Thursday, January 24, 2013.
You often hear about the importance of a team making its free throws down the stretch. But wire to wire? Every last one of them? Boise State set a school and Mountain West record last night by going 26-of-26 from the charity stripe, and that essentially saved the Broncos in a 74-67 win over Fresno State at Taco Bell Arena. Boise State had to endure a 38 percent shooting night and weather a few healthy Bulldog second-half runs that gave Fresno State the lead three times. But the freebies ruled—Derrick Marks made 12 of them, helping him to a game-high 30 points, and Anthony Drmic canned six free throws on his way to 23 points. The Broncos also got 10 points and a career-high 18 rebounds from Ryan Watkins, his third straight double-double, as they improved to 14-4 overall and 2-2 in the Mountain West.
Boise State’s cold night from the field wasn’t a shocker—Fresno State had held Wyoming to a putrid 24 percent from the field in a 49-36 upset of the Cowboys a week ago. That the Broncos couldn’t clamp down on the usually cold-shooting Bulldogs defensively was a surprise, as the visitors bombed away to the tune of 59 percent from three-point range. Then again, in the second half Boise State was without Jeff Elorriaga, who had a recurrence of concussion symptoms after hitting his head hard on the floor toward the end of the first half. Outside of two minutes from Joe Hanstad, the Broncos went with just six players after the intermission (Thomas Bropleh didn’t play at all last night due to a wrist injury). On his KBOI postgame show, coach Leon Rice said, “It doesn’t look good right now” for Elorriaga’s prospects of playing Saturday at Nevada.
This was bypassed yesterday because of talk of Mountain West divisions, but another prominent preliminary prediction is out for the 2013 college football season. Andy Staples’ “Way-Too-Early Top 25” at SI.com slots Boise State at No. 18. Writes Staples: “The Broncos had their rebuilding year. Now they're going to try to bust the BCS one more time before there is no more BCS. D.J. Harper is gone, but in his place is Jay Ajayi, who averaged 6.7 yards a carry last season. Quarterback Joe Southwick looked excellent at the end of 2012. Boise State always plays tough defense. The Broncos open at Washington, and a win against the Huskies could set the table for an impressive season.”
Staples puts a lot of stock in Boise State’s season opener at the rebuilt Husky Stadium August 31. Why No. 18 could be too low, says Staples: “If the Broncos beat Washington, the Mountain West doesn't offer much that can stop them. The biggest challenge will be BYU on October 26.” Why the ranking could be too high: “Like Michigan State last season, Washington could beat the Broncos and leave them without many chances to earn back lost respect.” I will say that all would not be lost with a defeat at UW, as long as it’s not a bad one. Despite the loss at Michigan State last August, the Broncos were still knocking on the door of the BCS until San Diego State came to the blue turf in November.
Our former Bronco NFLers of the Day are Quintin Mikell and Austin Pettis of the St. Louis Rams. Mikell really deserved a spot in the Pro Bowl this Sunday considering the kind of season he had. The 10-year NFL veteran was the leader of the Rams defense, making 101 tackles with three sacks and four forced fumbles. The only thing Mikell didn’t do this season was grab an interception (he has 12 in his career). Mikell turns 33 shortly after next season starts in September, but there’s no reason he can’t keep this thing going. Google “Quintin Mikell retire” and you come up with nothing. Pettis has been discussed often in this space. The second-year wide receiver improved as the season progressed, making three catches for 24 yards and a touchdown in the Rams’ season finale. Pettis’ 2012 totals: 30 receptions, 261 yards, four TDs.
Players who make it to the Senior Bowl have every physical move scrutinized during practices, and so it is for Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor. Here’s a critique from Doug Farrar of Yahoo.com: “Taylor has good speed, but he tends to stand high out of his breaks, which causes him to lose a step in pattern read ideas. He struggles to turn low and maintain leverage at that angle. Taylor gets handsy when he's beaten on crossing routes and really struggles on the timing of comebacks at times. Anything that requires quick-twitch recovery speed leaves him a step slow. I think he's got the physical talent to play in the NFL, but he'll need some mechanical work.” Which Taylor will be more than willing to put in.
Chris Ault was careful not to use the “R” word (retire) when he stepped down as Nevada football coach last month. In an interview with Comcast Sports Bay Area, Ault said what many suspected, that he’d love to take the pistol offense to the next level in the NFL. After all, Colin Kaepernick, Ault’s prize pupil, has made it to the Super Bowl with the pistol in San Francisco. “If I can be of value to somebody and help them with their offensive scheme, that’d be a lot of fun,” Ault told Comcast. “It’d be a great opportunity, and I could bring something to the table if they have that interest. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m not closing that door.”
Idaho apparently won’t have to play its somewhat awkward same-season home-and-home series against New Mexico State this year after all. Word is the Vandals have replaced their November 2 home game against the Aggies with one versus Texas State. Idaho will still wrap up the season at NMSU four weeks later. In 2014, the Vandals are expected to travel to Texas State and host New Mexico State in the Kibbie Dome.
Following last night’s ECHL All-Star Game (such as it was), the Idaho Steelheads are packing their bags for a rare regular season road trip out of the region. The games at South Carolina tomorrow night and Gwinnett Saturday and Sunday mark the Steelheads’ first non-playoff visit to the Eastern Conference in four years. The Steelies have seen both teams before, but it’s been awhile. Gwinnett is noteworthy, because it was the Gladiators whom Idaho beat in the 2004 ECHL Western Conference Finals on the way to its first Kelly Cup championship.
The Idaho Stampede are coming off a bye weekend of sorts as it gears up for a road trip to the Lone Star state Friday and Saturday to face the Austin Toros and Texas Legends. The Stampede haven’t played since last Thursday. There hasn’t been an abundance of positives for the team in this 6-16 season, but Justin Holiday has been as consistent as anybody. The 6-6 guard out of Washington is averaging 13 points, four rebounds, 2½ assists, two steals and 1½ blocks per game and is shooting 42 percent from three-point range. That last number is news for a club that’s hitting just 30 percent collectively from beyond the arc. Holiday scored 28 and 24 points in the Stamps’ last two victories.
This Day In Sports…January 24, 1950:
Jackie Robinson signs what is, at the time, the highest-paying contract in the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was for $35,000. Robinson and club owner Branch Rickey had become very close in the three seasons since Robinson broke big league baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Robinson played his entire career with the Dodgers and retired in 1957 rather than accept a trade to the rival New York Giants. Today, Robinson’s No. 42 is retired throughout the majors.
(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.)