Tuesday, January 15, 2013.
Not to belabor the No. 11 jersey thing, but Boise State fans have prominently worn that numeral to football games since 2008. If they choose to don it under their parkas tomorrow night, they can do so with a purpose. Here’s how the Bronco basketball version of No. 11 is doing. Jeff Elorriaga, coming off the buzzer-beater at Wyoming, is fifth in the nation in three-point percentage at 49.5 percent. He’s hit 52 treys at roughly the halfway point of the season—exactly half of them in the past four games—after connecting on a total of 39 last season. Overall, Elorriaga has almost doubled his scoring average from last season, to 11.9 points per game. And he’s been in double figures eight times, compared to five all of last season. He’s going to be a magnet for Lobo defenders tomorrow.
Without Kenny Buckner, Boise State is going to have to be at its level best on the block against New Mexico. That means Ryan Watkins. The Lobos bring in seven-footer Alex Kirk, the Mountain West Co-Player of the Week. Kirk had 23 points and nine rebounds in a win against UNLV—including two three-pointers. He then put up 19 points and pulled down 14 boards in a rout of Fresno State. The sophomore star has a track record in big games this season. It was Kirk who swatted away the shot at the buzzer by Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick three weeks ago to hand the then-No. 8 Bearcats their first loss of the campaign. Watkins got into early foul trouble at Wyoming last week and won’t be able to afford that versus New Mexico with only Darrious Hamilton and Jake Ness behind him.
Boise State has had to work its way back from the 21-point rout it suffered at Utah, but a seven-game winning streak since has the Broncos earning votes again in both men’s basketball rankings—nine of them in the AP Poll and two in the Coaches Poll. That sets up tomorrow night’s Taco Bell Arena game against New Mexico nicely. The Lobos jumped from No. 25 to No. 19 in AP and re-entered the Coaches Poll at No. 21 this week. Three Mountain West teams are in the Top 25, with San Diego State ranked 14th by the coaches and 15th in AP, while UNLV is 23rd in the Coaches Poll. Incidentally, Creighton has risen to No. 10 on the coaches’ list and No. 12 in the AP Poll, with the only blemish on its 16-1 record the 83-70 loss to Boise State on November 28.
Boise State wasn’t the only team with a “missing person” in last week’s game at Wyoming. Senior Luke Martinez was absent from the Cowboys’ lineup due to what was termed a “non-basketball injury.” Now we know what it was. Martinez was arrested over the weekend on assault charges stemming from a bar fight December 30. Martinez fractured a bone in his hand in the incident. He’s now been suspended indefinitely by Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt. Martinez was averaging 14½ points per game and was shooting 86 percent from the free throw line.
While perusing Boise State’s “2012 All-OBNUG Team” and the choice of running back Jay Ajayi as the Freshman of the Year at OBNUG.com the other day, I saw this passage from Drew Roberts: “I'm not Tom Scotty enough to know where Ajayi's 548 yards and 4 TDs rank in Bronco freshman history, but I've got to think his 6.7 yards per carry average is near the top of the record books for a redshirt frosh.” I thought it was my responsibility to be Tom Scotty enough to find out. Ajayi’s 548 rushing yards are sixth all-time among freshmen at Boise State (the record is Cedric Minter’s 877 yards in 1977). The four touchdowns are eighth. And by gosh, Roberts is right—Ajayi’s 6.7 yards per carry is a Bronco freshman record, topping Jeremy Avery’s 6.5 in 2007. Maybe I’ll save that for Sunday Sports Extra during spring football.
Former Boise State player and Idaho State head coach Larry Lewis has left Nevada, where he was running backs and special teams coach, to take the same post at Virginia. This is Lewis’ third stop as an assistant since leaving ISU—he was on the Colorado State staff from 2008-11. His calling card right now is the fact that he coached the Wolf Pack’s Stefphon Jefferson this season. Jefferson was the nation’s second-leading rusher, amassing a Mountain West record 1,883 yards and 24 touchdowns. Lewis, a Vale High grad, was a starting linebacker on the Broncos’ 1980 Division I-AA championship team.
Our former Bronco NFLer of the Day is Jeron Johnson, whose season just ended Sunday with the Seattle Seahawks. Johnson’s role increased slightly this season over his rookie year, and he picked up the first two sacks of his NFL career. But Johnson still spent the bulk of his time on special teams, where he made his mark. The highlight of his season came in Week 3 against the Cowboys at CenturyLink Field, when a blocked punt bounced into his hands at the three-yard line, and he pranced in for his first NFL touchdown. When Johnson is on the field on defense with Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman, it’s just like old times. Johnson and Sherman were teammates at Dominguez High in Compton, CA.
The Statesman’s Brian Murphy said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk he was tracking down a reported commitment by Matt Linehan to play quarterback at Idaho. Linehan’s dad, Scott, is a former Vandal quarterback and one-time head coach of the St. Louis Rams and currently the offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions. Matt is a 6-3, 185-pounder out of St. Mary Prep in Orchard Lake, MI. He would join an Idaho quarterback battle that now also includes junior college transfer Anthony Neyer. Ironic that Linehan’s first cousin, Gabe, scored Boise State’s final touchdown in the Bronco-Vandal rivalry on a 21-yard pass from Kellen Moore in the Kibbie Dome in 2010.
It was a forgettable weekend for Idaho Steelheads special teams, but they did score their 10th shorthanded goal of the season, a third-period tally by David de Kastrozza in Saturday night’s 6-2 loss to Bakersfield. The Steelheads lead the ECHL in that category. And here come the rival Alaska Aces this weekend, topping the league in fewest shorthanded goals allowed with one. Just a quirky sidebar for the upcoming two-game series.
This Day In Sports…January 15, 1967:
The Green Bay Packers defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10, in the first Super Bowl, called the AFL-NFL Championship Game. The unlikely hero was veteran Packers receiver Max McGee, who had caught only four passes all season but on this day had seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first official game between the two leagues and was telecast by both CBS (which held the NFL rights) and NBC (which had the AFL).
(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.)