Friday, November 29, 2013.
Boise State sends off an interesting senior class tomorrow night when it closes the regular season against New Mexico on the blue turf. The only player seen to have an outside chance at the NFL Draft is left tackle Charles Leno Jr. And only 10 members of the 16-player class are starters. But they all have their stories to tell. The biggest single play made by the group was probably by Kirby Moore during his true freshman year in 2009. Moore was pressed into full-time duty in a crucial game on the blue turf against Nevada when star wide receiver Austin Pettis was injured on a two-point conversion try. Moore scored a much-needed insurance touchdown with five minutes left in the game, making a great catch on a six-yard fade thrown by brother Kellen. Kirby also had a 34-yard reception earlier in the game, which the Broncos won, 44-33.
Did somebody mention special teams? They were certainly mentioned last week. Well, that’s one area that should keep the Broncos on their toes against the Lobos. New Mexico sophomore Carlos Wiggins recorded a school-record 252 yards on seven kickoff returns last week at Fresno State. That bumped Wiggins up to fifth nationally with an average of 30.1 yards per return. He’s the only FBS player to have returned three kickoffs for touchdowns this season. And, with Boise State likely to score often, Wiggins will get multiple returns tomorrow night unless Dan Goodale can boot all his kickoffs into Row 3.
Boise State’s hopes of making the Mountain West championship game a week from tomorrow at Fresno State aren’t looking so hot, of course. Utah State just needs to beat Wyoming tomorrow afternoon to take the Broncos out of it and his heavily-favored to do so. USU has the top defense in the conference and is favored by 20½ points. The Pokes’ chances are slim—key word being slim. They’re not none. Wyoming rolled up 793 yards against Hawaii Saturday, with Brett Smith accounting for 640 yards of total offense, a Mountain West record. That’s why they play the game.
Somebody’s going to pick up a second victory of the season tomorrow. Will it be Idaho when it finishes the season against New Mexico State in Las Cruces? NMSU lost to Florida Atlantic last week 55-10 and, like Idaho, is 1-10. The Vandals have had their challenges in the new century, but how about those Aggies? New Mexico State hasn’t had a winning season in 11 years and hasn’t been to a bowl game since—brace yourself—1961.
Just 11 seconds into the game Wednesday night, Derrick Marks was fouled and made two free throws, the first two points of the night. Was that an omen or what? Marks broke Tanoka Beard’s Boise State record for single-game free throws that had stood for almost 21 years, canning 21-of-23 on his way to a career-high 39 points in the Broncos’ 98-89 win over Idaho at CenturyLink Arena. Beard was also the last Bronco to score 39 in a game—he did that more than 20 years ago, in March of 1993. With the Vandals dead-set on taking Jeff Elorriaga out of the Boise State offense (which they did), the Broncos drove into the paint relentlessly, mainly with Marks and Anthony Drmic, to build a 23-point second-half lead. It was then that Idaho caught fire, whittling the lead to five with 42 seconds to play before, yes, Marks made four free throws to put the game away. Marks, beset by foul trouble in the first half, was able to do all that damage in just 25 minutes of floor time. That’s almost 1.6 points a minute. Elorriaga, on the other hand, played all 40 minutes and was able to get just one shot off, missing a three-pointer. No math necessary there.
Boise State attempted just seven three-pointers on the night, the fewest in the Leon Rice era. As for Idaho, Stephen Madison shook off a sluggish start to score a team-leading 26 points. It was another great atmosphere—CenturyLink Arena was full with 5,747 fans—and it was most electric in the final two minutes when the Vandals got the deficit into single-digits. Boise State is back at it tonight against Portland State at Taco Bell Arena. There are two ways to look at the team Rice has developed the past two years.
Here’s how Rice sees his Bronco crew: “We’re not a powerful team. We’re not going to run the 44-dive and get six yards every possession, to put it in football terms. But we do it with skill. Understanding how we play is a skill and if we deviate from that then it’s not us.” With that said, here’s what Seattle coach Cameron Dollar noted after his Redhawks lost 86-68 to Boise State last week: “The one thing that goes underrated I think with them is those are some tough son-of-a-guns. Drmic, Hadziomerovic, Elorriaga, and Marks, I mean those guys are tough.”
The Idaho Stampede is getting out in front of Boise State’s football home finale tomorrow night, moving their game against Reno to 3 p.m. in CenturyLink Arena. Scheduled to appear for the Bighorns: former Boise State star Reggie Larry, who made the Reno squad as a free agent. Larry, the one-time College of Southern Idaho standout, helped lead the Broncos to the WAC championship in 2008. Larry, who played one game for the Stamps last season and 45 games for them in 2011-12, has performed well for the Bighorns so far, coming off the bench in all three games and averaging 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
The Idaho Steelheads and Las Vegas work off Thanksgiving dinner on the ice at CenturyLink Arena tonight and tomorrow night. Idaho forward Mitch Wahl contributed another assist in Tuesday night’s 4-1 over the Wranglers and is currently on an ECHL-best 10-game point streak. In that stretch, Wahl has 16 points (five goals, 11 assists). Under the radar is forward Austen Fyten, who returned from the AHL in time for Tuesday’s tilt. Fyten was an ECHL All-Star for the Steelies last season, when he scored 14 goals and added 27 assists in 46 games.
The El Korah Shriners’ East-West Shrine All-Star Games are set for tomorrow at Rocky Mountain High School. The 8-man game kicks off at 11 a.m., followed by the 11-man contest at 2 p.m. There are 15 players from last Friday’s state 4A championship game on the rosters, six from state champ Bishop Kelly and nine from runnerup Skyview.
This Day In Sports…November 29, 1982: The first Boise State game ever played in the BSU Pavilion (now Taco Bell Arena), as Michigan State tops the Broncos, 71-59. MSU was just 2½ years removed from their national championship with Magic Johnson and was still coached by Judd Heathcote, the one-time Montana coach who was familiar with Boise State through old Big Sky battles. The Spartans were led that night by freshman point guard Scott Skiles, a future NBA coach with the Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks.
(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.)