Thursday, December 3, 2009.
Boise State will introduce five seniors before Saturday’s game against New Mexico State in Bronco Stadium. Only four of them are active players, and one of those guys is injured. Don’t blink on Senior Day. The Broncos have by far the fewest seniors of any team in the country. The major applause will come for Richie Brockel and Kyle Wilson, the only two guys left who played in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. It’ll be an odd time for Brockel, a heart-and-soul guy who’s out for the rest of the season with a foot injury. For Wilson, it’ll mark the culmination of his transformation into team leader.
Coach Chris Petersen talked this week about the growth Wilson has made since arriving at Boise State from Piscataway, NJ. “It’s so fun to talk to the pro scouts about him,” said Petersen. “Because that’s what they really want to know: ‘What kind of a guy is he?’ We can say, ‘You’re going to love him on your team.’” Wilson was suspended the first three games of his redshirt freshman year in 2006. When he was finally inserted into the Hawaii game at the end of September that season, he intercepted Colt Brennan on his first play as a Bronco. And Wilson’s been a beast on defense ever since.
Since this will be Wilson’s final game on the blue turf, and since Austin Pettis and Tyler Shoemaker are out for the New Mexico State contest, how about a flashback to the Blue & Orange Game at the end of spring football last April. Remember the first play from scrimmage? It was a 40-yard pass from Kellen Moore to…Wilson. It would be timely to see that play pulled off the shelf. While we’re on the subject, Michael Atkinson could reprise his spring game role, too. The 6-0, 332-pound defensive tackle appears to have finally reached full strength following his summer ankle injury and saw his most significant playing time of the year against Nevada last Friday. The biggest roar of the Blue & Orange extravaganza came when Atkinson lined up in the offensive backfield, took a handoff, and rumbled 25 yards.
The other three seniors are Michael Choate, Garcia Day and Andy Silsby. Choate has seen a sudden change in his role at the end of his college career. With the injury to Pettis last week, Choate was thrust back into the role as the holder on placekicks by Kyle Brotzman. Choate started the season there and, in fact, scored on a two-point conversion against Oregon. Snap-and-hold problems saw him lose the holder’s job to Pettis in September. Silsby, the former Bishop Kelly standout, hasn’t played this season due to a career-ending injury. But coach Chris Petersen says Silsby has been invaluable as a special teams coaching apprentice of sorts under Jeff Choate.
The only chance New Mexico State would seem to have against Boise State Saturday is points off freak turnovers. But a season-long trend would have to blow up for that to happen. The Broncos are plus-19 in turnover margin. “We’ve never been rated this high—ever,” says coach Chris Petersen. High as in second in the country, keyed by 20 interceptions (and a lack of the same by Moore). The Aggies are minus-10 on the season and have only seven picks.
It’s been three months to the day since the Boise State domination of Oregon in Bronco Stadium. Three months since the LeGarrette Blount punch seen ‘round the world. And the Ducks have come full circle, playing Oregon State for a Rose Bowl berth tonight in the most meaningful Civil War tussle of all-time. Who do Boise State fans root for? Do they go for the Ducks, who have helped the Broncos’ computer strength all season but who could leapfrog them in the final BCS poll (not that it would change anything)? Or do they pull for the Beavers, who will play the marquee game of Boise State’s home schedule next September on the blue turf?
Boise State hoops faces its biggest challenge of the young season Saturday night, going into Big Ten country at Illinois. How about this measuring stick? Idaho beat Utah, and Utah beat Illinois. But now the Illini are coming off the biggest comeback victory in their history, rallying from 23 points down last night to beat 19th-ranked Clemson, 76-74. Illinois is an elite opponent—as big as it gets in the pre-conference season for the Broncos. BSU faces just one team at home this month that played in the NCAA Tournament last season. That’s December 21 against defending Big Sky champion Portland State, who lost in the first round here.
The Idaho Stampede got sideswiped last night after their blistering offensive start to the season. Dakota, under former Stampede coach Rory White, cooled the home team’s jets in a 117-114 win at Qwest Arena. The Stamps led by 10 points at the end of the third quarter, but the Wizards came back with a 38-point explosion in the final stanza. Former Georgia star Sundiata Gaines had another big night for Idaho, scoring 29 points with eight rebounds. But the Stampede shot only 44 percent from the floor, below par by D-League standards. The two teams square off again Saturday night.
Boise State’s been through a rivalry week or two this month. Now the Idaho Steelheads are wrapped up in what they call Rivalry Week against one of their original WCHL foes, the Alaska Aces. Alaska comes in tonight and tomorrow night with three prominent former Steelheads: Lance Galbraith, Scott Burt, and John Lammers. Galbraith, the old Steelheads fan favorite, will be playing his first game on Qwest Arena ice since the end of the 2007-08 season. The Rooster is off to a relatively slow start, with five points in 16 games. Burt, the Aces captain, is his old steady self at age 32. And Lammers, also returning to Boise for the first time as a visitor, has been hot—three goals and four assists in two games since returning to the Alaska lineup from a one-month stint in the AHL.
The Steelheads have lost netminder Richard Bachman to the AHL for a while, but they still have their main man going into the Alaska series. And he’s the main man in the ECHL, as in Goaltender of the Week. Rejean Beauchemin has won the award for the second time this season after going 2-0 last week with a shutout and a goals-against average of 0.5 and a save percentage of 98. Beauchemin currently leads the league for the season in both categories.
This Day In Sports…December 3, 1994, 15 years ago today:
In a driving rainstorm at Bronco Stadium, Boise State outlasts Appalachian State and future Dallas Cowboys linebacker Dexter Coakley, 17-14, in the second round of the Division I-AA playoffs. Two Tony Hilde-to-Ryan Ikebe touchdown passes and a Greg Erickson field goal got it done offensively, and the defense did the rest for the Broncos, who won their 12th game of the 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 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)