Friday, February 8, 2013.
It’s early February, and we’re halfway through conference play in the Mountain West. It’s the time of year when we start doing math on Boise State’s shot at a winning season—and sometimes a 20-win season. Chances of the latter may have taken a hit with Wednesday night’s heartbreaking loss at San Diego State. There are eight games left, plus at least one in the Mountain West Tournament. Those are the only ones you can bank on. So, to clinch a winning season, the Broncos need just one more victory. But to ensure itself a 20-win campaign, Boise State needs to go 5-4 the rest of the way. And the Broncos still have to navigate all the Mountain West behemoths one more time. When Boise State was 13-2, a 20-win season seemed eminently plausible. But the Broncos have gone 2-5 since then.
Tomorrow night in Taco Bell Arena, the rematch against Wyoming awaits. Boise State beat the Cowboys 63-61 in Laramie last month on Jeff Elorriaga’s three-pointer at the buzzer. The Broncos were without Derrick Marks, Mikey Thompson and Kenny Buckner that night, three guys they will have in uniform tomorrow. The Pokes’ loss to BSU was their first of the season after 13 wins—now they’re 2-6 in the Mountain West. There’ll be focus on the three-point line in this one. Wyoming’s defense clamps down on the perimeter, yet Boise State hit 11 treys in the teams’ first meeting, the most yielded by Wyo this season. That won’t happen tomorrow night if three-point marksmen Anthony Drmic and Jeff Elorriaga don’t improve on their performances at San Diego State. Drmic was just 1-of-5 from beyond the arc—Elorriaga missed both his attempts.
All things considered, Kamalei Correa was an incredible get in this year’s Boise State recruiting class. Correa, one of the top 10 prospects in talent-rich Hawaii, was offered a scholarship by former UH coach Greg McMackin when he was in eighth grade. But he’s a personality fit for Boise State. “He’s a guy you warm up to right away,” said coach Chris Petersen. Speaking of warm, now comes the adjustment as Correa goes from Honolulu to Boise. It’s not so much the weather—Correa will arrive in June—it’s the culture change between there and here. Safety Jeremy Ioane was famously homesick during his redshirt year after coming over from Hawaii, but he’s at home in Boise now. And Petersen expects Ioane to impart some wisdom to Correa. “I’m hoping Jeremy and his past experience can help Kamalei,” Petersen said.
Catching up on local guys in Boise State’s 2013 recruiting class (beyond Joey Martarano). Martarano’s Fruitland High teammate, tight end Alec Dhaenens, is still rehabbing the knee injury that ended his senior year back in September in the Grizzlies’ upset of Casa Roble in California. Dhaenens said the Broncos never wavered on their scholarship offer despite the setback. Said Petersen, “He’ll get healthy in time, and he’ll be a real good player.” Offensive lineman Eli McCullough out of Rocky Mountain has been on Boise State’s radar ever since he started attending the Broncos’ camps. “Coach Straus (offensive line coach Chris Strausser) said, ‘we’ve finally got a D-I lineman right in our backyard,’” Petersen said. “When you get the kids early (as Boise State fans), that helps a lot.”
D.J. Dean, the former Eagle Mustang, is ready to go after grayshirting last fall. Petersen said Dean will begin his Bronco career on offense, probably at wide receiver, but that he could play in the secondary. Another grayshirt—a long-term one—could have gone any which way, but he’s enrolled at Boise State. Linebacker Darren Lee of Susanville, CA, signed in 2010 but went on a two-year church mission. “It’s hard when you’ve got a guy you’re jumping up and down about, then you have to wait,” said Petersen. Lee is listed as 6-2, 203 pounds on the Broncos’ roster. No doubt strength and conditioning coach Tim Socha is analyzing the distribution of said weight on Lee’s frame.
Ole Miss, Boise State’s season-opening opponent in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff next year in the Georgia Dome, had a controversial recruiting class. Why controversial? Because it was so darn good, and nobody can figure out how the Rebels did it. They’re coming off a 7-6 season, yet they attracted (by some accounts) three of the top five-rated recruits in the country. The list is capped by the top prospect in the country, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche. He’s followed by two more five-star recruits, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. At the end of the day it was one of the top 10 classes in the country. This from a team that just ended a two-year SEC losing streak in October. Innocent until proven guilty, though.
A Scott Slant “scout” of sorts in Utah thinks Tueni Lupeamanu out of Herriman, UT, might be the true gem of Idaho’s recruiting class. The Vandals’ National Letter of Intent Day release says the 6-1, 263-pound Lupeamanu was signed as an “athlete,” which means he can be plugged into multiple spots. The reader sees a lot of high school football in Utah and says, “This guy is a stud. Played QB and LB for Herriman High and dominated. He's a heckuva athlete. He can throw the ball 80 yards in the air and was known to give pancake blocks to defensive lineman when he handed the ball on reverses. If he plays RB, he'd be a threat to throw it, too.” Quarterback? Running back? At 6-1, 263 pounds? Idaho will find a place for him.
One of the underappreciated stats in hockey is plus-minus, and Idaho Steelheads’ Matt Case is very plus right now. After going a sparking plus-5 in Wednesday night’s 7-3 win over Utah, Case leads the ECHL in plus-minus at plus-31. That means the Steelies have scored 31 more goals than their opponents when Case is on the ice. The 26-year-old Minnesotan has scored 28 points this season (five goals, 23 assists). Case helped his own plus-minus cause with a goal and three assists versus the Grizzlies Wednesday. Idaho and Utah play again tonight at CenturyLink Arena—then they head down I-84 for two more games tomorrow and Sunday in West Valley City, UT.
The CenturyLink Arena staff turns the facility overnight tonight and lays down the Idaho Stampede basketball floor for the Stamps’ games tomorrow night and Sunday against the Santa Cruz Warriors. It was versus the Warriors that the Stampede won their first game of the season in December after an 0-7 start. Idaho has won two of its last three games. By the way, I noticed that one of the Stampede’s NBA assignees from their early D-League days, Mickael Gelabale, has resurfaced in the NBA after four years out of the league. Gelabale, a 6-7 forward, is averaging 6½ points a game for the Minnesota Timberwolves. As a member of the Seattle Supersonics (remember them?), Gelabale had a short stint with the Stampede in 2007-08.
A few campus notes: the College of Idaho men’s basketball team plays at Eastern Oregon tonight. The Mountaineers, riding a 12-game winning streak, are 26-1 and are ranked No. 1 in NAIA Division II. And, college baseball is already underway (that sounds good right about now). The C of I opened its 2013 season Wednesday with an 8-0 victory over the University of Antelope Valley in Lancaster, CA. The Coyotes dropped a doubleheader to the Pioneers yesterday, 9-8 and 5-4. The two teams play a single game today. Also, the second of this season’s Beauty & The Beast events rolls out Sunday at Taco Bell Arena. The 16th-ranked Boise State gymnastics team occupies one side of the facility with a meet against Southwest Missouri, and the 23rd-ranked Bronco wrestling squad hosts Cal Poly on the other end.
This Day In Sports…February 8, 2006:
Just two days after being seemingly left in the lurch by the resignation of Nick Holt, Idaho announces the return of Dennis Erickson as head coach. Holt had a 5-18 record in his two seasons, but Erickson—with two national championships and a legacy of college football turnarounds in his career—was expected to flip those numbers. We’ll never know, as Erickson lasted just 10 months before bolting for Arizona State, going 4-8 in his one season with the Vandals. He had started his head coaching career with Idaho in 1982, going 32-15 in four seasons.
(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.)