Thursday, November 29, 2012.
Here we are two days before a Boise State football rivalry game with a share of the Mountain West championship at stake, and we’re leading off with hoops. It’s tough to trump the ol’ Bronco pigskin around here this time of the year. But that’s what happens when the Boise State men’s basketball team records one of the biggest victories in school history. The Broncos went to Omaha last night and took down No. 11 Creighton, 83-70, quieting 16,364 fans in the CenturyLink Center. The Bluejays are the highest-ranked team Boise State has ever defeated, and it’s only the second time the Broncos have beaten a Top 25 team on the road. Creighton had won 42 straight home games in the month of November in a streak that lasted 23 years.
With 35 points last night, Derrick Marks equaled Boise State’s highest-scoring individual game in almost 14 years. Marks scored a phenomenal 28 of his points after halftime, logging 18 straight points for the Broncos during a long stretch in the second half. How did he do it? “To tell you the truth, I don’t even know,” said Marks on the KBOI postgame show. “I was just in a zone.” Anthony Drmic added 17 points and Jeff Elorriaga had 12 for Boise State, which shot a torrid 60 percent from the field. Virtually every facet of the Broncos’ game was clicking. They made plays from beyond the arc (10-of-19) and on the glass (out-rebounding Creighton by 13). They made their free throws (15-of-19) and took care of the ball (only three turnovers in the second half).
It’s funny how this Boise State-Nevada game Saturday is all about Reno and Mackay Stadium and the 2010 game. Many have forgotten that Boise State dropped Nevada 30-10 last year on the blue turf, holding the Wolf Pack to 182 yards of total offense. But Pack fans will quickly point out that quarterback Cody Fajardo didn’t play in that game due to a tender shoulder. “That was a really big thing last year—he wasn’t in there,” said Petersen. “He can run the ball.” Fajardo rushed for a Colin Kaepernick-like 198 yards last time out at New Mexico, his third 100-yard game of the season. Fajardo has also thrown for 2,327 yards and 17 touchdowns with seven interceptions, very similar to the numbers of Boise State’s Joe Southwick (2,267 yards, 15 TDs, seven picks).
Then there’s the guy Fajardo hands off to. Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson is the nation’s second-leading rusher, having topped the 1500-yard mark with 20 touchdowns to boot. Jefferson scored seven total TDs in the Wolf Pack’s 69-24 waxing of Hawaii in September. No one in Boise State history has even scored six touchdowns. Jefferson, one of 10 finalists for the Doak Walker Award that goes to the nation’s best running back, is a Wolf Pack workhorse. He has 313 carries this season, breaking the 32-year-old record of Nevada legend Frank Hawkins.
And one of the guys Fajardo throws to has one of this year’s most remarkable stories in college football. Wide receiver Brandon Wimberly, an expected star for Nevada’s 2011 squad, was shot in downtown Reno in June of that year. “He cheated death,” Nevada coach Chris Ault told me in August. “He’s a poster child for our program.” Ault said Wimberly was still feeling his way through in the spring but didn’t miss a day. The question was: would he still be able to play football the same way? The answer has been an unqualified yes. Wimberly has 61 catches this season for 749 yards and four touchdowns. Technically a senior, he’s seeking a medical redshirt for an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA.
When you go into a game against a team averaging 38 points a game (like Nevada is), the bottom line is scoring defense. And that’s what it’s been all about this year for the Boise State defense. The Broncos haven’t allowed 30 points in a game all season—in fact, they’ve only yielded 20 points twice. All this during a year in which they had to replace nine defensive starters. The Wolf Pack will probably drive the field Saturday. They'll get into the red zone. The key: how much will they get in the end zone? (Incidentally, Boise State has not allowed 40 points in a game since the 41-38 loss to East Carolina in the 2007 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.)
Petersen is trying to temper the praise being heaped upon the Boise State defense, though. He started talking about the success of this year’s unit when asked about it Monday, then cut the subject short. “I don’t want to get into this being this great defense,” he said. “Every time we do that, you know what happens the next game. And I mean that jokingly and seriously.” Petersen says Nevada’s pistol, which has evolved since Ault invented it in 2005, is as difficult to defend as ever. “This isn’t your conventional offense,” he said. “This will be our biggest test of the year on defense, without question.”
It seemed like a rivalry with Louisville was going to be a natural as Boise State plotted its Big East course next year. The Broncos and Cardinals actually have a history, having faced off twice in bowl game thrillers. Boise State beat Louisville in the 1999 Humanitarian Bowl, 34-31, and the Cardinals returned the favor with a 44-40 win over the Broncos in the 2004 Liberty Bowl. But alas, the rivalry revival is not going to happen. Louisville was the ACC’s Chosen One yesterday, getting an invitation to the conference beginning in 2014. I guess Boise State can always reminisce about a newly-named Big East foe as it looks back on the aforementioned bowl loss to East Carolina.
According to various reports, Idaho interim coach Jason Gesser, Wyoming defensive coordinator and former UI coach Chris Tormey, and San Jose State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren have all interviewed for the Vandals’ permanent head coaching job. And Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and Central Washington coach Blaine Bennett are also candidates. What’s interesting is the fact that one-time Idaho coach Keith Gilbertson talked to athletic director Rob Spear about the job, but Gilbertson told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that he isn’t a candidate. He said he would have considered taking the position if Idaho had decided to move to the Big Sky. Today, by the way, marks a not-so-memorable anniversary for Tormey (see below).
It was “perpetual power play night” at CenturyLink Arena last night, as the Idaho Steelheads got by Colorado in a penalty-fest, 4-3. There were 20 infractions whistled, resulting in 16 power plays (the Steelheads were 0-for-8 and the Eagles 1-for-8). The only multi-point man for Idaho was Justin Dowling, with a goal and an assist. His goal was the game-winner with five minutes left in the third period, and he had some help. Dowling fired a shot that was rejected by Colorado goalie Adam Brown, but it bounced off Eagles defenseman Cody Sol and back into the net, and Dowling got credit for it. The Steelheads and Eagles play again tomorrow night and Saturday night.
The Idaho Stampede were fine on the boards last night, shot 84 percent from the free throw line, and committed only 10 turnovers. But the Stampede could not make baskets. They shot just 35 percent from the field, an agonizingly low number at the D-League level, and fell to the L.A. D-Fenders, 112-98. Guard Justin Holiday, who was in the Portland Trail Blazers’ camp last month, had the toughest time—the former Washington star was 5-of-21. Boise State product Coby Karl marked his return to the Stampede by starting and playing 33 minutes, scoring 10 points and dishing out six assists. Ex-Bronco Jason Ellis did not play. The Stamps play at Bakersfield tonight.
This Day In Sports…November 29, 2003:
Ryan Dinwiddie plays his final game in Bronco Stadium, throwing for 375 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for two more scores in Boise State’s 56-3 rout of Nevada. On the day, Dinwiddie broke BSU career records for passing yards and touchdown passes, as well as single season marks for passing yards, total offense and passing attempts. And the Broncos clinched their second straight WAC championship. The next day, Nevada coach Chris Tormey was fired by athletic director Chris Ault, who would return as Wolf Pack coach in 2004.
(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.)