Monday, December 17, 2012.
Whenever the rare crowd of 10,000-plus graces Taco Bell Arena in the new century, we talk about how it was like the olden days of Boise State basketball, when attendance like that was common. But this time it really was, because of what happened on the court. One of the best atmospheres ever in that facility was just before Christmas 25 years ago, when Fennis Dembo and Eric Leckner led Wyoming into the BSU Pavilion and came away with a 59-55 win before a raucous 12,265 fans. It kind of felt like that Friday night, but the Broncos won, picking up their first-ever victory over an SEC team in the 89-70 domination of previously undefeated LSU. This night could have some staying power for the Boise State program. The Broncos have some personality, personified in this game by Australian sophomore Anthony Drmic and his 34 points.
It wasn’t as perfect a game as Boise State played in its upset of Creighton, but it was close enough, as the Broncos did plenty to sell the 11,210 on hand. The key was on the boards, where they out-rebounded LSU by 17. That allowed Boise State to gain a 22-6 edge in second-chance points. The only drama at the end was whether or not they would reach 90 points and reward the fans with free burgers. The crowd was reminded of the prize with a minute left after the Broncos scored their 89th point. Then Drmic clanged a dunk, Darrious Hamilton missed a layup, and Derrick Marks was off the mark with a jumper, and that was it. There were actually boos when Boise State dribbled out the clock. I guess you could say it left the throng hungering for more.
D.J. Harper is into the final week of his six-year Boise State career, ending it five days from now in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. Harper has his 1,000-yard season, now he’d like to finish with a good bowl game. He ended his freshman year by scoring a touchdown in the 2007 Hawaii Bowl against East Carolina. And Harper tallied another TD versus Arizona State in Las Vegas. But that was his only carry of the game, as the spotlight was on Doug Martin in his final game. Harper had just three attempts for six yards in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl against TCU while playing behind Ian Johnson. In that Hawaii Bowl? Three carries for three yards. As he has so many times in his career, Harper feels he is due this Saturday.
A strong showing by Harper against Washington would make Boise State coach Chris Petersen as happy as anyone. “What a kid—what a player,” said Petersen. “I don’t know what to say—I’ve said so many things about him over the years. He’s a soft-spoken, humble guy.” Petersen is thankful that treatment for ACL tears, such as the ones Harper suffered in the third game of both the 2009 and 2010 seasons, is a lot better than it was in years gone by. “They can come back as good as new, with a little bit of luck and a tremendous amount of hard work,” Petersen said.
Kerwynn Williams’ first carry in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Saturday went for a loss of seven yards. How’s that for a scene-setter? Williams had one other rushing attempt in the first quarter for no gain. He had 25 yards at halftime. But then came the fourth quarter that will become part of this game’s lore. Williams ran for 191 yards and three touchdowns in that quarter alone as Utah State beat Toledo going away, 41-15. It was an explosion of stunning proportions as Williams atoned for a fumble that led to a Toledo field goal and a tenuous 13-9 Aggie lead. It was then, with half of the fourth quarter gone, that the USU senior star broke a 63-yard touchdown run, set up his own five-yard TD with a 56-yard scamper, scored again from 25 yards out, and added a 32-yard run for good measure. His 235 yards were the second-most in the bowl’s history.
It was a compelling end to what had been a relatively sleepy game. It looked like it was easily going to become the lowest-scoring Famous Idaho Potato Bowl ever, eclipsing Miami’s 21-20 win over Nevada in 2006. Instead, the game produced the highest-scoring fourth quarter in the bowl’s history at 37 points, edging the Idaho-Bowling Green donnybrook three years ago. It also gave Utah State only its second postseason win ever, and its first since the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl. The Aggies finished an unprecedented 11-2, and with everything going on surrounding the program in Logan (including the fact that coach Gary Andersen is still there), there’s no reason USU can’t sustain this success.
To the credit of Toledo coach Matt Campbell, he did not lay his team’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl loss on a couple painful exits in the first quarter. The Rockets lost their defensive leader, honorable mention All-America linebacker Dan Molls, to a concussion on the opening kickoff. Molls leads the country in tackles. And tailback David Fluellen, the nation’s 10th-leading rusher, went out after reaggravating an ankle injury on Toledo’s third possession. Fluellen had 38 yards rushing at that point, putting him over the 1,500-yard mark for the season.
The first game of the day Saturday was the New Mexico Bowl, which saw Nevada blow a 13-point lead in the final 1:08 and lose to Arizona, 49-48. There are Wolf Pack fans—lots of Wolf Pack fans—who are fit to be tied after their team turned a 6-1 start into a 7-6 record in 2012. In case you’re wondering how Washington did against Arizona this year, well, the Huskies bamboozled the Wildcats, 52-17. In Tucson, no less. But we won’t do the “they beat them by this much, so these other guys should beat…” thing.
The Idaho Steelheads have been scoring in bunches this season, and they did again Friday night in besting Bakersfield, 5-2. Five different Steelheads collected goals while goalie Josh Robinson was posting his 11th victory. Robinson remains unbeaten in regulation this season. Then Saturday night, the ol’ turning of the tables. Six different Ontario players found the back of the net as the Reign dropped the Steelies, 6-2. Tyler Beskorowany, coming off his best performance of the campaign in a shutout of the Alaska Aces last Wednesday, was the victim of all six goals. The Steelies play at Utah Wednesday night.
The Idaho Stampede showed a side Friday night no one had seen this season. After six discouraging losses, the Stampede registered their first win of the season, beating Santa Cruz 105-91. Joel Freeland, just assigned to the Stampede by the Portland Trail Blazers earlier that day, led the way with 22 points and 11 rebounds. But the Stamps did it with defense, holding the Warriors to 40 percent shooting and forcing 19 turnovers. Then Saturday night it was another step back, as Santa Cruz hammered the Stampede, 115-93. The season-long bugaboo struck again, as Idaho shot less than 40 percent from the field. The Stampede are now 1-7 this season and play at Bakersfield Wednesday and Thursday.
This Day In Sports…December 17, 1994:
Boise State’s magical season ends with a 28-14 loss to Youngstown State and coach Jim Tressel in the Division I-AA championship game at Huntington, WV (on Marshall’s home field). The Broncos finished 13-2 with a record-setting season from running back K.C. Adams, who would end up playing just that one year. Three days later in a press conference, coach Pokey Allen would announce he had a rare form of cancer, beginning an agonizing two-year battle that would claim his life.
(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.)