Wednesday, February 27, 2013.
Boise State couldn’t look past Air Force last week, given the humbling the Falcons handed the Broncos in January. Boise State dared not take Fresno State for granted last Saturday, given the Bulldogs’ proclivity for hard play on their home court. Focus won out in those two games. So the Broncos are surely taking Nevada seriously tonight in Taco Bell Arena, despite the temptation to look ahead to the “black-out” showdown versus Colorado State Saturday. The Wolf Pack supremely frustrated Boise State in Reno a month ago, holding the Broncos to 36 percent shooting and 4-of-21 marksmanship from three-point land in a 75-59 victory. If Boise State is on a mission down the stretch, it has to get past door number one this evening. It’s been five years since the Broncos beat Nevada at home.
Nevada has two centerpieces, Deonte Burton and Malik Story. Both were nails versus Boise State in Reno, scoring 17 and 16 points, respectively. Burton has been talking about the possibility of foregoing his senior year to go pro. The Reno Gazette-Journal has scouted some of the more high-profile draft websites, which project Burton as a fringe draft selection this June. ESPN.com does not rank Burton among the top 100 prospects. It’s Story who leads the Wolf Pack in scoring, though, at 16.4 points per game. The Indiana transfer is coming off a 33-point night that included seven three-pointers in a loss at San Diego State. Story scored 16 points the last time he played in Boise two years ago, and Burton put up 20 in a 69-67 Pack victory.
The crowd was actually a bit disappointing last Wednesday for the Air Force game at 4,953. That was after the 10-point defeat at New Mexico, and maybe some wind had come out of the fans’ sails. But there’s been momentum building since, and there’s anticipation as the final four games of the regular season roll out ahead of the Mountain West Tournament. What do you think tonight…7,000?
Kind of like the Manti Te’o thing, I’m starting to wish this hand-wringing over Boise State’s blue-on-blue would go away. But it’s nice that the Mountain West, which banned the Broncos’ all-blue uniforms on the blue turf for conference games the past two seasons, has gone to bat for Boise State with a letter to the NCAA. Here’s part of what commissioner Craig Thompson wrote: “The MW, on behalf of member institution Boise State University, is strongly opposed to the suggested change which states ‘either the uniform pants or the jersey must clearly contrast with the color of the surface of the field of play’. As you know, Boise State Football is known for its signature blue turf. For a majority of their history, they have worn blue pants and blue jerseys when playing at home.” Well, not really. The Broncos didn’t go entirely to that combo until 1999.
Boise State’s Jamar Taylor did it yesterday. He broke 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, running 4.39. Taylor tied for fourth among the 53 defensive backs running the 40 in Indianapolis, significantly boosting his draft stock. He was also fourth out of 40 DBs participating in the 20-yard shuttle. A surprised Mike Mayock of the NFL Network gave Taylor major props for his performance. And Doug Kyed, who covers the Patriots for New England Sports Network, thinks Taylor has moved into the Pats’ first round conversation. “Taylor is among the best press-man corners in this draft, and would fit in very well across from either (Alfonso) Dennard or (Aqib) Talib,” wrote Kyed.
A look at spring football at San Diego State, since the Aztecs loom as a key road opponent for Boise State this season. They’re underway with spring ball on Montezuma Mesa, with Adam Dingwell trying to preserve his starting quarterback job. After Ryan Katz was injured last fall, Dingwell became SDSU’s game manager at QB, and he managed the Aztecs past the Broncos on the blue turf in a memorable 21-19 upset in November. San Diego State has a new offensive coordinator: Bob Toledo, the former UCLA and Tulane coach. He’s going to want to look at everybody at quarterback, including redshirt freshman Matt Morin, sophomore Chad Jeffries and freshman true Chase Favreau.
The Idaho Steelheads get some scoring punch back in time for the opening of a three-game series against the Utah Grizzlies tonight in CenturyLink Arena. The Dallas Stars have reassigned Austin Smith from Texas of the AHL, with the Steelheads hoping he can pick up where he left off. Smith, despite his absences, still leads the Steelies in goals scored with 19 and remains in the top 15 among ECHL rookies in scoring (30 points). Idaho has been putting up numbers no matter who’s on the roster—the Steelheads are the only team in the ECHL with over 100 goals both at home and on the road. They lead the league in total goals (216) and goals per game (3.86).
Looks like new Boston manager John Farrell is giving former Boise Hawk John Lackey a pass for past transgressions. Lackey was one of three Red Sox pitchers who cause a stir late in the team’s 2011 collapse by drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games. Terry Francona stepped down as skipper at the bitter end, and Bobby Valentine came in last year with a ban on alcohol in the clubhouse. But Lackey, out all season while rehabbing his throwing arm after Tommy John surgery, was seen “double-fisting” beer in the clubhouse after a Red Sox loss in early August. Valentine, of course, was ultimately dismissed. But Farrell can envision the 6-6 righthander getting back in the Boston rotation. Farrell said shortly after his hiring, “John Lackey coming back is an opportunity for him to make a real impact.”
It’s more than just the beer thing that Lackey has to overcome to win back Red Sox fans. Since being signed away from the Angels as a free agent in 2010, he’s been mediocre in Boston. Lackey was 12-12 three seasons ago with a 4.40 ERA—then took a lot of heat two years ago when his ERA ballooned to 6.40 with an 11-14 record. But Lackey has dropped a lot of weight, in a good way. He looks to be in great shape. Lackey began his big league career 10 years ago, when he became the first rookie to win a Game 7 in the World Series in 93 years. He played in his first real game in 515 days Sunday, throwing 20 pitches in a 4-3 loss to a Tampa Bay Rays split squad.
This Day In Sports…February 27, 1992:
Tiger Woods becomes the youngest golfer to play in a PGA Tour event in 35 years. Woods was only 16 when he teed it up in the Nissan Los Angeles Open. Tiger didn’t make the cut at Riviera Country Club, but he would go on to win three amateur player of the year awards. Woods finally turned pro in August, 1996.
(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.)