Wednesday, November 23, 2011.
Las Vegas has established another “Are you kidding me?” point spread. Boise State is favored by 32½ points over Wyoming Saturday. Aren’t the Cowboys the same team that beat Air Force on the road two weeks ago, holding the Falcons to a season-low 17 points? And the Broncos have not been a juggernaut on the blue turf this season. Certainly the oddsmakers aren’t preoccupied with the 51-6 Boise State win in Laramie last year, are they?. That Wyo team was quarterbacked by Austyn Carta-Samuels, who abruptly left the program early this year (and landed at Vanderbilt). That may have ended up being the best thing that ever happened to Wyoming. Because true freshman Brett Smith has pulled the Cowboys up by their bootstraps and has become one of the top freshman QBs in the country.
Smith has not thrown an interception the past five games, and he’s coming off his best effort of the season in last Saturday’s 31-10 victory over New Mexico. He rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 212 yards and another score as Wyoming became bowl-eligible. What are they saying about the phenom from Salem, OR? “He’s a gamer,” said Boise State coach Chris Petersen. “He figures out a way to get it done.” Said Bronco quarterback Kellen Moore, “He’s a great find for them, and he’ll be their guy for awhile.” From Laramie Boomerang columnist Ben Hammond: “I’ve been in this business for 44 years and I’ve never seen a tougher or more competitive freshman quarterback than UW’s Brett Smith. He’s a marvel to watch.”
This might not be the week that cures what ails Boise State’s pass rush. Smith is one reason, as he’s proven to be elusive. “He can find somebody on a scramble drill, or he can just take off,” said Petersen. The other is Wyoming’s ability to protect Smith. The Cowboys have allowed only 10 sacks all season. Pressure on the quarterback has been one of the more baffling aspects of the Bronco defense this year. Boise State led the nation with a school-record 48 sacks last year. With the same defensive line this season, save for Ryan Winterswyk, the Broncos have managed just 18. That’s 74th in the country.
The Heisman Trophy people don’t have a set number of players they invite to the ceremony in New York. They just look for a clear cutoff in potential candidates. Last year Kellen Moore made the cut. This year, there’s a huge drop-off on most Heisman projections after Alabama’s Trent Richardson, Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, and Houston’s Case Keenum. In fact, Moore has slipped to No. 7 on ESPN.com’s Heisman Watch behind USC quarterback Matt Barkley and Wisconsin running back Monte Ball. The Broncos’ loss to TCU has taken its toll on Moore’s Heisman hopes, but he’s no less of a quarterback in November than he was in October.
Andy Staples’ Power Rankings at SI.com go all Thanksgiving this week. Staples moves Boise State to No. 8, and what Thanksgiving theme does he attach to the Broncos? Leftovers. “Thanksgiving leftovers make up some of the best meals of the year,” writes Staples. “Some foods—mac and cheese especially—taste better after a night in the fridge. Unfortunately, leftovers don't get the same special treatment as the food consumed on Thanksgiving. They might ride on paper plates instead of china. So it goes for the Broncos, who probably could beat many of the teams that will play in BCS bowls. Unfortunately, Boise State won't win its own conference, so even if Houston loses, the Broncos can't automatically qualify for a BCS berth. With the BCS games unlikely to choose Boise State, the Broncos will be relegated to a leftover bowl.”
In the Salt Lake papers, you can find recent stories virtually side-by-side that talk about BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall’s positive feelings about a move to the Big East and BYU fans’ dissatisfaction with a bizarre independent home schedule that has featured weak opponents and some late kickoff times dictated by ESPN. But guess who wins? Television it is, as the prospects of BYU joining Boise State in the Big East have dissipated. The Cougars don’t want to jeopardize the rare advantage they gained by retaining TV rights to their home games and signing an eight-year contract with the Worldwide Leader. So does this cast further doubt on Air Force making a move? Presumably San Diego State still has high interest in being the Broncos’ “Western partner.” This is not fun.
Youth was not served last night for Boise State men’s basketball, as the new road campers got a rude initiation in a 72-62 loss at Long Beach State. It could have been worse had the Broncos not sustained their effort to the end, as the 49ers had a 23-point second half advantage before BSU finished on a 17-4 run. In the early going, it was live by the three, die by the three. After pelting opponents with the long ball the first three games, the Broncos missed nine of their first 10 shots from three-point range. They consequently fell behind by as many as 18 points in the first half before cutting the deficit to nine at the half. Anthony Drmic led Boise State with 20 points, the second time in four games he’s reached 20. Kenny Buckner chipped in 14 points.
College basketball tonight has Idaho and Lewis-Clark State meeting in CenturyLink Arena in the “Thanksgiving Classic.” This special event was first tried over the holidays two years ago, with the Vandals defeating L-C State, 71-52, on December 29. The game was played in front of a crowd of 4,111 the night before the Vandal football team played in the Humanitarian Bowl. Idaho comes into Boise tonight with a 1-2 record, including losses at Long Beach State and Montana and a home win over Concordia. The Warriors are 4-1 after sweeping a pair of contests at the College of Idaho’s Duane Wolf Memorial Golden Rule Shootout last weekend.
The Idaho Stampede’s season opens this week with Friday and Saturday games against the Tulsa 66ers in CenturyLink Arena. The Stampede look to start coach Randy Livingston’s second campaign better than the first last year, when they lost 13 of their first 15 games. The Stamps finished 22-13, though, and came within a game of the D-League Playoffs. The Stampede play seven of their first nine games at home.
The Colorado Eagles may be the new kid on the block in the ECHL, technically an expansion team, but the truth is something else. The Eagles moved to the ECHL this season from the Central Hockey League, where they played in the league finals five times in eight seasons and won two championships. And they’re a good draw in what they call the Loveland-Fort Collins metropolitan area—Steelheads coach Hardy Sauter expects “a great atmosphere” in Budweiser Events Center. A good showing this week will lift the Steelies out of last place, as Colorado is one point ahead of Idaho in the Mountain Division standings.
This Day In Sports…November 23, 1984:
The most famous Hail-Mary of all-time, as Boston College has six seconds left, trailing Miami by four at the Orange Bowl. On the final play of the game, Doug Flutie scrambled and launched a prayer from his own 37-yard-line. The ball somehow dropped into the arms of Gerard Phelan in the end zone, and BC won, 47-45.
(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.)