Wednesday, February 5, 2014.
Boise State must be a decided underdog tonight at Taco Bell Arena, right?. After all, it’s facing the second-highest ranked team ever to play the Broncos on their home floor, No. 5 San Diego State. So you can go through the importance of this event—Boise State’s lack of a signature victory, status in the Mountain West standings for tournament-seeding purposes, and the opportunity to impress the biggest crowd of the season. But is it a must-win for the Broncos when the cards are so stacked against them? It might be their last chance to earn their stripes as an at-large candidate in the NCAA Tournament, and the Aztecs roll out one of the best defenses in the country. With all that said, Boise State is favored by one point.
It’s Boise State’s own defense that could give it a shot tonight. San Diego State has been living a little dangerously despite its 18-game winning streak. In their win over Colorado State last Saturday, the Aztecs shot just 37.5 percent on their home floor, the fourth time in the last five games they’ve been under 40. SDSU started the game 2-for-9 from the field, but thanks to its suffocating defense, it led the Rams 7-2. If the Broncos can force another poor shooting night by San Diego State, avoid a horrendous start like the one they had in Viejas Arena last month, and hit at least 40 percent of their three-pointers, the upset (or not, in the eyes of oddsmakers) could happen.
The Boise State bench has changed lately, and it was especially evident last Saturday in the painful loss in Las Vegas. Mikey Thompson has long been the Broncos’ sixth man, providing energy and scoring punch as a No. 1 sub. But Thompson has gone 4-for-14 from the field the last two games and has missed all three of his three-point attempts. It’s Thomas Bropleh who has been the steady one. The resilient senior has played 54 minutes the past two games, going 9-for-17 from the floor and 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. Bropleh put up 26 points combined against Air Force and UNLV after scoring a total of 30 points over the first seven Mountain West games.
There’s been one other time a Top 5 team has come into the BSU Pavilion/Taco Bell Arena to play Boise State beyond the Cincinnati visit in 1999. No. 5 Wyoming, featuring Fennis Dembo and Eric Leckner, came in three days before Christmas during the Broncos’ landmark 1987-88 season. Forget Christmas parties. Forget Christmas shopping. In those days, it didn’t matter. The game drew 12,265 fans, still the largest crowd for a non-conference game in school history. And the see-saw game went to the wire, as most of Boise State’s games against San Diego State have. With the Broncos trailing 57-55 in the final seconds, Chris Childs tried to drive the right side of the lane and slipped, losing the ball. The Cowboys converted two free throws at the other end to win by four. Both teams ended up in Salt Lake City for the NCAA Tournament.
As we settle in for college football’s National Letter Of Intent Day, let’s look at one particular position group at Boise State. It has been pointed out that by the time the sun sets, the Broncos could be bursting at the seams with 10 tight ends. But, why not? It was as odd a year for that spot at Boise State as we’ve seen in the new century. Traditionally a primary weapon for the Broncos, last year’s tight ends combined for 20 catches, 201 yards, and exactly zero touchdowns. They produced one catch in the Hawaii Bowl—it was made by Holden Huff, and it lost a yard. Gabe Linehan, who as a sophomore was one of the premier tight ends in the Mountain West, had an injury-affected senior year that resulted in two catches for 38 yards.
I can’t imagine 2014 will foster a repeat, especially with new position coach Eli Drinkwitz aboard. The bet here is that the tight end will reappear. As will some more of Bryan Harsin’s favorite things. New quarterback recruit Tommy Stuart seems like he expects that after being courted by the new staff. “I know coach Harsin, coming from Arkansas State, I expect—between him and coach Sanford—to have a very multiple offense this year with different formations and different personnel types,” said Stuart when he enrolled. Can the old shifts and motion be far behind?
John Patrick had this idea last year: look back in the Scott Slant at KTIK National Letter Of Intent Day Show history. At that time, we turned back the clock 15 years to 1998. So today let’s rewind 15 years to 1999. It was Dirk Koetter’s second year at Boise State, and although not many realized it at the time, the Broncos were on the verge of their big breakout. The ’99 recruiting class included some big-time building blocks, led by quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie out of Elk Grove, CA. Boise State also brought in cornerback Julius Brown, now its secondary coach, running back David Mikell, a future 1,000-yard rusher, wide receiver Wes Nurse, who would become an All-WAC safety, and the late Paul Reyna, a defensive lineman who died after a fall in practice that August and serves as inspiration for the Broncos to this day.
There’s still been no official announcement by Minnesota, but it sure looks like former Idaho coach Robb Akey is the new defensive line coach for the Vikings. The first inkling came from fan sites at the end of last week; the Vikings’ website still says new coach Mike Zimmer’s “full 2014 Vikings coaching staff will be announced soon.” This would be Akey’s first foray into the NFL. but it makes sense. Zimmer was on Mike Price’s Weber State staff in the late 1980’s when Akey was a standout linebacker for the Wildcats. Akey was fired two-thirds of the way through the 2012 season when the Vandals dropped to 1-7 after a 70-28 loss at Louisiana Tech. He was 20-50 overall at UI, including the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl championship.
How is it that the Idaho Steelheads keep facing ECHL Goaltenders of the Week (or the Month)? Utah’s Igor Bobkov captured the latest weekly honor, and he comes to CenturyLink Arena tonight with the Grizzlies, one of the hottest teams in the league. Bobkov was 2-0 last week with a 1.00 goals-against average. The Steelheads special teams continue to excel. Tommy Grant leads the ECHL with eight power-play goals, and teammate Anthony Nigro is second with seven. And on the penalty kill, the Steelies are 44 for their last 47.
Another game, another scoring record for the Idaho Stampede. This time it was back to Pierre Jackson, just named to the D-League All-Star Game next week. The former Baylor and College of Southern Idaho star amassed a D-League record 58 points as the Stampede had another crazy offensive night in a 136-122 win over the Texas Legends. Jackson was 24-for-33 from the field, hit seven three-pointers and still found time to dish out eight assists. Then there was Kevin Murphy, the guy who scored 51 last Saturday, going off for 39 himself. That’s a staggering 97 points between Jackson and Murphy. There was only one other player in double figures for the Stamps, EJ Singler with 10. Former North Carolina star PJ Hairston led Texas with 25 points.
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 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)