Thursday, December 22, 2011.
LAS VEGAS – There really hasn’t been much made of the Dennis Erickson factor in tonight’s game, but really, the Erickson/Boise State thing seems so yesterday. Erickson turned around Idaho’s program from 1982-85 and chalked up the first four victories in what would be a 12-game Vandal winning streak over the Broncos. Then came stints with Wyoming, Washington State, Miami, Oregon State, and the San Francisco 49ers before he returned to Moscow for that infamous one season in 2006. Boise State won in the Kibbie Dome that year, 42-26, and after the game Erickson irked some fans by saying he hoped the Broncos made a BCS bowl (which they did). With all the turmoil surrounding his exit at Arizona State, Erickson’s feelings or non-feelings about Boise State have taken a back seat.
Senior Day has passed, of course, but this is it: the final game for 21 Boise State seniors, playing for Chris Petersen for the final time tonight. What has it meant to them? “He demanded a lot of us,” said Kellen Moore. “He’s very organized, and he pushed us to be great.” From Aaron Tevis: “It’s been a great opportunity. He’s one of the top-tier coaches in the country.” When asked if he understands why Petersen stays with the Broncos despite myriad job opportunities at BCS schools, Tevis said, “He loves Boise. He loves living here—he loves the fans and the community.” How would the seniors like to go out tonight?” “Just to be the winningest class possible,” said George Iloka. “To leave it a little better than when we came in.”
Petersen will look out tonight with similar feelings for the seniors. From Moore, whose scholarship Petersen once had to be sold on, to Doug Martin, who he discovered unconventionally (like so many of his players the past six years. The main game Martin played in junior high was Pokemon. Then he discovered another outlet in high school: football. By his junior year at St. Mary’s High in Stockton, Martin was starting at tailback. Despite 1,950 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, he was still waiting for his first scholarship offer going into his senior year. But Martin’s coach, Tony Franks, was an assistant at UC Davis the same time as Petersen. In fact, they shared an office together. Petersen was thus well-versed on Martin—and jumped at the opportunity to land him.
I think the Bronco seniors are well aware of the history they can make. They’re on the cusp of 50 wins, something never accomplished by a college football senior class. At least not in the 20th or 21st century. Boise State’s 2009 senior class won 49 games, tying the Nebraska seniors who finished their careers in 1997. A 50th victory for Kellen Moore would establish a mark for college quarterbacks that would probably never be surpassed—unless the season is expanded again in the future. There was a senior class with more victories in the 19th century. The University of Pennsylvania won 55 games in four-year period ending in 1898, in a time when you could play as many games as you want.
Regardless of the configuration of the Boise State secondary tonight, the Bronco defense has to come up big against the pass. Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler is a lot more like TCU's Casey Pachall than anyone else Boise State has seen—and you know what Pachall did last month. In fact, Osweiler is 6-8, whereas Pachall is a mere 6-5. Thanks to the injury-induced two-week collapse against Pachall and San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley, Boise State’s yield against the pass is considerably up this year. The Broncos are allowing 35 more yards per game through the air than last year, and they’ve given up 19 touchdown passes compared to only eight last season. There will be some pressure on them tonight.
ESPN’s Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit made the media rounds before yesterday’s press conference and luncheon at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Fowler knows what his crew’s focus of tonight’s telecast will be off the top. “To see Kellen Moore go out with this group of seniors--it’s the dominant storyline for us,” said Fowler. He and Herbstreit both lamented the Broncos’ exclusion from the BCS bowls. “They did what was asked of them,” said Fowler. “When you’re 11-1 and have established what Boise State has, you’re a BCS team. “Herbstreit feels a shakeup of the BCS system could be on the horizon. “Seeing the Sugar Bowl this year, I think they’re going to take a good, hard look at it.”
Just when Austin Pettis starts to catch on as a rookie Rams wide receiver in the NFL, he gets caught with performance-enhancing drugs in his system. The league has suspended Pettis for four games without pay, a penalty that will carry over to the first two games of the 2012 season. The season started poorly for the third-round draft pick out of Boise State, to the point that he wasn’t even activated for several games. A rash of St. Louis injuries eventually helped him get into the starting lineup.
Iowa beat Drake by 14 points. Boise State routed Drake by 44 and put up 108 points. The punch line? The Broncos are playing the Hawkeyes on the road tonight. As you may have heard, Boise State is 9-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. And that’s a definitive 0-3. It’s sounding like Anthony Drmic won’t be 100 percent if he even plays tonight. His status will be a gametime decision after he sprained his ankle in Monday’s win over Fresno State.
Making the minor league rounds: the Idaho Steelheads won their fourth game in a row last night, beating the defending Kelly Cup champion Alaska Aces 4-3 in a shootout. The Idaho Stampede fell at Reno 115-95 after being tied with the Bighorns at halftime. And former major leaguer Bill Buckner gets to stay home next summer (except for 38 Northwest League road games). Buckner has reportedly reached an agreement with the Chicago Cubs organization to serve as hitting coach for the Boise Hawks next season.
It’s been almost 10 years since the Women’s Challenge cycling race went by the wayside. But in 2012, a major women’s multi-day road race returns when the Exergy Tour debuts in the Treasure Valley over Memorial Day weekend. The event is slated for five days, featuring more than 100 cyclists (including, perhaps, Kristin Armstrong) and covering over 200 miles. The Exergy Tour will be well-positioned as a lead-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The Twilight Criterium has become wildly popular in recent years, but that’s a one-night event on a compact course in Downtown Boise. The Women’s Challenge was founded by Ore-Ida in 1984 and lasted 19 years.
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December 22, 2003: North Carolina State quarterback Phillip Rivers breaks a college football record by starting his 54th career game (Kellen Moore will fall one game short of that mark tonight). Rivers made it count, as the Wolfpack beat Kansas, 56-26, in the Tangerine Bowl at Orlando. He went 37-for-45 for 475 yards and five touchdowns as he also broke the Tangerine record for passing. Rivers would be drafted in the first round the following April by the New York Giants but would end up in San Diego after Eli Manning said he wouldn’t play for the Chargers. In addition to Rivers, San Diego got first, third and fifth-round draft picks in a trade with the Giants.
(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.)