Wednesday, November 14, 2012.
We got a little dose of reality yesterday, in that Boise State is really headed for the Big East. The announcement of the conference’s football divisional alignment for 2013 brought that home. No matter which way the Big East sliced it, it was going to be nutty. At least the Broncos are in the West Division. They’re joined by their fellow Mountain West expatriots, the San Diego State Aztecs, along with Houston, SMU, Memphis, and—from Philadelphia, PA—the Temple Owls. If Bill Cosby ever plays Taco Bell Arena again, he’ll have to change sweatshirts. The East Division will include Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida. Big East commissioner Mike Aresco says the alignment will probably be revisited after the 2014 season, when Navy (and hopefully another school) joins the league.
Each team will play eight league games per season, five against divisional foes. The home and away opponents will be announced after the Big East athletic directors’ annual meeting in New York on December 3. The conference also announced that the Big East Championship Game will be played between the East and West winners on the home field of one of the participating teams, not at a neutral site. That’s a very wise decision, saving the league the embarrassment of empty seats at some NFL stadium that may not be geographically appropriate. If the title game ended up on the blue turf, it would be one tough ticket.
One of the idiosyncrasies of Chris Petersen’s Boise State contract is that it’s extended by a year each time he leads the Broncos to an eight-win season. With that in the books, Petersen’s deal now goes through January 31, 2018. Boise State has now won at least eight games for 14 consecutive seasons. A victory over Colorado State on Senior Day Saturday would give the Broncos 11 straight nine-win seasons.
A sidebar to Monday’s announcement on the new structure for major bowls beginning in 2014. Does it rekindle interest in the Big East at BYU? Is it just me—or does that not make a lot of sense for the Cougars? Football independents like BYU (and Idaho, for that matter) are not considered part of the “Group of Five” outsider conferences and are not guaranteed access to the new collection of six major bowls. Would the Cougars rather have a clearly-defined path as a Big East member—or would they rather be required to go unbeaten and still be at the mercy of the selection committee? Notre Dame isn’t in that boat. The independent Fighting Irish have a shared deal with the Big Ten and SEC for the berth opposite the ACC in the Orange Bowl.
Jason Gesser’s big opportunity—and probably his only opportunity—is Saturday in the Kibbie Dome. Idaho’s interim head coach can make his case for the permanent job with an upset of UT San Antonio in the Vandals’ final home game. UTSA is 6-4 in its first season as an FBS school under former Miami coach Larry Coker, but it’s not a solid 6-4. The Roadrunners started 5-0, then had a four-game losing streak before holding off FCS McNeese State last week in the Alamodome, 31-24. Gesser infused Idaho with energy in his first game against San Jose State, and the Vandals were competitive into the third quarter. That was not the case last Saturday at BYU. Gesser has a chance to prove he can glue the team together for a winnable conference game on Senior Day.
There’s been so much attention focused on Boise State’s two former offensive coordinators who have moved on to major BCS powers, Bryan Harsin at Texas and Brent Pease at Florida, that it’s been easy to forget about Marcel Yates. The longtime Boise State secondary coach departed for Texas A&M in January and was named the Aggies co-defensive coordinator, although he’s technically the secondary coach there. The actual defensive coordinator is Mark Snyder, and Yates helped him game-plan A&M’s shocking 29-24 win at Alabama last Saturday. Snyder and Yates employed a “2-Robber” scheme, a defense where the Aggies would show two “high” safeties but “rock” to one to take away the Crimson Tide’s preferred crossing routes. That was as important to the upset as Johnny Football.
Former Boise State tight end Tommy Gallarda’s NFL season is over, as the Atlanta Falcons placed him on injured reserve yesterday. Gallarda, who had earned a lot of playing time because of his blocking and was a strong special teams player, injured his shoulder in the Falcons’ loss to New Orleans last Sunday. He made his first NFL catch October 7 against Washington but has not been thrown to since.
Boise State was up by two at halftime, led by as many as 16 midway through the second half, and had an eight-point advantage as the buzzer sounded last night in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos won 88-80 over Oakland University, who would not go away down the stretch. Boise State created separation in the second half with the three-ball. After hitting only two treys before the break, the Broncos drained nine of them following halftime. At the end, it was free throws that kept the Golden Grizzlies at arm’s length. BSU was 21-of-25 from the charity stripe.
Boise State’s Anthony Drmic was as good last night as any time during his freshman season. The Australian scored 25 points with 10 rebounds and five assists. Drmic also had four of the team’s 11 three-pointers. Jeff Elorriaga also played perhaps his best game as a Bronco, putting up a career-high 25 points. At the other end, the one-time walk-on held Oakland scoring machine Travis Bader to 1-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Boise State hosts Louisiana-Lafayette this Sunday.
Today is the 15th anniversary of the Idaho Stampede’s first game, a momentous occasion in the Idaho Center that drew 6,000 fans. The Stampede, led by former Boise State coach Bobby Dye, defeated the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the opener, 102-92. The first points in franchise history came on a three-pointer from guard Rusty LaRue, the one-time Wake Forest point guard and quarterback, who at the end of the night was called up by the Chicago Bulls.
Idaho Steelheads fans will see Stockton exactly one time in CenturyLink Arena this season, and that’s tonight. It’ll be Tyler Beskorowany between the pipes for the Steelheads, as Josh Robinson has been recalled by the Texas Stars. Steelies coach Brad Ralph said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk that Robinson isn’t an injury replacement in Texas—he’s there because the AHL club’s goalies have been struggling. So that leaves Ralph in limbo, with no timeline on Robinson’s stay in Austin. “Do I try to bring another guy in, or just try to get through the weekend?” said Ralph. There’s not a bottomless pit of cash to fly in prospective replacements from all over the country. The Steelheads will have to just do what they do—score goals—and not worry about it. Idaho is second in the ECHL in goals with 53.
The second stage of the PGA Tour’s q-school began yesterday at three sites, with three more joining in today. Former Boise State star Troy Merritt is at one of them, as he tees off this morning in Rancho Murrieta, CA. Merritt is trying to regain his PGA Tour card after toiling this year on the Web.com Tour. It was at q-school in 2009 that Merritt earned his first taste of golf’s highest level, shocking the field and finishing first. He played the PGA Tour in 2010 and 2011 but didn’t hang on to his tour card this year. Merritt made only $63,063 this season on the Web.com circuit.
This Day In Sports…November 14, 1964:
Gus Johnson, who played his college ball at Boise Junior College and the University of Idaho, cements his status as a rising NBA star with 41 points in the Baltimore Bullets’ 127-115 win over the L.A. Lakers. Johnson still holds the Vandals’ single-season rebound record with an average of 20 per game in 1962-63.
(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.)