Tuesday, December 5, 2017.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: the team that really wants to be there is the one that wins a bowl game. Does Oregon want to be there when the Las Vegas Bowl kicks off a week from Saturday against Boise State? Some Bronco fans took a snippet from an Oregonian story about the Ducks’ Vegas bid out of context. “The news was a recruiting gut punch that carried as much force as LeGarrette Blount's memorable postgame wallop back in 2009,” wrote Andrew Nemec. “This weekend, (coach Willie) Taggart addressed the possibility of a Vegas Bowl bid like a doctor laying out the worst-case scenario to a patient's family.”
But it wasn't a slam on this bowl. It was all about Oregon’s concern over its recruiting class, with the new early signing day coming up December 20. “‘We'll have to change some things up,’ Taggart said. ‘We have a big-time recruiting weekend coming up the day before (the Las Vegas Bowl) so we'd have to cancel that. I don't want to have to do that.’” Now the Ducks do have to do that. According to Nemec, Oregon secured its commitments early, encouraged the vast majority to sign in December and had the nation's best collection of talent with its biggest recruiting weekend in school history set for December 15-16.
The biggest issue swirling around the Oregon program: will Taggart even be coaching the Ducks by the time December 16 rolls around? Taggart is the apparent front-runner to replace Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, and reports say he hooked up with FSU officials in Arizona yesterday while on a recruiting trip. Other reports say an announcement from the Seminoles could be made as early as today. The Ducks have offered Taggart a lucrative contract extension, but he hasn’t signed it yet—and the reason is kind of obvious. When Taggart’s asked if he’ll be around to coach against Boise State and beyond, he keeps saying, “Why wouldn’t I?”
There were two significant footnotes to Boise State’s 17-14 win over Fresno State in the Mountain West title game: championships and 10-win seasons. The conference crown is the Broncos’19th in this, their 50th season of four-year football. It’s also Boise State’s 13th championship in the last 19 seasons dating back to 1999. The 10-win season ledger is really impressive, because those are so hard to come by in college football. The Broncos now have six 10-win seasons this decade alone (this is the third in four years for Bryan Harsin). Going back to 1999 again, this marks Boise State’s 15th 10-win season in 19 years. And in 50 seasons of four-year football, the Broncos have now won 10 or more games in 23 of them. That's a pretty good batting average.
The Scout Team Players of the Year are the most telling awards coming out of the Boise State football team banquet every year. Because, almost always, those guys become some of the most significant contributors of the future. Take 2016, for example. Ryan Wolpin (winning touchdown in the Mountain West championship game) won the scout team honor on offense, Desmond Williams (key sack of Bulldogs quarterback Marcus McMaryion Saturday night) was the defensive winner, and Avery Williams (36-yard punt return to set up the Broncos’ first TD) got the nod on special teams. There you go.
So pay attention to this season’s winners Scout Team Players of the Year. On defense, the winner was safety Tyreque Jones, on special teams it was linebacker Roman Kafentzis, and on offense it was long snapper Daniel Cantrell. Long snapper? The former Bishop Kelly Knight is listed as such, but the 6-0, 221-pounder moved to offense during the fall and wowed coaches as a fullback and tight end. Looking forward to seeing how this pans out.
Boise State’s Mason Hampton is in New York City for tonight’s 60th National Football Foundation Awards Dinner. The Meridian High grad will be wearing the new suit he bought for the occasion (although I think he wore it to the Bronco team banquet on Sunday). Hampton, the Broncos’ All-Mountain West center, is there as one of the NFF’s 13 National Scholar-Athletes who are finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, also known as the “academic Heisman.” The ceremony will also honor the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame inductee class that includes (among others) Marshall Faulk, Kirk Gibson, Matt Leinart, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and Brian Urlacher.
Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said at a press conference yesterday that his star quarterback, Josh Allen, is “very probable” for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Central Michigan on December 22. The projected first-round NFL Draft pick appeared to echo Bohl’s sentiment, indicating that he’s not going to pull a Christian McCaffrey or Leonard Fournette and skip his team’s bowl game to focus on draft preparation. “If I’m 100 percent, I’m playing in the game,” Allen said. “I owe it to this university, I owe it to this team. It’s something that I want to do.” Allen has been out since injuring his shoulder in a win at Air Force last month. The Cowboys have scored just 24 points in two losses without him.
Well, what choice did the conference have? Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison is Mountain West Player of the Week after leading the Broncos past Oregon and Portland. Last Tuesday’s victory over Loyola-Chicago counts, but Hutchison scored only two points while dishing out five assists as he was getting his basketball legs back under him. He logged only four first-half points against the Ducks—but then, wow. Hutchison put up 16 second-half points as part of a double-double in Eugene and was the catalyst in the dramatic 73-70 win capped by Lexus Williams’ half-court buzzer-beater. On Sunday versus Portland, Hutchison had the first recorded triple-double in Boise State history, and just the fifth one ever in the Mountain West.
Two other things for Tuesday: Idaho Steelheads defenseman Shane Hanna had scored one goal in 21 games this season—until last night. Hanna accounted for both Steelheads goals in regulation, and Idaho went on to beat Utah 3-2 in a shootout. The Steelies and Grizzlies are meeting four times in six days this week. And Boise State men’s tennis coach Greg Patton and the USA Collegiate National Team fell to Great Britain 4-2 Sunday in the finals of the Master’U BNP Paribas International Collegiate Championship in France. The Brits broke the Americans’ streak of seven straight titles in the event. The USA squad had defeated France 5-2 in the opening round and Germany 4-2 in the semifinals.
This Day In Sports…December 5, 1992, 25 years ago today:
In the first-ever SEC championship game, Alabama defeats Florida, 28-21, in Birmingham. The No. 2 Crimson Tide, coached by Gene Stallings, cruised to a 21-7 lead in the third quarter before Steve Spurrier’s Gators rallied to tie it 21-21 in the fourth. The Tide won it when Antonio Langham intercepted the Gators’ Shane Matthews and ran it in 27 yards for a touchdown with just over three minutes left. Alabama advanced to the Sugar Bowl, where it would upset the Dennis Erickson-coached Miami Hurricanes to win the national championship.
(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.)