Wednesday, December 4, 2013.
Forget those 110-point showcases. This is what Mountain West games are going to be like all winter long. Down the stretch last night, Boise State had the lead, lost the lead, had the lead, lost the lead, and then beat Utah 69-67 at the end. “To find a way to win that game against a quality opponent was great,” said Bronco coach Leon Rice on his KBOI postgame show. It was clear at the outset this wasn’t going to be a century-mark outing. “They baited us into shots, and we obliged them a little bit early,” Rice said of his team’s 37 percent shooting in the first half. But through 14 lead changes, it was Boise State that had the last one. Its 7-0 start is the best in school history.
The game took an interesting turn with just under 16 minutes left when Boise State’s Derrick Marks picked up his third and fourth fouls three seconds apart. Marks sat on the bench for more than 12 minutes before re-entering the game at good ol’ crunch time. He gave the Broncos the lead for good on a floater with 55 seconds left and hit a pair of free throws with 17 seconds remaining to seal the deal. BSU needed Marks to answer the surge of Utah’s Jordan Loveridge, who had 16 of his 19 points in the second half and almost will the Utes to a win. The Broncos had led for six minutes when Loveridge nailed a three-pointer with 1:52 left to give Utah a 66-65 advantage. Marks finished from there.
Attendance last night could have been a couple thousand higher were it not for the late tipoff. Games that start after 8:00 on school/work nights are tough. But 7,151 fans showed up in Taco Bell Arena nonetheless, and they were engaged, especially with about three minutes left in the first half. That’s when Utah's Princeton Onwas planted an elbow in the face of Boise State’s Jeff Elorriaga and was assessed a flagrant-2 foul and ejected. It was part of another odd night for Elorriaga. He was able to attempt only one three-pointer (and made it), and he missed two free throws—ones that he usually makes—with four seconds remaining that would have given the Broncos an insurmountable two-possession lead. It ended up not mattering. Boise State plays Carroll College at home tomorrow night, and then it can finally look ahead to Kentucky.
On the surface, a website called “RumorsAndRants.com” would seem to have some credibility questions. But a writer named Ryan Phillips seems to have uncovered a lot of information regarding the home stretch of USC’s search for a new head coach, which ended Monday with the selection of Washington’s Steve Sarkisian. Idaho SportsTalk really pounded this subject yesterday. Phillips writes that the Trojans interviewed Sarkisian, interim coach Ed Orgeron, Denver assistant Jack Del Rio, and Boise State’s Chris Petersen, with everyone except Orgeron meeting with athletic director Pat Haden in early November in Denver (could have been just before or after the Broncos’ game at Colorado State). Sources told Phillips that Petersen’s interview “left a lot to be desired.” You gotta love “sources.”
Phillips continues: “On Sunday, USC met with Petersen again and after discussions both sides agreed that it just wasn’t a fit. There were major concerns about how Petersen would handle the media in Los Angeles and some feared his personality was too similar to (Lane) Kiffin’s.” Well, we all knew USC wasn’t a fit—and that Petersen would not relish spending time with the L.A. media. But a personality too similar to Kiffin’s? Bottom line, though, is USC may have been a closer call than we thought. Meanwhile, UCLA’s Jim Mora won’t make Washington fans’ dreams come true by coaching the Huskies—he has signed a new six-year contract extension with the Bruins. So we’ll still hear Petersen’s name associated with the UW search.
More regular season football wrap: For the first time since 2010, Boise State has gone unbeaten on the blue turf. To be sure, this year’s home schedule wasn't as tough as the previous two, years in which the Broncos lost a game apiece, but it reinforced the aura of the blue. Boise State was 6-0 in Bronco Stadium this year and is 47-2 at home during the Petersen era. Since 1999, the Broncos have gone a nation's best 94-4 on their home field. In conference games the past 15 seasons, they’re 60-2.
The final count on Boise State’s attendance came in at 34,366 per game, down from last year’s 35,404. Sure, the 38-6 season-opening loss at Washington didn’t help, but the main culprit was the perfect storm that gave the Broncos the weak home schedule this year. That won’t be a problem in 2014, as BSU welcomes BYU, Fresno State, San Diego State and Utah State to the blue turf. The Broncos still finished second in Mountain West attendance to Fresno State, which has averaged 37,842 with the conference championship game still to come this Saturday.
Some are disparaging the turnout for the home finale against New Mexico last week. The crowd of 31,645 was, in fact, the smallest at Bronco Stadium since before the Steuckle Sky Center opened in 2008. But considering Boise State was coming off the wrenching loss at San Diego State, giving it a four-loss season for the first time in eight years, and the fact that the ESPN-dictated kickoff was at 8:21 p.m. on the last day of November, I thought the turnout was good. Certainly more than I thought there would be.
The Idaho Steelheads have been scoring at a crisp enough clip this season—they’re eighth in the ECHL in goals with 56. But now, here come the Stockton Thunder tonight, Friday and Saturday. Stockton’s Brian Foster is seven days removed from ECHL Goaltender of the Week honors, earning the award with a 3-0 record that included a 3-1 win over the Steelheads. But the Steelies didn’t have the Austins then. That would be Fyten and Smith, who have both returned from the AHL. Smith was reassigned by the Dallas Stars organization last Friday; all he did last season was lead Idaho with 27 goals and 50 points in just 38 games. Now, however, the Steelheads will be without defenseman Hubert Labrie, who’s been recalled to Texas of the AHL again. By the way, the Steelies are already a quarter of the way through their season.
Boise Hawks outfielder Kevin Encarnacion has been honored as a member of the 2013 Topps Short-Season-A/Rookie All-Star Team. The 22-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic won the Northwest League batting crown this year and led the Hawks to the Northwest League Championship Series. He was one of only two Northwest League players named to the team, comprised of players from six short-season leagues. One other Hawks note: Boise alum Ricky Nolasco signed a four-year, $49 million deal with Minnesota over Thanksgiving weekend. Nolasco spent the second half of last season with the Dodgers after a trade with the Miami Marlins. The 30-year-old righthander went 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA for L.A. Nolasco is 89-75 over an eight-year big league career.
The Idaho Stampede haven’t been on this kind of pedestal since the Bryan Gates era. The Stampede are 3-0 as they head out on their first road trip of the young season, beginning Friday night in Massachusetts against the Springfield Armor. They won’t be back in CenturyLink Arena until after Christmas. The prominent Stamps so far have been Pierre Jackson, the NBADL’s second-leading scorer, and Richard Howell, the league’s fourth-leading rebounder. The unsung guy is Dee Bost, a 24-year-old guard out of Mississippi State. Bost is averaging 16.3 points and 7.7 assists per game and is the D-League’s 30th-ranked NBA prospect.
This Day In Sports…December 4, 2010:
Boise State plays its final conference game in the WAC, routing Utah State, 50-14. The win came on Senior Day at Bronco Stadium, as 18 seniors—including record-setting wide receivers Austin Pettis and Titus Young—wrapped up their Boise State careers. Senior linebacker Derrell Acrey started the onslaught on the game’s first play, returning an interception 31 yards for a touchdown. The Broncos ended their 10-year WAC era with eight championships, a 75-5 record in conference games, and a perfect 40-0 mark on the blue turf.
(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.)