Thursday, January 17, 2013.
Hitting the reset button after Boise State’s 79-74 overtime loss to New Mexico last night, you realize that the Lobos are a really, really good team. The fact that the Broncos hung with them is impressive, but the overview of this season brings another realization: Boise State was good enough to win that game. It was physical, and it included 13 ties and 13 lead changes—and a great atmosphere in Taco Bell Arena. Even with the suspended Kenny Buckner watching in street clothes, the Broncos were able to out-rebound the taller Lobos by five. But a combination of untimely missed free throws and New Mexico’s defensive concentration on Jeff Elorriaga were just enough to survive. Elorriaga, who had made 26 three-pointers in the previous four games, had three treys on the night but took (and made) just one shot from beyond the arc after halftime.
Derrick Marks came up big again for Boise State, back from suspension to play his first game in 10 days. Marks turned in a game-high 27 points, none of them more amazing than a three-pointer that banked off the backboard and went in as the shot clock expired with 8½ minutes left in the game. It’s hard to throw cold water on Marks’ night, but at times he tried to do too much, as he was tagged with six of the Broncos’ 16 turnovers. After New Mexico’s gamer of the night, Hugh Greenwood, tied the game on a layin with 54 seconds left, Marks dribbled the ball for 25 seconds, then drove for a contested jumper that missed. There was a similar sequence midway through the overtime. Marks wanted to take over the game down the stretch, but the Lobos wouldn’t let him.
It’ll be interesting to see where Boise State’s fan support for basketball goes from here. Despite the loss, it may finally have staying power. There were 10,240 in the stands last night, the first time in 14 years the Broncos have posted more than one crowd of 10,000 in the same season. It’s only the sixth time in the new century Boise State has drawn 10,000-plus in Taco Bell Arena (the largest counts being the 11,210 versus LSU last month and the 12,193 against Idaho in 2011). The Broncos also had a crowd of 10,153 for an NIT game against Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2004 that was moved to the Idaho Center. The next home opponent is Fresno State next Wednesday—a win at Air Force Saturday could keep the train rolling for the Bulldogs’ visit.
When it comes to Chris Petersen and Oregon, you keep thinkin’ it’s never over ‘til it’s over. With Chip Kelly doing a 180 and bolting yesterday for the Philadelphia Eagles, the first question locally was, “How soon will the Ducks promote offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich to head coach?” The university has to go through state procedure, including an interview with at least one minority candidate, before making Helfrich official. The timing is probably a blessing in disguise for Boise State fans. Kelly’s departure came exactly three weeks before National Letter of Intent Day, and you’d think the Ducks would be very reluctant to blow up their coaching staff and risk doing the same to their 2013 recruiting class.
It won’t surprise you that I reflect today on Chip Kelly’s first game as Oregon head coach, the 2009 season opener on the blue turf against Boise State. The 14th-ranked Broncos smothered 16th-ranked Oregon, 19-8, on ESPN before a record crowd. The night belonged to the BSU defense, and it sounds even more amazing now than it did then. The Ducks didn’t register a first down until midway through the third quarter and had only 152 yards for the game. But it was the aftermath, of course, that was long remembered—marred when Oregon’s LeGarrette Blount sucker-punched the Broncos’ Byron Hout after Hout trash-talked him. The incident became an instant You Tube sensation and resulted in a season-long suspension for Blount (though he was reinstated that November). Kelly lost only six more games over four seasons with the Ducks.
San Diego State still had 15 days left in the “right of first refusal” clause arranged by Boise State allowing the Aztecs to get first dibs on an invitation to return to the Mountain West. Yesterday SDSU got the drama out of the way and announced that it, too, would not be going to the Big East. The Aztec team that’s most ecstatic has to be men’s basketball, ranked 15th in AP. No exile to the Big West. Getting the word out the day of the San Diego State-UNLV game seemed brilliant, but the Rebels upended the Aztecs last night, 82-75. Now we’ll see how the divisional lineup shakes out for football. An East/West split that puts Boise State in the East would not be optimal for the Broncos, who prefer to play at least one game every year in California, their primary recruiting ground.
It wasn’t what the doctor ordered for Idaho Steelheads coach Brad Ralph. Yet another Steelhead has been called up to the AHL, as Matthew Tousignant goes to Texas at the behest of the Dallas Stars. The 23-year-old forward has recorded 19 points this season. The Steelheads have now lost 10 players to the AHL in the past month. Furthermore, Idaho will be without defenseman Scott Todd in the two-game series against the rival Alaska Aces this weekend. Todd has been suspended for two games by the ECHL for an elbowing incident versus Bakersfield last Saturday.
It’s different this year with Gary Van Tol as new manager of the Boise Hawks. Understandably, Hawks managers have been seasonal employees—even the legendary Tom Kotchman. They serve at the pleasure of the parent club. But Van Tol has bridged the gap, a local guy who had what the Cubs needed to be a teacher and developer of short season Class A talent. So the Hawks’ annual Baseball Coaches Clinics at the Caven-Williams Sports Complex at Boise State is more of a local event this year. The four-day Hitting and Defense Clinic starts today, with the Pitching and Catching Clinic following next weekend. Van Tol will be joined by a myriad of players, coaches and scouts from, among others, the Cubs, Giants and Dodgers.
Justin Holiday was the definition of “good all-around game” last night for the Idaho Stampede. Holiday scored 24 points, pulled down eight rebounds, and blocked a team season-high seven shots in the Stampede’s 91-84 win over Erie in CenturyLink Arena. The Stampede fought through another poor shooting night by clamping down defensively, holding the BayHawks to 13 points in the third quarter and forcing 22 turnovers. It’s the first time the Stamps have won back-to-back home games this season. Idaho and Erie face off again tonight.
This Day In Sports…January 17, 1971:
In a comedy of errors, the Baltimore Colts defeat the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13, in Super Bowl V. The game was marred by 11 turnovers and a slew of penalties. The game’s most spectacular play happened in the second quarter, when Colts tight end John Mackey caught a tipped pass and romped 75 yards for a touchdown. Jim O’Brien booted a 32-yard field goal with five seconds left to give Baltimore the victory—at least some consolation for the shocking loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III in 1969.
(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.)