Wednesday, January 30, 2013.
While basketball chaos swirls around him, Larry Eustachy will have inner peace tonight when Colorado State hosts Boise State. The one-time Idaho coach has settled in as the head man in Fort Collins, and it’s a good fit. Eustachy is back in the West a decade after photos from a University of Missouri fraternity party following an Iowa State loss to the Tigers almost derailed his career. He’ll mark 10 years of sobriety this spring. "I'm really comfortable with who I am,” Eustachy told FoxNews.com recently. “But life's a journey. Is it a smooth sail? No. We all have our demons and our struggles. We just do."
Twenty years ago right now, Eustachy was in his third and final season with the Vandals before going to Utah State. He was 61-33 with Idaho and won 98 more games with the Aggies before Stew Morrill came to Logan. Eustachy's days at Iowa State are best remembered locally for the monstrous upset he suffered at the hands of 15th-seeded Hampton in the 2001 NCAA Tournament in what was then the BSU Pavilion. He took a year off after frat-gate, then rebuilt Southern Miss and brought more than 400 career wins with him when he joined CSU this season. Eustachy took over a pretty good Rams team, and it’s better now, sporting a 16-4 record.
Eustachy stresses hitting the boards, and that couldn’t be more apparent in the stats. Boise State has been pretty good on the glass this season, but Colorado State is in a different universe. The Rams are the No. 1 team in the nation in rebounding margin—by a long shot. CSU has a plus-14.1 in rebounding differential, topping the the second-place team by 3.7 per game (Maryland is plus-10.7). The Rams boast the top two players in the Mountain West in rebounding: Pierce Hornung at 9.6 boards per game and Colton Iverson at 9.5. As for the Broncos, despite their 2-3 record they’re only two games out of first place in the conference. But man are they in the midst of a brutal stretch, Jeff Elorriaga or no Jeff Elorriaga.
Scheduling notes: there will be no BYU-Hawaii game to finish the 2013 regular season. That’s because the December 7 date for the contest conflicts with the new Mountain West championship game. The Cougars and Warriors consequently cancelled their meeting in Provo in 2014 as well. Hawaii’s loss in Nevada’s gain—kind of. BYU will replace the Aloha Stadium visit with a trip to Reno earlier in the fall to meet the Wolf Pack. Nevada is sacrificing a home game against Oregon, but the Pack isn’t complaining (although their fans might be). Nevada had been trying to “balance” a 2013 slate that already includes Florida State and UCLA. The Wolf Pack has agreed to compensate for the late change by playing at Oregon in 2019 and will face BYU in Provo in 2014 and 2019.
When we close in on National Letter of Intent Day a week from today, we’ll be examining another crop of so-called two-star recruits among mid-major schools. Boise State doesn’t have as many as it used to. But the Broncos, among others, have proven the stars don’t mean a heck of a lot. Athlon Sports’ Braden Gall has compiled a list of “College Football's Top 15 Two-Star Recruits Since 2003.” No. 2 is Ryan Clady, the Boise State great who was unheralded out of Eisenhower High in Rialto, CA, in 2004. He didn’t get a sniff from USC or UCLA. In fact, the Broncos weren’t sure initially whether Clady would play on offense or defense. They just knew he had something special. Clady, of course, was the 12th overall pick by Denver in the 2008 NFL Draft.
And No. 5 is former Idaho star Mike Iupati, who didn’t qualify academically for a scholarship coming out of Western High in Anaheim in 2005. Iupati’s family rallied around him, raising money to pay for his tuition and expenses so he could walk on at Idaho. Iupati ultimately earned a scholarship—and now, a lot of money. As a senior he was an All-American and an Outland Trophy finalist and did not allow a sack. Iupati was then the 17th overall pick by San Francisco in the 2010 NFL Draft and will start at left guard for the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII this Sunday.
Our former Bronco NFLers of the Day are Orlando Scandrick and Tyrone Crawford of the Dallas Cowboys. If you’re one of those for whom Scandrick is persona non grata due to his refusal to give Boise State as his school during Sunday and Monday Night Football introductions, you won’t like this. Jonathan Bales of the Dallas Morning News graded each of the Cowboys’ regulars for the 2012 season and gave Scandrick an A. “Overall, Scandrick allowed just a 51.3 percent completion rate—remarkable for a nickel cornerback—and only 5.7 yards per attempt on 39 targets,” wrote Bales. “He also didn’t allow a touchdown all year. It’s not the consensus, but Scandrick was one of the best players on the team.” Crawford drew a B- from Bales, who likes the defensive end’s future. “He has versatility in the (Cowboys’) new 4-3 defense,” said Bales.
The red and black of Arkansas State is going to have a definite blue and orange tint this year. New head coach Bryan Harsin, the former Boise State offensive coordinator, has added another former Bronco to his staff, ex-safety Gerald Alexander. The one-time second-round NFL Draft pick tweeted that he’ll be a graduate assistant for the Red Wolves. Alexander played five NFL seasons—his last stop was with the New York Jets in 2011. Alexander joins fellow former Boise State players or assistants Bush Hamdan, Kent Riddle and Julius Brown on Harsin’s staff, as well as Jeff Pitman and Lee Marks on the strength and conditioning side.
The trickle-up effect upon the end of the NHL lockout has worked out well for Nick Johnson. A month after appearing in five games with the Idaho Steelheads, Johnson had a goal and an assist for the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes Monday night, earning third-star honors in the Coyotes’ 4-0 win over the Nashville Predators. Johnson assisted on the game-winning goal and later scored an insurance goal in the third period against one of the NHL’s top goaltenders, Pekka Rinne. That should serve as inspiration for the current crop of Steelies, who play at Stockton Friday and Saturday.
The Idaho Stampede’s January is in the books—and don’t look now, but it was a .500 month for the team that has struggled so mightily this season. The Stampede were 5-5 in January and finished with a dominating 104-88 victory on the road over the Texas Legends last Saturday. That was the Stamps’ last game of the season against Texas, so they won’t be seeing Allen Iverson—but then, they wouldn’t have anyway, as Iverson has told the Legends he isn’t going to go the D-League route. Friday marks the halfway point of the season for the Stampede, with the matchup against the L.A. D-Fenders tipping off six straight home dates in CenturyLink Arena.
This Day In Sports…January 30, 1996:
Magic Johnson returns to the Los Angeles Lakers lineup for his first regular-season appearance since his November, 1991, announcement that he had tested positive for HIV. Johnson was 36 years old by then—and 30 pounds heavier—but he played 27 minutes, contributing 19 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists in a 128-118 win over the Golden State Warriors. Johnson appeared in 32 games for the Lakers that season before retiring for the final time.
(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.)