Thursday, December 1, 2016.
We have no idea at this point how the Mountain West season is going to go, but last night Boise State played a conference-type game versus a team that would stack up well against the San Diego States of the world. The Broncos went on a 12-0 run midway through the first half, led by 20 points at the break, and were able fend off SMU down the stretch for a gratifying 71-62 win in Taco Bell Arena. With the Mustangs’ wealth of talent, you knew it was just a matter of time before they ignited—and ignite they did with a 12-0 run to start the second half. But Boise State shared clutch duties the rest of the way, getting big plays from James Reid, Justinian Jessup, Paris Austin and Chandler Hutchison, who led the Broncos with 21 points and seven rebounds.
You’ll notice that two of the aforementioned players are newcomers and two are veterans. Boise State, with a young roster that’s still getting to know one another, played really well together Monday night at Oregon—and did it again against SMU. It was Reid’s turn to take root last night. The transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock by way of College of Southern Idaho scored 12 points in the first half and 18 for the game, canning four three-pointers. Reid was also perfect from the free throw line, making all four of his tries in the final minute of the game.
SMU came into last night’s contest out-rebounding opponents by a massive 13 boards per game, and the Mustangs stuck to the script with a 39-24 advantage on the glass. But Boise State otherwise played a strong floor game. The Broncos held the Mustangs to 1-for-11 shooting from three-point range and, helped by 10 steals, forced 16 turnovers, converting them into 20 points. Boise State turned the ball over only nine times. The Broncos now get their date in this year’s Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge, traveling to Indiana to face Evansville Saturday night.
Boise State vs SMU
As we await Boise State’s bowl destination, here’s more reflection on what we saw last Friday. The Bronco defense had its challenges, but it spent all day on the field (oh, that 41½ minutes of Air Force possession time). The silver lining: the future presented itself in a big way. It had to with the injuries the Broncos were compensating for. Sophomore linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, the pride of Riggins, returned with nine tackles, two for loss, and his first career interception. It was Vander Esch’s first action since the first of October. Freshman ‘backer Tyson Maeva posted seven tackles, sophomore defensive end Durrant Miles six, transfer linebacker Blake Whitlock five, and true freshman Kekoa Nawahine out of Rocky Mountain also made five stops as he helped fill in for the injured Dylan Sumner-Gardner at safety.
With a 31-8 overall record and a knowledge of West Coast recruiting, Boise State’s Bryan Harsin is a natural mention on the list of potential head coaches for the open position at Oregon. The timing doesn’t seem right, though. The Ducks are looking for a big splash that will satisfy a sour fan base (and a guy named Phil). Harsin is only in his third year with the Broncos—a solid one but not a dominant one—and remember how strongly he feels about his home town. Mark Helfrich, who coached Harsin in 1998-99 as the quarterbacks coach on Dirk Koetter’s Boise State staff, was fired Tuesday after the Ducks’ fortunes took a dive this season.
I don’t know if Oregon could do much better than P.J. Fleck, who has 12-0 Western Michigan on the verge of a Cotton Bowl berth. Fleck is only 36 years old, yet he has completely turned around a once-moribund WMU program. Fleck was very impressive in the way he carried himself two years ago when he was in Boise for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. That was one season after the “other Broncos” had gone 1-11. Fleck has hung his hat on the phrase “Row The Boat,” a mantra for hard work and tenacity. We heard it a lot here in December, 2014. It would seem corny coming from a lot of FBS head coaches. From Fleck, it brings total buy-in. I guess Oregon needs to define the word “splash.”
The fact that Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen is playing this Saturday in the Mountain West championship game is kind of amazing considering two brutal hits he absorbed in the fourth quarter at New Mexico. Allen took two helmet-to-helmet shots, was momentarily dazed, then jumped to his feet and kept plugging away as the Cowboys fell 56-35 to the Lobos. Both hits were egregious, but only one was whistled for targeting. Allen is tough, and tough will matter Saturday when San Diego State comes to Laramie. The predicted high for the day is 27 degrees, with a nice, 7,220-foot breeze, and the game starts after sundown.
Former Idaho Vandal Korey Toomer continues to be a compelling story in San Diego. Toomer has only been a Charger since the end of September, when he was signed off Oakland’s practice squad. He’s been doing quite a job for the Bolts. Toomer led the team in tackles for the third consecutive week last Sunday, making 13 of them (four solo) with a quarterback hit in a win over the Texans. Since coming to San Diego, Toomer has already amassed 51 tackles, almost as many as highly-touted teammate Manti Te’o had in either of his first two seasons. Toomer also has two pass breakups, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. There should be a nice payday awaiting him after the season is over.
The Alaska Aces scored three goals in the third period, two of them from Peter Sivak, to stifle the Idaho Steelheads 5-3 last night in CenturyLink Arena. Goaltender Philippe Desrosiers, in his first game with the Steelheads this season, was peppered all night by the Aces, stopping 43 of 47 Alaska shots. The win magnified the Aces’ transformation so far this season. Despite finishing in last place in the ECHL’s West Division last season, they brought back eight players from that squad—and with their sixth win in a row, they’ve jumped the Steelies into first place. Alaska and Idaho face off two more times this weekend.
The Boise State women’s hoops team tries to sustain its sizzling start when it host Eastern Washington tonight in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos are out of the gate this season with a five-game winning streak and are coming off a tournament wins over Saint Mary’s and Charlotte last weekend in Moraga, CA. Boise State, averaging 81.8 points per game, has been rolling from beyond the arc. The Broncos are ranked second nationally in three-point percentage at .450 and are fifth in threes made per game at 10.8 .
This Day In Sports…December 1, 2009:
At the age of 80, Bobby Bowden announces his retirement after 34 years as head coach at Florida State. Bowden had been given the option of continuing with the Seminoles with reduced authority but chose to hand the reins over to coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher. Bowden won 389 career games and led Florida State to 12 ACC titles and two national championships, in 1993 and 1999.
(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.)