Wednesday, December 20, 2017.
With the dawn of NCAA Football’s first-ever early-signing day, we go into the great unknown. What’s going to be a good batting average? Will it be 50 percent…75 percent? And will it all happen today, or will it be spread out over the three-day window (through Friday night)? This is all new. What happens to the guys who don’t sign during this 65-hour period? It seems like they become “soft verbals.” For some, that could cause their original schools of choice shun them. For others, they’ll be seen as fair game, and the recruiting process will ratchet up again. Depending on what happens today, there should be a later-than-usual run on junior college transfers, who until now would generally sign in December.
And some players will come out of the woodwork today, like running back Danny Smith of Oxnard, CA, for Boise State. Smith committed to the Broncos yesterday after a weekend visit. He’s listed as 5-10 on one website and 6-0 on another—and between 202 and 210 pounds. Smith rushed for 1,610 yards and 20 touchdowns this season and averaged 9.1 yards per carry after moving to California from Morrilton, AR. “He just a great kid,” Oxnard coach Jon Mack said this fall in a story in the Ventura County Star. “He’s humble, dedicated and all about work ethic. Nobody works harder than he does.” Sounds like a fit.
Since Selection Day 2½ weeks ago, the focal point of Friday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl has been Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, who many still see as a first-round NFL Draft pick despite his struggles this year. The Cowboys are rebuilding this season at almost every offensive position but Allen’s, so he gets a pass because of that. His completion percentage of 56.2 percent is only a smidge better than last year, and his yards per attempt have dropped to 6.6 from 8.6. Allen’s pass efficiency rating this season is 124.0. If you were assigning a grade to that, it would be a C-minus. He has thrown for 250 yards just once this season—against FCS Gardner-Webb. So the game against Central Michigan (assuming he plays) is important to him as he gets on the field for the first time since his November 11 injury.
There’s a double-spotlight at the QB spot in this game, though. Former Michigan quarterback Shane Morris is a graduate transfer for the Chippewas, and his numbers dwarf those of Allen. Morris has thrown for 2,908 yards and 26 touchdowns with 13 interceptions this season. He got a handful of starts for the Wolverines—and who knows what may have happened had he been in Ann Arbor this year, as coach Jim Harbaugh has had to jockey between three QBs. But, no regrets for Morris. “I’m happy I came here, and I’ve had an unbelievable year here, had a lot of fun,” he told the Detroit News. “Football has been really good to me here, these guys, the coaches so it’s been an unbelievable experience for me.” Morris harbors some pro football hopes himself.
The Mountain West is 1-1 so far in its bowl games. While Boise State was dropping Oregon in Las Vegas, Colorado State was falling 31-28 to Marshall in the New Mexico Bowl. The Rams fell behind the Thundering Herd 31-14 before a fourth quarter rally. It was Mike Bobo’s third straight bowl loss and his third consecutive 7-6 season since taking over at CSU. The Rams defense was pierced against by the big play, as Marshall scored on a 76-yard pass and on runs of 68 and 90 yards. Next up is San Diego State against Army in the Armed Forces Bowl on Saturday and Fresno State versus Houston in the Hawaii Bowl Christmas Eve.
It would have been hard to deny DeMarcus Lawrence an invitation to the Pro Bowl this season. And alas, the former Boise State star has earned a spot in the January game after his breakout campaign for the Dallas Cowboys. Lawrence led the NFL in sacks for much of the season and is currently third with 13.5 going into the final two games of the regular season. He got out of the gates with a roar, recording sacks in seven straight games to start the season. Lawrence had 6.5 sacks in the first three weeks. Meanwhile, he and the Cowboys are gearing up for the Seahawks on Sunday, and Lawrence says Ezekiel Elliott is "ready to get the ball 80 times" in his return from his six-week suspension.
The Boise State men’s hoops team is licking its wounds after its 23-point loss at SMU Monday night. The first thing for the Broncos to repair is their confidence. That applies to three-point shooting. For much of the season the basket looked like a hula hoop to the Broncos. In Dallas (and at home last week versus Grand Canyon, for that matter) it looked like a donut. In three halves of basketball—two against GCU and the first half at SMU—Boise State went 7-for-38 combined from beyond the arc. The Broncos were a more respectable 8-for-18 in the second half against the Mustangs. Maybe they can start there as they hit the reset button for Mountain West play. On the women’s side, Boise State hosts Cal State Bakersfield tonight in Taco Bell Arena.
The Vandal Holiday Hoops Classic takes over CenturyLink Arena tomorrow night with an Idaho doubleheader. The women host Eastern Oregon first, then the men face UC Irvine. The Vandals’ men squad is very good this season, sporting an 8-3 record and coming off an 82-52 rout of Western Michigan on the road. Idaho held the “other” Broncos to just 16 first-half points, the fewest by a UI opponent before the intermission in almost seven years, while going 17-for-30 from three-point range at the other end. The 17 makes from three were the most against a Division I opponent in Vandal history. The rebuilding Anteaters are 4-9.
The Idaho Steelheads sure seem to be playing Rapid City a lot. That’s where the Steelheads are tonight, as they and the Rush meet this week for the fifth, sixth and seventh times this season. The Steelies are 4-0 versus Rapid City. Idaho’s been solid defensively of late, having allowed two goals or less in seven of its last eight games. That starts between the pipes—Steelheads goalie Philippe Desrosiers is third in the ECHL with a goals-against average of 2.28.
This Day In Sports…December 20, 1980:
Boise State wins the Division I-AA national championship with a 31-29 win over Eastern Kentucky at the Camellia Bowl in Sacramento. The Broncos led most of the way—until the Colonels connected on a bomb with 55 seconds remaining. Trailing by five points with 80 yards to go, Joe Aliotti then led Boise State on the winning drive. He hit Kipp Bedard three times to get the Broncos close—then on fourth-and-10 from the 14-yard-line, Aliotti scrambled until he found tight end Duane Dlouhy in the corner of the end zone with 12 seconds left.
(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.)