Wednesday, December 30, 2009.
Going into the Poinsettia Bowl last year, it was all about Boise State trying to handle TCU’s rushing attack. It was after the game, too, for that matter, after the Broncos surrendered 275 yards on the ground in a 17-16 loss. The Horned Frogs had five players with over 300 yards rushing for the season in 2008. It gets better in ‘09. TCU has four guys with over 500 yards apiece on the ground. Joseph Turner leads the group with 732 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Mountain West Freshman of the Year Matthew Tucker has run for 667 yards and eight TDs. Ed Wesley has 630 yards on the ground, and ever-present quarterback Andy Dalton has added 522. So who do you key on?
Turner had 16 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos last year in San Diego, and Dalton contributed 74 yards. It was the TCU offensive line that got things started, and that unit is no less physical this season. Center Jake Kirkpatrick was a Rimington Award finalist and a first-team SI.com All-American. That creates a great matchup against Boise State defensive tackle Billy Winn, who Kirkpatrick didn’t see much at the Poinsettia Bowl. Winn had dropped 15 pounds and moved to defensive end to compensate for injuries to Mike T. Williams, Jarrell Root and Shea McClellin. Now Winn is back to his old svelte D-tackle self at 6-4, 288-pounds.
You’ve already heard the good news/bad news for Boise State. Wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker was back in pads at the beginning of practice yesterday. But Austin Pettis was limping around and did not look like he’d be ready to play in six (now five) days. If you’re a Bronco fan, I guess it’s expect the worst and hope for the best, but Pettis didn’t even look close in KTVB video we saw last night. Shoemaker will be called upon to pick up some slack Monday, and he should be hungry, having not played in a month and a half. The sophomore out of Mountain View High had four catches for 48 yards against Idaho November 14 before he finally had to give in to the pain of a hernia that day. Shoemaker had surgery shortly thereafter and has been rehabbing since.
It’s been an amazing journey that has brought Idaho to the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl against Bowling Green this afternoon. After going 3-21 in his first two seasons, Vandal coach Robb Akey built up the opener at New Mexico State to be bigger than life—for a reason. “We needed to have success early, because we still had guys saying, ‘Can we win together or not?’” said Akey. He wanted Idaho to expect to win against a team it had beaten before, and it did, 21-6. Akey is exuberant about the opportunity to have an exclusive TV window today on ESPN. “I want us to play as hard as we can, as fast as we can, as long as we can,” Akey said. “You want that whole world that doesn’t know us yet to say, ‘Hey, I like that Idaho Vandal team.’”
Former Timberline High standout Devon Sturdivant put it all in a nutshell Monday. “The thing that made the transition into winning so much harder was the coaching changes,” said Sturdivant, a fifth-year senior whose time in Moscow dates back to the Nick Holt days. “But a lot of guys still remained faithful to what we needed to do, and here we are four or five years later. A bowl game is just a start.” Most important today is the finish, as Idaho wants to reverse its season-ending three-game losing streak.
Bowling Green comes into the H-Bowl with a four-game winning streak. You hear a lot about Falcons wideout Freddie Barnes, the nation’s leading receiver. But somebody’s got to get him the ball—and that would be Tyler Sheehan. The senior quarterback has thrown for a career-high 3,664 yards this season with 23 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Sheehan has been over the 300-yard mark eight times after failing to do so in his previous 22 games before the arrival of new coach Dave Clawson. Clawson says Sheehan will be spotting Barnes in all three wide receiver positions this afternoon. And Barnes will even take Sheehan’s spot when BG uses the wildcat formation. “We know Tyler’s going to be accurate, and we know Freddie’s going to make plays,” said Clawson.
He came close as a rookie, but now he’s in. Former Boise State star Ryan Clady will start in the Pro Bowl in February in Miami. The second-year Denver left tackle, the 12th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, has started all 31 games of his two-year career and didn’t allow a sack until his 20th game—in Week 4 this season. Last week, Sports Illustrated named the 6-6, 325-pounder to its college football All-Decade Team.
Boise State held Northwest Nazarene at arm’s length last night in a 76-58 win at Taco Bell Arena. Paul Noonan’s three-point stroke returned, as he connected five times from outside the arc. And Ike Okoye posted his fifth double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Drew Eisinger led the Crusaders with 14 points. The Broncos open the WAC schedule Saturday night at Fresno State. Downtown at Qwest Arena, the Tuesday Night Special saw Idaho cruise past Lewis-Clark State 71-52 behind 15 points and 11 rebounds from Mac Hopson. Oh, the attendance? It might not be apples-to-apples, but the Broncos drew 2,138 and the Vandals 4,111. Idaho is next off to Honolulu to begin conference play Saturday night at Hawaii.
Back in July I noticed that former St. Mary’s star Patty Mills, Portland’s second round draft pick, fractured a bone in his foot in a Blazers summer league practice. I surmised that at some point the Australian point guard could be sent to the Idaho Stampede to get some playing time. I’ll be darned if it isn’t happening that way. Mills hasn’t played in a game for Portland, and he’s been assigned to the Stampede so he can get on the court. He’ll be available when the Stamps play at Reno on New Year’s Night. The Blazers have also waived Anthony Tolliver, and he’ll rejoin the Stampede for the game against the Bighorns.
The Idaho Steelheads were out of their element early this morning. With a 1AM (Mountain time) faceoff in Las Vegas, the Steelheads fell to the Wranglers 3-1 at Orleans Arena. The Steelies managed only 19 shots on goal, while Richard Bachman was welcomed back between the Idaho pipes with a 30-shot Vegas attack that included two goals by Mick Lawrence, the second one an empty-netter. Bachman rejoined the team yesterday after spending December with the AHL’s Texas Stars, where he made two starts and went 1-1 with a 2.09 goals-against average. The Steelheads have now lost two in a row for the first time this season. They open a three-game series against Stockton tomorrow night in Qwest Arena.
This Day In Sports…December 30, 1999, 10 years ago today:
Boise State plays its first Division I-A bowl game ever—at home in Bronco Stadium—beating Louisville 34-31 in the Humanitarian Bowl before over 29,000 fans. Redshirt freshman tailback Brock Forsey was the MVP with 269 all-purpose yards, and quarterback Bart Hendricks got serious national notice for the first time after throwing for 335 yards and a touchdown and scoring another TD on the ground. The Broncos rolled up 533 yards overall, while the BSU defense came up big—helped by an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown by Shaunard Harts. Boise State finished the season 10-3.
(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 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)