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If turnovers are the key to the game, let’s check ‘em out

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on December 21, 2009 at 8:34 AM


Monday, December 21, 2009.
We’re two weeks out from the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl now. Not too early to start getting into the guts of the game. So what’s the over-under on how many times Chris Petersen and Gary Patterson will talk about taking care of the ball? That hasn’t been a big issue this season for Boise State, which has lost only 13 turnovers in 13 games. It’s been a bit of a stickler for TCU, though. The Horned Frogs have 20 giveaways this season, leading to a ranking of 41st in the nation in turnover margin at plus-4. The Broncos are second in the country at plus-19. How big would it be for Boise State to win the turnover battle in Glendale?
TCU junior quarterback Andy Dalton has done his part, throwing only five interceptions. But, as good as the Horned Frogs rushing attack is this year, TCU has coughed up 15 fumbles. That doesn’t mean they’ve all come from running backs, but that’s a significant number. The Bronco defense is as good as it’s ever been in the art of stripping the ball, although the catalyst in its turnover advantage this season has been interceptions. Boise State has 21 picks, tied for third in the nation behind Texas and Ohio State.
Indulge me for a moment if you will. I’d like to make an appeal going into Christmas week. Please support your local merchants. The Fiesta Bowl has taken a ton of money out of the holiday market. Let’s round everything off. If 20,000 Boise State fans from the Treasure Valley are headed to Phoenix, and they’re spending an average of $1000 apiece, that’s $20 million that’s unavailable to local cash registers. Three years ago, before the economy crashed, local retailers could bear it. This time it hurts. So if you still have a few bucks in your pocket because you’re not going to the Fiesta Bowl—if you’re going to watch from the comfort of your own sofa and haven’t finished your Christmas shopping—please remember your locally-owned merchants. 
Matt Hayes of the Sporting News varies a bit from official WAC picks in his “Conference Bests” for 2009. Hayes does have Boise State’s Kellen Moore as Offensive Player of the Year but tabs the Broncos’ Jeron Johnson as Defensive Player of the Year. And Hayes gives Coach of the Year to Idaho’s Robb Akey. In the Mountain West, it’s TCU across the board—Andy Dalton on offense, Jerry Hughes on defense, Gary Patterson as coach, and running back Matthew Tucker as Freshman of the Year. In fact, the Sporting News picks Patterson as national Coach of the Year. Hayes’ choice for Offensive POY in the MAC isn’t difficult. That would be Bowling Green’s record-setting wide receiver, Freddie Barnes, headed to the blue turf next week to face Akey and the Vandals.
As Idaho gears up for the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl a week from Wednesday, Akey is closer to a new contract. After taking the Vandals from 2-10 last season to 7-5 and a first bowl berth in 11 years this season, a new deal for Akey has been front-burner in Moscow. Athletic director Rob Spear says he and the coach have had three negotiation sessions already and reports “great progress.” Spear says it’ll all come out in good time. "You will know about that when it goes to the State Board of Education and it is approved,” Spear told the Lewiston Morning Tribune.
C’mon, Fresno State. The WAC needed a win in a bowl game, especially when one of its supposed upper-echelon teams was facing a 6-6 upstart from the rival Mountain West. But no. The Bulldogs were taken into overtime and couldn’t score on four tries from the Wyoming one-yard line. In the second OT, the Cowboys won the New Mexico Bowl, 35-28. The Pokes had to rally from a 28-17 deficit. The anti-Pat Hill faction, which is large in the San Joaquin Valley, is calling for the veteran coach’s planned contract extension to be, like, five days instead of five years. 
It was the “Marty Flichel and John Swanson Show” over the weekend as the Idaho Steelheads won their 21st and 22nd games of the season. Flichel, the Steelheads captain, erupted with a hat trick in a 4-2 win over Alaska Friday, and Swanson had a goal and two assists in a 3-2 triumph versus the Aces Saturday. For Alaska, the sweep extended its losing streak to five games, equaling its longest losing skein since joining the ECHL six years ago. This is a big deal in Anchorage, as the Aces are the No. 1 draw on the winter sports calendar. The Steelheads now go into their Christmas break with a massive 16-point lead over Utah in the West Division.
The Boise State men’s basketball team didn’t take too kindly to a punch-in-the-gut loss on its home floor to San Diego nine days ago. The Broncos took it out on an unsuspecting Houston Baptist team Saturday, gliding to a 96-59 win Saturday in Taco Bell Arena. Coach Greg Graham was able to empty his bench—and the reserves responded, as Daequon Montreal (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Zach Moritz (10 points, 12 boards) both posted their first career double-doubles. Houston Baptist never had a chance after going 7-of-36 from the field in the first half.
As odd as it seems, tonight’s Boise State game versus Portland State is the marquee game on the Broncos’ home schedule. The Vikings, who lost to Xavier 77-59 at the NCAA Tournament in Boise in March, are the lone Big Dance team from last spring coming into Taco Bell Arena before WAC play begins. The problem tonight is tipoff time. While doubleheaders with the BSU women (who play Seattle in the early game) can be attractive in energy-saving and cost-efficiency, starting the men’s game at 8:15 on a weeknight will likely be an attendance-drainer. If you miss it, you’ll like miss some bombin’. Portland State dropped 14 three-pointers on Boise State in its 93-81 win in Portland a year ago.
The wheels fell off for the Idaho Stampede Saturday night, allowing Bakersfield to earn its first win of the season, 107-80. It was by far the Stampede’s lowest point total of the season. The Stamps are allowed one of those train wrecks in a 50-game season. The Stamps had cruised past Bakersfield 117-103 Friday but couldn’t hit the ocean from three-point land 24 hours later, going 2-for-20. Former Boise State star Roberto Bergersen was symptomatic of the Stampede’s woes, missing all three of his treys and shooting 1-of-7 overall.
This Day In Sports…December 21, 1974: In one of the greatest games in NFL history, the Oakland Raiders beat the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins, 28-26, in an AFC playoff game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Kenny Stabler’s desperation, falling-down touchdown pass to Clarence Davis with 26 seconds remaining was the game-winner.
(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.)