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Of bowl streaks and blitzing

Of bowl streaks and blitzing

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant

KTVB.COM

Posted on December 20, 2010 at 8:28 AM

Updated Sunday, Nov 3 at 6:09 PM

 

Monday, December 20, 2010.
 
We’re hearing two recurring themes as Boise State talks about playing Utah in Wednesday night’s Maaco Bowl Las Vegas. One is the Utes’ nine-game bowl winning streak, and the recognition from the Broncos that it’s a hard thing to do. Boise State certainly doesn’t have that pedigree, having lost the last four bowl games it’s played against non-BCS competition. The streak is a point of pride with Utah. It’s easy to be impressed by the Utes’ postseason run. Now the Broncos need to be motivated by it. Of course, what motivates coach Chris Petersen is not another team’s goals, nor the ramifications this game will carry into next season.  “I could care less (about 2011),” said Petersen. “I do feel pressure to finish this season off.”
 
The other theme is Utah’s creative blitzing. “They bring a ton of blitzes—they’re very good at scheming,” said Bronco quarterback Kellen Moore, who’s very good at analyzing such things. It’ll be strength against strength at Sam Boyd Stadium, as Boise State has allowed just seven sacks all season, third-best in the country. Did I mention Utah’s success in bowl games? That’s when the Utes’ pass rush is at its best. They sacked Cal’s Kevin Riley four times in their 37-27 Poinsettia Bowl win over the Bears last year, and they took down Alabama’s John Parker Wilson a whopping eight times in their 31-17 Sugar Bowl win over the Crimson Tide the previous season.
 
On the flip side of the pass rush category, will this come into play Wednesday night? Utah is missing not only starting quarterback Jordan Wynn, but also starting left tackle John Cullen. Seldom-used sophomore Sam Brenner will replace Cullen. Brenner will be going against a Boise State defense that leads the nation with 3.75 sacks per game. “Sam is a competitor, and we have a lot of confidence he can step up,” Utah center Zane Taylor said in the Salt Lake Tribune. “We know we are going up against one of the best defenses in the nation, but we’ve had a long time to get ready and it shouldn’t be an issue.”
 
Did you know? Boise State has played in Sam Boyd Stadium before. Yes, the Broncos’ last game on that field was…the month current offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin was born. That was in November, 1976, when it was known as Las Vegas Stadium, capacity 15,000. The Broncos had a spirited six-year rivalry with UNLV in the 70’s, with each team winning three times. It’s amazing the Broncos and Rebels haven’t played since, but the series resumes next year in the Mountain West.
 
There was a lesson to be learned in the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl Saturday. They who not only want to be there the most—but want to have the most fun—win. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sideline quite like that of Northern Illinois in the second half of NIU’s 40-17 win over Fresno State. The Huskies were making noise on defensive downs, celebrating every play made by their teammates, and following the enthusiastic lead of their interim coach, Tom Matukewicz. Northern Illinois was loose, confident and dominant against the Bulldogs, who couldn’t make plays. The ‘Dogs often talk a good game, but they often end up with this. 
 
Chandler Harnish, an extension of Matukewicz’s spirit, did little wrong for the Huskies. He had one of the best all-around games ever by a quarterback in the H-Bowl, throwing for 300 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 72 yards and two more scores. Matukewicz was loving every minute of it. His halftime interview on ESPN was as good as Idaho coach Robb Akey’s was a year ago. Matukewicz said he was going to use all his timeouts in the second half to enjoy the final minutes of the game. He didn’t, but he was having too much fun as it was.
 
The uDrove Humanitarian Bowl committee did a tremendous job with this year’s game, with both teams raving about the experience they had in Boise. The activities were good, as were the TV commercials. And they were able to play the Pat Hill card. But when game time rolled around, the reality of the MAC-versus-WAC setup sunk in. Especially on the west side of Bronco Stadium, there were waves of empty seats. It was last year that the MAC replaced the ACC as the WAC representative’s opponent, but the effect was masked by Idaho’s presence in the game, as there was a strong turnout by Vandal fans. Now we know. Even with a team like Northern Illinois coming in at 10-3, with one week spent in the Top 25, the MAC is just a tough sell.
 
If the rest of Boise State’s four-game home-and-home basketball series with Utah goes the way the first one did, they’ll be edge-of-the-seat affairs. Problem for the Broncos is: they fell off their chairs at the end of the game Friday night, blowing a 16-point second half lead and falling 86-84 in the Huntsman Center. The good long-term sign for Boise State was the career night from Daequon Montreal, who had 28 points and eight rebounds. The Broncos took a step down in competition but a big step up in performance last night, routing Texas Pan American, 91-62. And wouldn’t you know it, Montreal got into early foul trouble, didn’t make a bucket until midway through the second half, and wound up with only six points. BSU didn’t need him on this night, though.
 
Overtime frustration over the weekend for the Idaho Stampede, as they were taken into extra time by Springfield and Maine—and lost to both of them. The Stampede squandered a 13-point lead yesterday in a 100-98 loss to the Maine Red Claws, wasting a 31-point effort off the bench by Lance Hurdle. The Stamps fell 114-107 in OT Saturday at Springfield, despite former Celtic Antoine Walker returning to Massachusetts with 27 points. Idaho had to play both games without Luke Babbitt, who was recalled the Blazers earlier than planned because of injuries to Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, Marcus Camby and Joel Przybilla. Babbitt, the former Nevada star, played four games for the Stampede, averaging 18 points and 5.8 rebounds.
 
The Idaho Steelheads can’t break the bank in Las Vegas, losing their fourth straight against the Wranglers yesterday in a 6-3 decision at Orleans Arena after a 4-1 defeat Saturday. The Steelheads had dropped two on the same ice the preceding weekend before this latest sweep. Overall, the Steelies have just one victory in their last six games (they fell 4-3 in a shootout to Victoria Friday night). Idaho is looking for consistency between the pipes. Jase Weslosky absorbed the first loss in Vegas and had to come on in relief yesterday after Mike Zacharias allowed four goals in 20 shots. The Steelheads go to Utah to face the Grizzlies tomorrow night and Wednesday night.
 
This Day In Sports…December 20, 1980, 30 years ago today:
 
Boise State wins the Division I-AA national championship with a 31-29 win over Eastern Kentucky at the Camellia Bowl in Sacramento. BSU led most of the way—until the Colonels connected on a bomb with 55 seconds remaining. Trailing by five points with 80 yards to go, Joe Aliotti led the Broncos on the winning drive. He hit Kipp Bedard three times to get BSU close. Then on fourth-and-10 from the 14-yard-line, Aliotti scrambled until he found tight end Duane Dlouhy in the corner of the endzone with 12 seconds left. 
 
(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 served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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