Monday, December 7, 2009.
The drama didn’t end Saturday night when Hunter Lawrence hooked that field goal, like, 19 inches inside the left upright as time ran out to give Texas its victory over Nebraska. Word of a Boise State-TCU rematch in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl started to slip out Sunday afternoon. When it was made official early in the evening, there was mixed reaction in the Steuckle Sky Center. Only because this matchup has already happened—last year in TCU’s 17-16 win in the Poinsettia Bowl. But chances are reality will set in for fans (it already has for the Broncos). It’s No. 4 against No. 6—the first time in BCS bowl history two undefeated teams have met outside the BCS Championship Game. The Horned Frogs are as good an opponent as Boise State could have drawn.
This was the Fiesta Bowl’s choice. The BCS is guaranteed having a non-BCS school win one of the big bowls for the fourth time, but it’s also assured that it’s impossible for two non-BCS schools to win this season. It was not a conspiracy, though—it was a strategic decision by the folks in Glendale. "We really looked at only trying to arrange the most compelling matchup possible and we were delighted," Fiesta director John Junker said. "When you have the chance to match two undefeated teams, it was a very compelling story and one that we think will be of great interest to the country."
Coach Chris Petersen doesn’t look at the revenge factor when sizing up the game versus TCU. Although Petersen did say last night, “This team will have our guys’ attention from the very start.” Quarterback Kellen Moore looks at the “opportunity” in his second chance against the Horned Frogs. “It’s always difficult to end the season with a loss,” said Moore. “It kind of lingers with you for awhile.”
It’s interesting to monitor reaction to the Fiesta Bowl from national writers. Cory McCartney of SI.com has some of the more acerbic observations. “The Fiesta Bowl has created a matchup that seems more like a cop-out than an achievement; denying the two unbeatens a chance to validate their seasons against the big boys on the sports' biggest stage and opening up an entirely new chapter of BCS bashing/collusion allegations,” writes McCartney. “I'm reminded of the opening scene of Animal House, when Kent Dorfman and Larry Kroger knocked on the door of Omega Theta Pi during rush. After being quickly paraded around and given a glimpse of all the beautiful people, they're summarily banished to sit on the couch with Mohammet, Jugdish, Sidney and Clayton, a motley crew deemed more on their level.”
Boise State got to this point, of course, by taking care of its final piece of business Saturday, drilling New Mexico State 42-7 to go 13-0. The Broncos did it with a skeleton crew at wide receiver and at linebacker. With wideouts Austin Pettis and Tyler Shoemaker on the shelf, the Broncos drew on their depth—with Kirby Moore, Chris Potter and Mitch Burroughs—and on their creativity. They showed a little more Kyle Efaw, a little more off screen passes, and a little more off the wildcat. And I’m thinking the latter could enter into the passing game January 4. Just a hunch.
With Daron Mackey and Derrell Acrey sidelined at linebacker, the remaining four ‘backers all cashed in on their increased playing time. J.C. Percy, the classic walk-on from Blackfoot who played his way into a scholarship with a solid spring and fall camp, led Boise State with nine tackles against the Aggies. And Tommy Smith, the redshirt freshman from Atlanta, made the most of his first real opportunity, making seven tackles. Acrey could have played in an emergency but wasn’t required, while Mackey is out for the Fiesta Bowl. Like Pettis, both were injured in the win over Nevada.
It’s a done deal—Idaho is in the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl. And the Vandals’ opponent will be Bowling Green, a 7-5 team out of the MAC. The official announcement will be made this afternoon. It’ll be Idaho’s second bowl game ever, and the first since it won the 1998 Humanitarian Bowl in a wild 42-35 contest with Southern Miss. The Vandals, also 7-5, finished the season dropping four of their final five games. The Falcons, who fell to Boise State at home 49-14 in September, have won six of their last seven.
There are no moral victories, but the Boise State men’s basketball team really needed to play well in a big game. And the Broncos had the Illinois lead down to two points in the final minute before falling Saturday night in Champaign, 84-77. BSU did a lot of things right, disrupting the Illini on defense and hitting 56 percent from the floor at the other end, led by Ike Okoye’s 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting. What the Broncos didn’t do was take care of the ball, committing 23 turnovers, seven of them from Reggie Arnold. “If they don't turn it over, we're really in trouble,” said Illini coach Bruce Weber. The one guy BSU had no answer for was Illinois guard Demetri McCamey, who scored a game-high 23 points. The Broncos go to Pocatello Wednesday to take on Idaho State.
The Idaho Stampede had their off-night last Wednesday, when they scored “only” 114 points in a loss to Dakota. In the rematch against the Wizards Saturday night, the Stampede reignited for a 131-99 victory. Sundiata Gaines continued his early-season tear, scoring 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting, and he did it coming off the bench again, playing less than 28 minutes. New coach Bob MacKinnon added another weapon to his arsenal Friday with forward Cedric Simmons, a former North Carolina State star with NBA experience, debuted with 16 points. The Stampede are off until Friday, when they take on the L.A. D-Fenders at Staples Center.
After a hiccup Friday night against Alaska, a 6-1 loss, the Idaho Steelheads got back to their streaking ways Saturday. The Steelheads won their seventh straight road game, topping Utah in overtime, 3-2. It was Matt McKnight Night, as the 25-year-old center tallied the Steelies’ first goal to tie the game in the second period, then knocked in the game-winner a little over three minutes into the overtime. They were only McKnight’s second and third goals of the season. The Steelheads improved to 18-4-1—they now come right back to Qwest Arena to open a three-game series with the Ontario Reign Wednesday night.
Two former Boise State golfers are on the verge of getting their PGA Tour cards, and they’re doing it the hard way—surviving the excruciating six-round final stage of Q-School. On top of that, Troy Merritt and Graham DeLaet are the leaders going into the final day at West Palm Beach, FL. Merritt led DeLaet by two shots when play was stopped because of darkness last night in round five. Merritt is 18 under par and DeLaet 16 under with 24 holes left to play. The top players (and ties) earn their cards for the 2010 tour.
This Day In Sports…December 7, 2004, five years ago today:
With his name linked to job openings at Notre Dame, Washington and Stanford, Dan Hawkins ends the rumor mill by agreeing to a new five-year, $525,000 a year contract at Boise State. Hawkins had just finished the Broncos' first unbeaten regular season 10 days earlier, coaching his 50th game at BSU and upping his record to 44-6.
(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.)