Thursday, December 19, 2013.
Just like Boise State athletic director Mark Coyle had a stash of names hidden away should Chris Petersen ever leave (and I’m sure he has one assembled for Leon Rice), new coach Bryan Harsin had thought through the process of hiring a staff should he ever be able to come back to Boise. Harsin has pulled out his list and has struck paydirt, bringing former secondary coach Marcel Yates back to the blue turf as defensive coordinator and one-time Bronco quarterback Mike Sanford Jr. in as offensive coordinator. Yates has been co-defensive coordinator at Texas A&M the past two seasons. Sanford has been at Stanford for three years, currently as quarterbacks and wide receivers coach. Yates was a prized recruiter for Boise State in Southern California. And guess what—Sanford is recruiting coordinator for the Cardinal.
Yates played at Boise State the same years Harsin did. Like Harsin, Yates has seen the Bronco evolution in its entirety from the inside. He was recruited to BSU by the late Pokey Allen and played immediately as a true freshman in 1996, the 2-10 season that was the low-water mark in school history. Yates stuck it out under Houston Nutt, then was able to experience the culmination of all the dues paid by that ’96 freshman class when the Broncos won 10 games in 1999, taking the Big West championship and winning their first Humanitarian Bowl.
As for Sanford, well, if you’ve watched the Cardinal offense this year, you’ve no doubt liked it. Creativity? Yes, and not in a gimmicky kind of way. Sanford, son of former Utah offensive coordinator and UNLV head coach Mike Sanford, was a backup QB during his five years at Boise State from 2000-04. He and sophomore Jared Zabransky were neck-and-neck in the quest to replace Ryan Dinwiddie in 2004. Coach Dan Hawkins didn’t reveal the winner of the derby until he trotted Zabransky out for the first series in the season opener against Idaho. Sanford has been a rising star in coaching circles since then.
Seems there are always a few players suspended for bowl games. This year Boise State has one who’ll be left home for Tuesday’s Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, running back Derrick Thomas. The junior college transfer never quite got over the hump this season anyway. But to say he’s lost his place with the Broncos would be premature. Hey, Jay Ajayi was suspended from the Las Vegas Bowl during his redshirt year. Nevertheless, the Broncos are down to Jack Fields and Devan Demas as Ajayi’s backups for the game against Oregon State. Fields, who gained just 139 yards this season and averaged three yards a carry, is in need of a breakout as the new coaching staff settles in. Demas had a breakout last month, rushing for 99 yards the last three games. He has to prove that wasn’t a mirage.
Time out from Khalil Mack buzz to look at the other side of the ball going into Saturday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Buffalo’s offense is what you would expect from a team that wears blue in a blue-collar market. The Bulls love to run the ball, and they love to do it with Branden Oliver. The Bulls’ running back has rushed for 1,421 yards and 15 touchdowns this season behind a physical offensive line. If Buffalo can get Oliver going, that will allow its play-action game to kick in with quarterback Joe Licata. The biggest thing with the Bulls, though, might be their ability to take care of the ball. Buffalo is plus-15 in turnover margin (San Diego State is minus-12).
San Diego State just wants to keep it close with Buffalo Saturday on the blue turf. The Aztecs are pretty good in situations like that (don’t Boise State fans know it). The Aztecs played eight games that were decided by seven points or less this season and won six of them, including each of the last four. SDSU tied an FBS record by playing in four overtime games in a single season and won three of them, including the 34-31 decision over Boise State four weeks ago. Furthermore, the Aztecs rallied from a fourth quarter deficit to win five times this year, the most such comebacks in the FBS this season.
Are the Idaho Steelheads tired of playing on home ice? Who knows—but the Steelheads did not light the world on fire in falling 4-0 last night to Bakersfield. Condors goalie Laurent Broissoit turned away all 29 shots by the Steelheads, who haven’t played a road game since November 24. There’s nothing like a shutout to put a definitive end to scoring streaks, and Idaho’s Brett Robinson saw his eight-game point streak snapped. Former Steelie Michael Neal had one of Bakersfield’s four tallies as Idaho goalie Josh Robinson absorbed his first loss in regular since October. The Steelheads get two more shots at the Condors this weekend in CenturyLink Arena.
The Idaho Stampede finally hit the wall last night at Bakersfield, losing their first game of the season after eight wins. But it was tense until the end, when a Pierre Jackson three-point attempt clanged off the rim to seal a 100-97 Jam victory. Don’t blame Jackson—he poured in 31 points, with Richard Howell adding 29. The biggest difference was on the boards, where the Stampede were out-rebounded by 13. The Stamps are one of three D-League teams with only one loss; Rio Grande Valley is 9-1 and Canton is 8-1. Idaho’s long road trip wraps up this weekend at Los Angeles and Santa Cruz.
Hopefully the Carroll game a couple weeks back won’t mark the last time we talk about Boise State forward Joey Nebeker for awhile. Nebeker, the redshirt freshman from Melba High, is still making the transition from small school prep basketball in Idaho to Division I hoops in the Mountain West, and it won’t happen overnight. Versus Carroll he was scoreless, missing three shots in mop-up time. Nebeker’s biggest game has been against Boise State’s other NAIA opponent, Simpson. He scored his first-career point on a free throw with six minutes left in that game, then added his first-career field goal and first-career three-pointer before finishing with nine points—and that’s all the scoring he’s done this season.
An Idaho State basketball update as the Bengals head to Boise for their showdown against Idaho tomorrow night in CenturyLink Arena. ISU is 3-4 on the season and lost by only eight at Utah last week. What are the Bengals especially good at? Shooting the three. Idaho State is currently 23rd in the country in three-point field goal percentage at 41 percent. This is either the 101st or 102nd all-time meeting between the Bengals and Vandals, depending on who you talk to. ISU has the series at 56-44 in favor of the Vandals. Idaho shows it as 60-41.
After leading the club to its first winning season in five years and getting it to the Northwest League Championship Series, Gary Van Tol will return for his second season as manager of the Boise Hawks next summer. Former National League batting champion and Boise resident Bill Buckner gets to live at home for the third straight summer as he returns as Hawks hitting coach. Van Tol will have a new pitching coach in 2014: Brian Lawrence, the former Padres and Mets hurler.
This Day In Sports…December 19, 1948, 65 years ago today:
The Philadelphia Eagles, who have still never won a Super Bowl, capture their first NFL championship with a 7-0 victory over the Chicago Cardinals. The only score of the game came via a touchdown by Philly’s Steve Van Buren in the fourth quarter. The Eagles had lost to the Cardinals in the title game the year before. Philadelphia made it to the Super Bowl in 1981, losing to the Oakland Raiders, and in 2005, falling to the New England Patriots.
(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.)