Wednesday, December 5, 2012.
“The chemistry of this team is unique,” said coach Leon Rice of his Boise State men’s basketball squad at the beginning of fall practice. “We need it to be able to carry over to the floor.” Safe to say the Broncos have, as their hot start to the season has created a buzz. Boise State has been 6-1 through the first seven games in each of Rice’s first three seasons, but this is a different 6-1. The Broncos are getting votes in both polls as they go into tonight’s game at Utah. It’s difficult for opponents to stop hot shooting, and Boise State has been making a living on that, hitting better than 50 percent from three-point range in each of the past three games. Should the Broncos cool off tonight, they’ll have to go blue-collar against the Utes. BSU out-rebounded No. 11 Creighton by 13 a week ago but was out-boarded by 17 last Sunday at Seattle.
Boise State needs to put two things out of its collective mind tonight. The Broncos must forget their sparkling start and show that they can handle success, and they must forget what they did to Utah last year. That’s when they picked up their biggest win ever over a Pac-12 school, drubbing the Utes 80-59 in Taco Bell Arena. Former Montana star and Idaho Stampede coach Larry Krystkowiak was in his first season at the helm at Utah and was trying to glue together a rag-tag squad en route to a 6-26 season. The Utes are already one win short of last season’s total, coming into the clash against the Broncos at 5-2. There’ll be extra emotion tonight as Utah honors former coach Rick Majerus, who died of heart failure last Saturday. The plan is to hoist a replica of Majerus’ trademark white sweater to the rafters of the Huntsman Center.
Why do so many non-BCS schools come and go with 10-win seasons and national rankings without the ability to sustain it? Because their coaches move on. That hasn’t happened at Boise State since 2005. With their extraordinary continuity on the sideline, the Broncos—as Bronco Country.com’s Rocketman 5000 points out—have been able to post 10 of those 10-win seasons in the past 11 years, only the second team in modern college football history to do so. Again, you can never say never with Boise State coach Chris Petersen, but Arkansas did indeed announce its new coach yesterday. And it wasn’t Petersen. It was Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema.
More evidence that Boise State’s 10-2 record and Mountain West co-championship this year was a team effort. The Broncos landed only one player on the All-Mountain West first team, center Matt Paradis. That’s quite a deal for the junior from Council, as he went into the season expecting to be the backup before Cory Yriarte suffered a career-ending knee injury this summer. Despite missing the final three games of the regular season, Mike Atkinson was one of four Broncos on the All-Mountain West first team defense. Atkinson’s Fat Guy touchdown versus BYU must have etched itself into the memories of the MW coaches that didn’t have to face him. Joining Canadian Bacon as first-teamers were defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, linebacker J.C. Percy and cornerback Jamar Taylor.
Lawrence was the local favorite to be named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year after posting 9½ sacks this season to lead the Mountain West and rank 18th nationally. But the stats of Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas spoke louder. Thomas led the country in interceptions with eight, three of them returned for touchdowns. The conference’s Offensive Player of the Year is Bulldog quarterback Derek Carr.
Stats can help explain why Matt Miller was a second-team All-Mountain West wide receiver despite his lead role in the Boise State offense. He has spent much of the season double-teamed, but still was able to pull down 60 receptions for 679 yards and five touchdowns. You want the picture of consistency? Miller is two catches short of his 2011 total, and currently has exactly as many yards (679). He had nine TD receptions last year. Now, if he can just score four against Washington in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas…
The game in Las Vegas gets ESPN’s A-team in the booth again this year. One of the all-time classic broadcasters, Brent Musberger, will call the play-by-play, and College GameDay mainstays Kirk Herbstreit and Tom Rinaldi will handle analysis and sideline reporting, respectively. Musberger called the 2010 game between the Broncos and Utah, while Chris Fowler announced last year’s matchup against Arizona State. Herbstreit and Rinaldi were on the crew for each of Boise State’s previous two bowl appearances in Vegas.
Paul Petrino is looking for echoes of the early 90’s as he takes over the Idaho football program. Petrino remembers the great Vandal teams of that era when he coached in the program from 1992-94 and is bent on recreating their explosive aura. “We’re going to get back and have a high-powered offense,” said Petrino yesterday on KTIK’s Idaho SportsTalk. “We’re going to get back to taking the field and have people fearing the Vandals.” Idaho was 29-9 during Petrino’s first stint in Moscow and went to the Division I-AA Playoffs all three seasons. The Vandals also recorded the final two victories in their 12-year winning streak over Boise State.
Jacob Cepis has been one of the many reliable scorers for the Idaho Steelheads this season, logging six goals and seven assists in 15 games. But the Steelheads have traded Cepis to the Trenton Titans. The 24-year-old forward recorded 45 points for Idaho last season and was potent in the Kelly Cup Playoffs with nine points in nine games. The Steelheads do get defenseman Patrick Cullity back from Springfield of the AHL this week. As so often happens early in a minor league hockey season, rosters are tweaked, but it’s hard to argue with coach Brad Ralph’s results. The Steelies are 14-5-2, just two points out of first place in the ECHL Mountain Division as they head to Las Vegas and Ontario this weekend.
There’ll be more pomp and circumstance than usual at this season’s Idaho Stampede home opener Friday night. The Stampede will host “Heroes On The Hardwood” for the game against Austin, honoring active and veteran military personnel and their families (Friday is the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor). The United States Army 25th Band will be in the arena to play throughout the night, including the five military branch fight songs, and Mountain Home Air Force Base representatives will present the colors and sing the national anthem.
Northwest Nazarene has the College of Idaho’s number in hoops these days, winning its sseventh straight over the Coyotes last night, 76-66, at NNU’s Johnson Sports Center. Kenny Jones, the UCLA transfer, poured in 27 points as the Crusaders won the United Heritage Mayors’ Cup again this year. NNU’s streak over the Yotes equals a record in what they call Idaho’s oldest college basketball rivalry, which dates back to 1933.
This Day In Sports…December 5, 1992, 20 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 at 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 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.)