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Evenly-matched rivals with something to prove—and something to avoid

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant

KTVB.COM

Posted on February 5, 2010 at 8:18 AM

 

Friday, February 5, 2010.
 
From Idaho’s standpoint, the Vandals have won two of their last three games against Boise State. From the Broncos’ view, they’ve won 15 of the last 17 over their rivals from the north. All that matters, though, is that Boise State beat Idaho 77-67 in a tense overtime clash last week in Moscow—and the rematch is tomorrow night in Taco Bell Arena. It doesn’t have any bearing on the WAC race, but it does affect whether either team will be visiting Reno for the conference tournament next month. The Broncos, Vandals and Hawaii all have 2-7 league records and are tied for seventh in the WAC. Therefore, they’re also tied for last. Mac Hopson will be the guy to watch for Idaho. Hopson was suspended for the 80-62 loss at Utah State Wednesday night. In last week’s game against Boise State, he was just 6-of-20 from the field but had 12 rebounds.
 
With both teams at or below .500 this season, the fan count is not likely to be as big as last year’s Bronco-Vandal game in Boise, when 10,246 showed up. But it’ll still be the largest of the season topping the crowd of 5,019 for the win over Fresno State last Saturday. And Boise State needs it. The Broncos’ season attendance average is still only 2,892. BSU is hoping its two-game winning streak generates enough energy to give it a decisive homecourt advantage. This will be the first chance for Vandal fans to show their colors in Boise en masse since the football team’s win in the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl.
 
Wrapping up National Letter of Intent Day, the grayshirt situation is yet to be decided at Boise State. The Broncos already have scholarships for six of their 10 signees—there were five full-ride seniors on board last year (including the injured Andy Silsby), and freshman offensive lineman Tom Swanson has already left the program. Plus, BSU doesn’t need to use a scholarship yet on linebacker Darren Lee, who’s planning to go on an LDS mission. So, theoretically, that would leave three grayshirt situations. “That’s the plan, but it’s always a fluid plan,” said coach Chris Petersen, who noted that there’s inevitably somebody who leaves in the offseason, be it for medical, academic or disciplinary reasons.
 
Capital’s Kyle Sosnowski and Mountain View’s Tyler Horn are said to be the premier grayshirt candidates, but Petersen said, “We will see.” It seems the grayshirt category is always dominated by Idahoans, but it’s easier for them to cover the bill for a semester that requires a class load of less than 12 credits. And many of the local kids have a place to live during that time.
 
Petersen’s press conference Wednesday wasn’t just about the recruiting class—and Justin Wilcox. He also talked about spring football and addressed plans for running back-slash-nickelbacker Doug Martin, who went to offense full-time after D.J. Harper was injured the third week of September. “I think Doug’s a tough guy to move from that position at this point,” said Petersen in what many would consider an understatement. All Martin did was put up four 100-yard games and score 15 touchdowns, including the winning TD in the Fiesta Bowl. But what to do about the logjam at running back. The cupboard this year includes Martin, Harper, Jeremy Avery, Matt Kaiserman and Malcomb Johnson.
 
This little factoid will not surprise you. Boise State has former Bronco players in both of its coordinator spots for the first time ever. The naming of Pete Kwaitkowski as defensive coordinator stirs memories of his days as a player, when he was a consensus Division I-AA All-American defensive end in 1987. The highlight of Kwiatkowski’s senior season—we saw it on KTVB the other night—was a sack of Nevada quarterback Jim Zaccheo on the last play of the game at Mackay Stadium, sealing a 36-31 Bronco victory. 
 
Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, entering his fifth season in that post, threw the first touchdown pass in the game that—unbeknownst to anyone then—would kick off Boise State’s Golden Era. Harsin, then Bart Hendricks’ backup, hit reserve tight end Shaelan McDonough in the fourth quarter of the Broncos’ 38-7 loss to UCLA at the Rose Bowl in 1999.
 
Little-known fact: this is the third straight year a former Idaho State Bengal has gone to the Super Bowl. All of them have been bench players. But hey, they still made it. Jeff Charleston is in the big one, suiting up for the Saints against the Colts Sunday in Miami. He was preceded by ISU products Pago Togafau with the Cardinals last year and Matt Gutierrez with the Patriots in 2008. The longest string Boise State has ever had was two years—Quintin Mikell with the Eagles in 2005 and Kimo von Oelhoffen with the Steelers in 2006. In fact, only four former Broncos have ever played in the Super Bowl, the others being Markus Koch of the Redskins in 1988 and Rolly Woolsey of the Cowboys in 1976. 
 
Idaho once had a streak of five straight seasons with a former Vandal in the Super Bowl (1998-2002). In fact, twice Idaho has been represented by two players in the same year, with Ryan Phillips of the Giants and Spencer Folau of the Ravens going against each other in 2001, and Yo Murphy and Jeff Robinson of the Rams appearing as teammates in 2002.
 
With Evan Barlow on loan to the AHL, Tyler Spurgeon’s role on the Idaho Steelheads expands. And boy did it last night in Las Vegas, though it wasn’t enough. The 23-year-old center picked up his second hat trick since rejoining the Steelheads in late January, giving his team a 4-0 second period lead over the Wranglers in Orleans Arena. Incredibly, Las Vegas rallied to tie with four unanswered goals—then won in a shootout, 5-4. Spurgeon, who added an assist last night, has scored a goal in four of his five games. The Steelheads, with their five-game winning streak stunningly snapped, have two more games in Vegas this weekend.
 
Back to hoops—the Idaho Stampede have had a couple more days now to meld their new faces. They’ll get their next exam tonight at Sioux Falls in a rematch of Wednesday night’s game won by the Skyforce in Qwest Arena, 121-110. Newly-arrived Andre Barrett and Joe Dabbert were thrown right into the fire in that one. Actually, Dabbert played pretty well coming in cold-turkey. In less than 17 minutes of playing time, the 28-year-old former Creighton star scored eight points and pulled down five rebounds in his debut with the Stamps. The Stampede take on the Dakota Wizards in Bismarck tomorrow night.
 
This Day In Sports…February 5, 2006:
 
Seattle’s first trip to the Super Bowl is undone by bad decisions, bad calls, and bad karma in a 21-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Seahawks appeared to dominate the game but couldn’t make the big play, while the Steelers did—the final nail being a 43-yard touchdown pass on a reverse from wide receiver Antwaan Randel-El to the game’s MVP, Hines Ward. But most scrutinized was the officiating that took away, at best, all of Seattle’s momentum—and, at worst, two potential Seahawks touchdowns. Meanwhile, former Boise State standout Kimo von Oelhoffen took home a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers.
 
(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.)

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