Friday, January 18, 2013.
Now, about avoiding that hangover tomorrow afternoon. After an exhausting overtime loss to a Top 25 team in Taco Bell Arena Wednesday night, it would be easy for Boise State to come out flat against a group that lost by 39 points its last time out. If the Broncos have any lingering frustration from the New Mexico game, it could be exacerbated by Air Force’s deliberate style. The Falcons’ 79-40 loss to Colorado State can be seen as an aberration, though—they beat Nevada by 13 in their Mountain West opener and lost by just five at UNLV last Saturday. The moral of the story: if you don’t go into a Mountain West game massively prepared, you can expect massive disappointment.
Which Mike Fitzgerald will Boise State see tomorrow night? That’s what Air Force would like to know, too. The Falcons standout averaged 26 points in his first two Mountain West games, but scored only four points on 2-of-3 shooting in the epic drubbing at the hands of CSU Wednesday. Fitzgerald was similarly inconsistent against Boise State last season, leading Air Force with 16 points in a win at Taco Bell Arena, and managing just five in a loss to the Broncos in Colorado Springs.
The subject of BYU and the Mountain West appears to be moot right now, but there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction in Provo, and it has nothing to do with football. It has everything to do with sending the Cougars’ other sports to the West Coast Conference when the football program went independent. The theory is that if BYU basketball was still in the Mountain West with its 14-5 overall record, it would be positioned for at least an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh straight season. But the WCC is seen as Gonzaga, BYU, Saint Mary’s, and a bunch of also-rans.
Strength-of-schedule is a killer, and the Cougars may have to win the conference tournament to get into the Dance. We saw how invigorating good competition can be Wednesday night in the overtime tussle between Boise State and New Mexico. BYU doesn’t have that right now, and the Broncos wouldn’t have next year. A visit from Cal State Fullerton in the Big West wasn’t going to excite anybody. And how do you think No. 15 San Diego State felt?
Raise your hand if, when Colin Kaepernick pranced 56 yards for a touchdown for the 49ers against the Packers last Sunday, you thought back to the first start of his college career on the blue turf. In leading San Francisco to the NFC Championship Game Sunday in Atlanta, Kaepernick looked just like he did in Nevada’s 69-67 quadruple overtime loss to Boise State. In fact, his numbers were eerily similar. Versus the Broncos, Kaepernick rushed for 177 yards and threw for 243. Against Green Bay, he rushed for 181 yards, an all-time record for an NFL quarterback, and threw for 263.
Come to think of it, Justin Wilcox’s second-best game plan in his four years as Boise State defensive coordinator (next to the 2010 Fiesta Bowl against TCU) had to be the one he dialed up for Nevada in 2008, Kaepernick’s sophomore year. Instead of employing a singular “spy” to follow Kaepernick’s every move, he changed the defender virtually every play and called him “the quarterback guy.” The result was a 19-of-50 passing day for Kaepernick in the Broncos’ 41-34 victory in Reno. Maybe a “quarterback guy” concept would work for the Falcons Sunday in the Georgia Dome. On the other hand, Kaepernick has proven himself this season to be a much smarter, much more accurate, much more well-rounded quarterback.
Our former Bronco NFLer of the Day is George Iloka of the Cincinnati Bengals. There are no guarantees fors sixth round draft picks, and Iloka didn’t get any in his rookie season. An ankle injury during Monday Night Football in Week 1 against the Ravens put the safety behind the eight-ball. Iloka was active for only seven of 16 of the Bengals’ regular season games and recorded just two tackles. He sat out the final five games of the year before playing in Cincinnati’s 19-13 playoff loss at Houston. There’s been nothing particularly negative out there about Iloka. Just nothing overly positive yet, either.
The end of the NHL lockout has affected teams throughout the ECHL, not just the Idaho Steelheads. The Steelies defeated the Alaska Aces in CenturyLink Arena five weeks ago, 4-0, but it’s hard to predict what’ll happen as Alaska returns to Boise tonight and tomorrow night. Since that Idaho win, the two teams have combined to lose at least 17 players who appeared in that game, with the Steelheads missing 10 and the Aces at least seven. These clubs are having to reinvent themselves. The Steelheads have fallen 10 points behind Alaska in the ECHL Mountain Division.
As we muddle through a startlingly cold January to which we are unaccustomed, talking about golf is, well, comforting. Graham DeLaet would rather have a better story to tell, though. The former Boise State star is in danger of missing his second straight cut to open the 2013 PGA Tour season after shooting a one-under 71 yesterday at the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, CA. DeLaet is tied for 109th after the first round. He missed the cut by one stroke last week at the Sony Open in Honolulu.
Winter and/or spring sports get cranking this weekend for Boise State. The Bronco men’s tennis team opens its season against Montana tomorrow morning and Air Force tomorrow night at the Boas Bubbles. Boise State is No. 38 in the first ITA rankings, the highest of any Mountain West team. The top individual Bronco is junior Andy Bettles, ranked 28th in the country. The Boise State women’s gymnastics season begins tonight against longtime rival Utah State in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos are No. 15 in the preseason Coaches Poll, their second-highest to open a season (they were No. 14 at this time last year). And in track and field, the Bronco Invitational occupies the Jacksons Indoor Track in Nampa tomorrow. Boise State will be joined by 10 other teams, including Nevada, Utah, Washington State, NNU and the College of Idaho.
The Idaho Stampede did a slow fade in the fourth quarter last night and lost to Erie 104-89 in CenturyLink Arena. In what has become an underlying theme of the season, the Stampede shot poorly again, hitting just 38½ percent from the field. The Stampede offense was out of sync in general, recording just 10 assists on the night. The BayHawks, meanwhile, used their depth to wear down Idaho, topping the Stamps in bench scoring, 50-21. The Stampede, now 6-16, are off now until a road trip to Texas next weekend.
This Day In Sports…January 18, 1976:
A former Boise State Bronco plays in the Super Bowl for the first time, as Grandview’s Rolly Woolsey suits up as a kick returner and backup cornerback for Dallas. Woolsey’s Cowboys would fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-17—the game-clincher coming when Terry Bradshaw hooked up with Lynn Swann in the fourth quarter on a 64-yard touchdown. Bradshaw was knocked unconscious on the play and didn’t know about the TD until he was taken to the locker room.
(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.)