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Despite parity, Mountain West reaps respect

Despite parity, Mountain West reaps respect

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on January 22, 2013 at 8:24 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 22 at 8:59 AM

Tuesday, January 22, 2013.

Mountain West teams are beating each other up now that conference play has started.  The result: New Mexico is the league’s only team left ranked in both polls this week.  On the other hand, the Mountain West is still the third-ranked conference in RPI, according to, behind only the Big Ten and Big East—and ahead of the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC.  A look at the Coaches Poll shows the Lobos 17th and San Diego State 25th (falling all the way from 14th after two straight losses).  Among “others receiving votes,” UNLV is third in line to get back in the Top 25, Wyoming fifth and Colorado State sixth.  Boise State, which twice this season has received votes in both polls, will likely have to win out to move the needle again among voters.

Boise State’s Ryan Watkins has increasingly made the most of his minutes since the suspension of low post mate Kenny Buckner.  Watkins notched his second-straight double-double and his fourth of the season at Air Force Saturday, scoring a career-high 24 points and pulling down 13 rebounds.  But he could have used a spell or two on the bench at 6,000 feet.  Buckner has been missed the past three games but is set to return tomorrow night against Fresno State. 

It's incumbent upon Buckner to demonstrate he’s been missed, as his senior year has been quiet so far.  After starting 15 games last season, he's come off the bench all the way through this season.  The former CSI Golden Eagle’s scoring average is down to 6.7 points per game—the only stat that has improved is his rebounding at just under five per game.  That’s where Buckner can really complement Watkins.

When you reach a higher level in the recruiting battles, you’re bound to lose one once in a while.  That happened to Boise State yesterday, as reported wide receiver Jack Austin flipped his commitment from the Broncos to Cal.  The Bears got in late on the 6-3, 205-pounder from Chino Hills, CA, putting on the hard-press once Sonny Dykes took over as head coach.  On the other hand, reports that defensive tackle Nick Terry of Elk Grove, CA, might visit Cal and switch to the Bears appear to have been unfounded. reports that Chris Petersen paid Terry an in-home visit last Friday, and that Terry is 100 percent committed to the Broncos.  National Letter of Intent Day is two weeks from tomorrow—for college football staffs, it’s a scramble to get what you still need and keep what you have.

Idaho knows it has Stephen Matlock.  The Statesman’s Rachel Roberts reports the Capital High offensive lineman has committed to play for the Vandals and new head coach Paul Petrino.  Added to’s existing list, the 6-2, 275-pound Matlock would be Idaho’s 23rd recruit for the 2013 class.  He’s the third Idahoan, joining Minico High offensive tackle Brett Thompson and Columbia High offensive guard Nick Edenfield.

One report out of Day One of Senior Bowl practices has Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor faring well so far.  According to, “Taylor was his usual self for most of the day, showing the ability to stay in opposing receivers' hip pockets and mix it up throughout the afternoon.”  Incidentally, Taylor will be wearing No. 21 for the North Saturday.  That was his original uniform number when he played as a true freshman for the Broncos in 2008.

Our former Bronco NFLer of the Day is Tommy Gallarda of the Atlanta Falcons.  Despite finishing the season on injured reserve, Gallarda would have received a Super Bowl ring had the Falcons beaten San Francisco Sunday and gone on to win the Big One.  The backup tight end’s season ended with a shoulder injury during a 31-27 loss to the Saints November 11.  Gallarda had contributed on special teams and as a situational blocker, appearing in all nine Falcons games to that point.  He made his first career catch (and only one of the season) against Washington in October, a seven-yarder.  He also laid the key block on a 13-yard touchdown run by Michael Turner that day.  Gallarda’s first NFL reception could have been a touchdown he apparently caught versus Carolina in September, but he was called for pass interference on the play.

After losing 10 players to the AHL in recent weeks, Idaho Steelheads coach Brad Ralph got one back over the weekend, and he came in handy on Martin Luther King Day.  Goalie Tyler Beskorowany started the holiday matinee at Utah yesterday and keyed a 5-3 win over the Grizzlies.  Beskorowany endured a 53-shot barrage and made 50 saves.  One of the three goals he surrendered was a desperation tally while Utah’s goalie was pulled with 27 seconds left in the game.  Offensively, newcomer Tyler Gron kept the pressure on with two more goals, giving him four in three games with the Idaho.  The Steelheads now prepare for a rare out-of-region trip to the South this weekend.

There are seven former Steelheads on NHL rosters now that the 2012-13, er, 2013 season has finally begun.  The most experienced of the group is Carolina backup goalie Dan Ellis, the MVP of the 2004 Kelly Cup Finals when the Steelheads won their first ECHL championship.  Ellis was between the pipes for two periods of relief in the Hurricanes’ 5-1 Opening Night loss to Florida Saturday.  He spent the last two seasons with the Anaheim Ducks.  Other Steelheads alums in the NHL: Tom Wandell (Dallas), Zenon Konopka (Minnesota), Richard Clune (Nashville), B.J. Crombeen (Tampa Bay), Jay Beagle (Washington), and Aaron Gagnon (Winnipeg). 

Graham DeLaet collected his first PGA Tour paycheck of the year Sunday.  The former Boise State star from Weyburn, Saskatchewan, earned $11,424 after tying for 65th at the Humana Challenge at LaQuinta, CA.  The one-time Bob Hope Desert Classic makes its cut after three rounds instead of two, and DeLaet advanced by firing a sparkling seven-under 65 Saturday.  He followed with a 69 Sunday.  DeLaet apparently fed off the gallery a bit, tweeting, “Felt like a home game out in the desert this week.  Thanks to all the Canadians who came to watch.”  Must have been some Bronco Nation people there, too—escaping this all-timer of an inversion.

This Day In Sports…January 22, 1973, 40 years ago today:

Big George Foreman overwhelms Joe Frazier, scoring six knockdowns in 4½ minutes to seize the world heavyweight championship in a stunning upset in Kingston, Jamaica.  Frazier had been the prohibitive favorite despite Foreman’s edge in height and reach, his 37-0 pro record, and his 1968 Olympic gold medal.

(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.)