Wednesday, November 7, 2012.
We go fishing for perspective today. There are those who worry that this is the end after Boise State’s 21-19 loss to San Diego State. Oh, it must be. The Broncos have dropped to 7-2 and a No. 24 ranking in the Coaches Poll. They’ve plummeted into a first place tie in the Mountain West. Chris Petersen’s career coaching record has nosedived to 80-8. Boise State is only No. 8 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing more than 14 points per game. And it’s only 15th in total defense. And in this, the 13th year in the past 14 the Broncos will have gone to a bowl, whatever game it is, well, it isn’t going to be in Miami. Yes, it is over.
True, this is not the juggernaut team Boise State fans have become accustomed to the past decade-plus. But they have to appreciate what they have—and what it still promises to be. It’s interesting to look at the final AP Poll from just two seasons ago, when the Broncos finished at No. 9. The national champion was Auburn. How would you like to be a Tiger fan now, in the middle of a 2-7 season (0-6 in the SEC)? Remember Virginia Tech? The Hokies are 4-5 and have lost their last two games to Clemson and Miami by a combined 39 points. You could always be a rabid Arkansas fan. The Razorbacks, who once had national championship hopes, are 4-5—that’s a bad 4-5—since their head coach imploded. Nevada also finished in the Top 25 in 2010. As did Maryland. TCU is a subject for another day.
I disagree with those who say the blue turf has lost its lustre. Wow, Boise State has lost one game there for two years in a row, one by two points and the other by one. The San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday took Brian Murphy’s Statesman column on what he saw as the Broncos’ vanished invincibility on the blue and summarized it by writing, “The aura is gone—and it’s not coming back.” Now how can you say that? Boise State is 86-4 at home the past 14 seasons, and this team is rebuilding.
I disagree with those who think San Diego State took its victory in stride last Saturday, like it was no big deal. The Aztecs pranced around on the blue after shaking the Broncos’ hands, then bolted over to the section where their fans were seated. The players were jumping up and down. There was this in the San Diego paper: “The Aztecs’ win over No. 19 Boise State might go down in the books as one of the greatest ever in school history.”
There’s plenty of blame being passed around after Boise State’s loss to San Diego State. But there’s one guy who’s never going to get enough credit. Matt Miller, the quiet leader, is still a sophomore but is the heart of the Bronco offense. Of Miller’s six catches against the Aztecs, four went for first downs, including the huge one at the three-yard line on fourth-and-15 in the fourth quarter that saw him absorb a vicious hit. On a passing-challenged team, Miller has 48 catches for 507 yards, albeit for only two touchdowns. That last number tells you a lot about this season. For his career, Miller checks in with 110 catches, almost 1200 yards, and 11 TDs.
College football and basketball are first-run appointment programming, and television networks are increasingly looking for that type of thing. Hence the continued optimism that the Big East is going to end up with a lucrative TV deal despite ESPN’s exclusive negotiating window with the conference coming to an end. The Big East is using its uber-strong basketball side as leverage in dealing with ESPN, Fox, and the NBC Sports Network. Conventional wisdom says ESPN will accommodate Big East football in order to keep a foothold in Big East basketball—and that a secondary package will be struck with either Fox or NBC.
One of Idaho’s only scoring weapons this season has been senior kicker Trey Farquhar. But he has indeed been formidable. Farquhar has been named one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award, which annually honors college football’s best kicker. He’s the national active leader in career field goals of 50 or more yards with nine, including two makes from 55 yards out. The finalists will be announced November 19. Farquhar takes his leg to a place with altitude Saturday, a kicker’s paradise, as the Vandals take on BYU in Provo.
The Idaho Steelheads have gone on the offensive over the first nine games of the season, compiling a 6-2-1 record as they sit in first place in the ECHL Mountain Division. They lead the league in goals with 40. But goalie Tyler Beskorowany is diverting attention to the crease. Beskorowany started slowly, allowing 13 goals on 79 shots through his first 180 minutes played. In his last 125 minutes, Beskorowany has allowed just four goals in 81 shots. The Steelheads try to keep it going tonight when they open a three-game series against the Bakersfield Condors in CenturyLink Arena.
Does ESPN The Magazine know something most of the other college basketball prognosticators don’t? ESPN’s mag plugs the Broncos in at No. 6 in the Mountain West. That’s not way out there. But out of 345 Division I hoops programs, the Broncos are ranked 78th. That would be first in the Big West this season, ahead of No. 105 Long Beach State. And it would be first in the WAC, ahead of No. 109 Utah State. (Utah State?) Among Mountain West teams, Boise State is 26 spots in front of No. 114 Nevada. (Nevada? With superstar Deonte Burton?) The Broncos’ first chance to live up to that mildly surprising perch is Sunday afternoon, when the season opens against Texas Southern in Taco Bell Arena.
One Portland Trail Blazer who won’t be assigned to the Idaho Stampede anytime soon is Damian Lillard. The first round draft pick out of Weber State has been a pretty good poster boy for the Big Sky out of the gate, averaging 19.3 points in his first four NBA games. Lillard was held to 2-of-13 shooting and 13 points in Monday night’s 114-95 loss at Dallas. But he had already joined Geoff Petrie as the only players in Portland history to score 20-plus points in their first three career games and is the first NBA player to accomplish that since Grant Hill in 1994. And Lillard and Oscar Robertson are the only players in NBA history to post at least 20 points and seven assists in their first three games. Back at the Stampede ranch, training camp is set to start next Monday.
This Day In Sports…November 7, 1998:
Boise State clinches its first winning season as a Division I-A school with a wild 55-51 victory at New Mexico State. The back-and-forth track meet saw Bronco quarterbacks Nate Sparks and Bart Hendricks throw for over 200 yards each. It was an emotional moment for Boise State seniors who two years earlier had endured a 2-10 season and the death of coach Pokey Allen. Dirk Koetter, in his first year as head coach, hailed it as a night to remember. No one anticipated the amazing story that would begin to unfold the following season.
(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.)