’s history as a head coach tells us that he likes to ride one running back. The way he’s used Ajayi, McNichols, and Mattison makes it clear he loves a workhorse. The part I’m most confident in predicting is that Robert Mahone will be the No. 2 back. It’s a role he’s had before, and it’s a role he’s handled well. However, the fact that he never really had the opportunity to be a lead back, even when Mattison was banged up last season, tells me that the coaches don’t see him as a No. 1.

The question is, who will be the No. 1 if it isn’t Mahone? Andrew Van Buren is my pick to be the lead guy over true freshmen George Holani and Keegan Duncan. Holani and Duncan not being with the team in the spring is a slight disadvantage. Boise State RBs need to be able to pass protect, and those guys missed out on reps doing that in the spring. Plus, it’s hard for me to imagine that someone a few months removed from high school can physically handle the workload that Harsin wants to give his main back.

The previous Boise State workhorses all had at least a season on-campus to build their body up before they became a feature back. Van Buren has had that luxury. One of either Holani or Duncan will get reps as a No. 3 back, and my reckless guess would be Holani. That means, I think Duncan redshirts.

WRs:

The wide receivers were the standouts of the spring game. Even though AJ Richardson and Sean Modster are gone, no one seems to think this group will miss a beat. Khalil Shakir was the standout of the spring game. He found ways to get open, and make people miss once he caught the ball. It got me to rethinking where he’ll be in the receiver rotation. Before the game, I thought John Hightower and CT Thomas were poised to be the top two options. I’ve put Shakir in that tier moving forward. He’ll finish second on the team in catches and yards. Thomas will be the dependable third down option and team catch leader. Hightower will be the big play threat, and yardage leader. Shakir seems to give a little of both, with also the ability to run. The wildcard of the position didn’t play in the spring game. Octavious Evans had a season ruined by injury last year. At this point a year ago, he seemed to be a threat to be the top WR. At this point, I’ll put him fourth on the list of impactful 2019 receivers. It’s a strong group, and may have to carry the offense early.

Chris Lewis, the play-by-play voice of Boise State women’s basketball and Olympic Sports, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Bob & Chris weekdays from 1-3 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket. He can be found @ChrisLewisTweet (Twitter).