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Regardless of early-season woes, defense is there now

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on March 8, 2010 at 9:37 AM


Monday, March 8, 2010.
As much as 82 and 85-point offensive efforts on combined 54 percent shooting would do a team good, it was at the other end of the floor that Boise State has shown signs of being the team it professed to be at the start of the season. In each of their WAC Tournament-saving victories last week, the Broncos took the ball out of the hands of the opponent’s leading scorer and made his teammates work for offense. San Jose State’s Adrian Oliver, averaging 22½ points a game, was held to 12 in BSU’s 85-56 rout of the Spartans Saturday. Oliver laid 33 points on the Broncos in January. And last Thursday, Hawaii’s Roderick Flemings managed just six points in the Broncos’ 82-63 conquest of the Rainbow Warriors. Flemings had scored 39 just 11 days earlier in Hawaii’s BracketBuster loss to Cal Poly and notched 20 on Boise State in January.
So with that, Boise State goes into the WAC Tournament in Reno this week as the No. 8 seed. You know what that means. The Broncos have to play No. 1, Utah State, which just won its third straight conference regular season championship. USU cruised to a 22-point win over the Broncos in Logan, though it won by only five in Boise. BSU has another leading scorer to tame—and this one won’t be easy. Tai Wesley goes into the tourney as the reigning WAC Player of the Week, having scored 21 and 24 points in Aggie romps over Fresno State and New Mexico State, respectively. All Wesley did was shoot 83 percent from the field for the week.
Nine weeks of waiting is over for Bronco football junkies.  Boise State spring practice starts today. The Broncos, of course, are replacing just two senior regulars off last year’s squad: Kyle Wilson and Richie Brockel. Jerell Gavins is the odd-son favorite to replace Wilson at cornerback. After all, Gavins did just that when Wilson moved to safety for the Broncos’ funky defensive alignment in the Fiesta Bowl. But don’t forget Jamar Taylor, who was good enough to play on this team as a true freshman in 2008—then ultimately had to use his redshirt year last season because of nagging injuries.
Brockel’s replacement was established last November when the popular fullback’s season ended with a broken foot against Idaho. Dan Paul took it and ran with it. The most widely-run AP photo the day after the Fiesta Bowl tells you all you need to know about Paul’s role as the starting fullback next season. Paul is seen delivering an airtight sealing block on TCU middle linebacker Tank Carder, opening a lane for Doug Martin’s dive into the end zone with the winning touchdown. That one photo speaks many more volumes about Paul’s future than, say, the three touchdown catches he had against Nevada.
Oregon State will indeed have a new quarterback when it comes to Bronco Stadium September 25. The Beavers had held out hope that Lyle Moevao would be granted a sixth year of eligibility after playing just one down as a senior last season. But the NCAA has turned down OSU’s appeal, so the Beavers will go to work with sophomore Ryan Katz and Virginia transfer Peter Lalich this spring. Sean Canfield had a great season for Oregon State last year with Moevao on the shelf. (Canfield, you may recall, came on in relief of Matt Moore in the Beavers’ 42-14 loss to Boise State on the blue turf in 2006).
You’d like to think Ian Johnson’s prospects in Minnesota have brightened with fellow running back Chester Taylor having been signed away by the Chicago Bears. Taylor was the backup and the complement to Adrian Peterson in the Vikings backfield, while Johnson spent the season on the Vikes’ practice squad. So—as good a person as he is and as hard a worker as he is—you want the window of opportunity to open for the former Boise State icon. We have to be realistic here, though. It would not be at all surprising for the Vikings to go grab another back. LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker are all free agents. And Albert Young is already ahead of Ian on the Minnesota depth chart.
For the fourth time this season, the Idaho Steelheads dropped the first of a three-game series last week only to rise up and win the last two. The Steelheads were sluggish in last Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to Bakersfield but were quite energetic in 5-0 and 7-3 routs of the Condors Friday and Saturday. A good dose of the Steelies’ drive came from Mark Derlago, who extended his goal-scoring streak to six games. Derlago scored two goals with three assists in Saturday’s triumph. Bakersfield wasn’t used to that, having allowed two goals or less in each of its previous four games going into the weekend.  The Steelheads now hit the road for another one of those three-game series beginning Wednesday against the second-place Victoria Salmon Kings.
This week’s Sports Illustrated features Boise’s Jeret Peterson and his silver medal-winning Hurricane from the Vancouver Olympics. Speedy’s well-known story of the wrenching past few years is summarized, capped by a great quote. Writer Austin Murphy notes that Peterson’s self-esteem has risen to the point that he can tell himself, “Dude, you’re awesome. You did a good job.” Says Speedy, “It’s easy to tell other people that. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell yourself.”
The Idaho Stampede’s season series with Albuquerque is complete. The Stampede went 4-1 against the Thunderbirds—and, thanks to the quirky D-League schedule, all five games were on the road. The Stamps wouldn’t mind playing Albuquerque in Qwest Arena at least once, because they do pretty well against the T-Birds, witness a second straight swept of a two-game set in New Mexico over the weekend. Idaho’s most impressive work was done on the glass—it outrebounded Albuquerque by a stunning 115-74 over the two nights. The Stampede return home Wednesday night against the L.A. D-Fenders. 
More hoops wrap: the Treasure Valley was shut out of boys state basketball championships Saturday. The only District III representative that made the finals was in 5A, where Eagle fell to Post Falls, 68-60. And Boise State senior guard Tasha Harris has been named first-team All-WAC as the Broncos prepare to meet host Nevada Wednesday night in the first round of the women’s WAC Tournament. BSU’s Julia Marshall and Eagle High grad Lauren Lenhardt were named to the women’s All-Freshmen Team, while Daequon Montreal was named to the WAC men’s All-Newcomer squad.
This Day In Sports…March 8, 2002:
A day after finishing his second losing season in three years, Rod Jensen is fired as head basketball coach at Boise State. Jensen had a 109-93 record in seven seasons at BSU, but attendance had fallen off dramatically in his final campaign—which ended 13-17 overall with a 6-12 mark in the Broncos’ first season in the WAC. On the same day, BSU women’s coach Trish Stevens resigned after a 77-93 record over six seasons.
(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.)