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If the Broncos wanted adversity, they’ve got it

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on December 22, 2009 at 8:34 AM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 22 at 1:41 PM


Tuesday, December 22, 2009.
The surface has hardly been scratched on the impact TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes could have on the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The Hughes Factor may have multiplied following the news out of Boise State yesterday. Coach Chris Petersen announced that starting right tackle Garrett Pendergast broke his ankle in practice and will miss the bowl. He is a key protector of Kellen Moore’s blind side, from whence Hughes will probably be charging. Pendergast will be missed. The Broncos could move either Michael Ames or Matt Slater into that spot. If there’s any consolation, Ames, a then-raw redshirt freshman out of Centennial, started the season opener against Oregon at right tackle and performed admirably. Pendergast overtook Ames with the first team in Week 4.
The pins-and-needles situation for Boise State is the status of Austin Pettis at wide receiver. Petersen indicates we might not know until the Broncos’ first offensive snap against TCU whether Pettis has recovered from the lower leg fracture he suffered against Nevada. And Tyler Shoemaker suddenly isn’t a sure thing, either. The sophomore wideout from Mountain View High, out since the Idaho game with a hernia problem, is healing more slowly than expected and has been limited in practice, according to Petersen. BSU may have to hope the Moore brothers—both Kellen and Kirby—are very much in rhythm on January 4, as Titus Young could find himself under a blanket. But sometimes the Broncos play better when they have to circle the wagons.
Halftime of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl will be luminous, as the game continues its tradition of showcasing the newest class of inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame January 4. Among the 18 players elected are Notre Dame wide receiver Tim Brown; Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman; Penn State running back Curt Warner; who led the Nittany Lions to back-to-back Fiesta Bowl victories almost 30 years ago; New Mexico State halfback Pervis Atkins, who led the Aggies to their last bowl appearance nearly 50 years ago; and Stanford wide receiver Ken Margerum, the San Jose State assistant coach whose future is up in the air with the retirement of Dick Tomey.
It’s time to sneak-preview the premium home game on next year’s Boise State home schedule, as Oregon State takes on BYU tonight in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Beavers are going to be good next season, and you’ll see why (if you haven’t already) when you study the Rodgers brothers, Jacquizz and James. Jacquizz is a sophomore who has rushed for 1,377 yards and 20 touchdowns this season.  James is a junior—he has  87 receptions for 1,004 yards and nine TDs. Interestingly enough, OSU will open the 2010 season with a made-for-ESPN game against TCU in Jerry Jones’ new Cowboy Stadium. That gives the Beavers road games versus two BCS bowl participants, plus a home game against what will be a revitalized Louisville squad. Most importantly, kudos to the Beavs for agreeing to face two elite non-BCS schools on the road.
The spread for Nevada over SMU Christmas Eve in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl is still 14 points, somewhat surprising considering that Vai Taua won’t be playing for the Wolf Pack. The junior running back, who’s led Nevada in rushing the past two seasons, has been ruled academically ineligible and did not accompany the team to Honolulu. Coach Chris Ault is not a happy man. "I'm upset and disappointed that Vai didn’t fulfill his obligations as a student-athlete," Ault said in a prepared statement. "He has let his team down, and I will evaluate his future with the program after bowl game.” The Pack became the first team in NCAA history to have three 1,000-yard rushers in a season, but now only quarterback Colin Kaepernick is left to face the Mustangs, as Luke Lippincott has already been lost to a foot injury.
The last memory Ryan Mathews will have of his college days will be a fumble in the New Mexico Bowl that led to a game-tying drive by Wyoming. The Cowboys ended up winning in double-overtime, and Mathews reportedly took it really hard. But that’s not stopping him from bolting to the NFL. Instead of waiting for the NFL Collegiate Advisory Committee’s draft evaluation, Mathews will forego his senior season and make the move. He said he was encouraged by coach Pat Hill to go pro in a meeting Sunday and has hired an agent. Mathews leads the nation in rushing with 1,808 yards and 19 touchdowns this season.
Denver left tackle Ryan Clady can’t catch a break as a skill player. Two years ago, in his final game in Bronco Stadium, Clady caught a throwback pass from Boise State quarterback Taylor Tharp and ran it in for a touchdown against Idaho, only to have it wiped out by a penalty. The NFL Broncos tried a tackle-eligible play with Clady Sunday against the Raiders. Denver was at the Oakland 12 when they called for a throwback toss to the 6-6, 325-pounder. This time Clady was ruled an ineligible receiver because a Bronco wideout stepped up to cover him on the outside. While Clady sauntered into the end zone against the Vandals and struck a Heisman pose before the play was called back, he was immediately upended Sunday by Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha for a loss of three yards.
For two teams that like to turn it loose offensively, this was a plodding first half performance. Unbelievably, Boise State led Portland State just 22-18 last night in Taco Bell Arena. But the Broncos put up a more acceptable 47 after the break and outlasted the Vikings 69-62. Ike Okoye rose up again, scoring 20 points with 11 rebounds for the Broncos. The double-double was poetic justice for the senior from Sacramento by way of Wyoming, as he had recorded exactly rebounds in each of the past four games. 
The Broncos, now 7-4, clamped down defensively in holding Portland State to just 33 percent shooting, a season-low for the Vikings. It was less than three weeks ago that PSU turned the Rose City inside out. Across town, the University of Portland had just entered the polls for the first time in 50 years after drubbing UCLA by 27 points and upending a ranked Minnesota team. But the Vikings took down the 25th-ranked Pilots, 86-82, hitting 15 three-pointers. They had eight treys last night against Boise State but were totally ineffective inside the arc. The Broncos are right back at it tomorrow night against Montana State—Fiesta Bowl send-off night for the BSU football team.
Former Idaho Steelheads star Zenon Konopka is leading the NHL in something right now. Can you guess what it is? Fights. Konopka, a creative goal-scorer when he spurred the Steelheads to the 2004 Kelly Cup championship, is now an enforcer of sorts with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 28-year-old defenseman has engaged in 15 fights in 35 games played this season and is pretty banged up as a result. A sore wrist and five stitches on the inside of his mouth are among his badges of honor. Konopka said in the St. Petersburg Times he is considering getting the jagged edges of his teeth filed down so they are less likely to cut when he is hit. Now that’s a guy who‘s embraced his role in the NHL. Konopka scored 17 points in 17 games during the Steelies’ playoff run in 2004.
This Day In Sports…December 22, 1987:
Boise State draws 12,265 fans, the biggest crowd for a non-conference game in its history, as fifth-ranked Wyoming comes to the BSU Pavilion three days before Christmas. The Broncos’ Chris Childs and Arnell Jones battled the Cowboys’ Fennis Dembo and Eric Leckner to the end. Boise State had a chance to tie in the finals seconds, but Childs slipped while driving the lane, and Wyoming prevailed, 59-55. The teams would have a rematch in Laramie in early March—the Pokes won that game as well, 56-50. The Broncos and Cowboys would both advance to the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, though not against each other.
(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.)