Friday, January 10, 2014.
There’s all this talk about the top of the Mountain West during this basketball season, and Boise State’s quest to be considered a part of it. But there are no gimmes in this conference, and the Broncos will see their evidence tomorrow night when Wyoming comes to Taco Bell Arena. The Cowboys are coming off a 72-69 overtime loss to preseason favorite New Mexico Wednesday night in Laramie. ‘Nuff said, but let’s continue. The Pokes’ Riley Grabau peppered the Lobos with four three-pointers, made two free throws to tie the game with eight seconds left in regulation, and scored 24 points. But his final trey attempt clanked off the rim, allowing UNM to survive. All four of Wednesday night’s Mountain West games were decided by six points or less. No rest for the weary tomorrow night.
Boise State may be defensively-challenged inside, but it has ways of compensating. One is with steals, as the Broncos are second in the Mountain West with 7.4 per game, and Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks are second and fourth among individuals, respectively. Interestingly enough, another is rebounding. Boise State is out-rebounding its opponents by an average of five per game, and actually produced exactly that advantage in Wednesday night’s loss against a much taller San Diego State squad—just the third time this season the Aztecs have been bested on the glass. The Broncos have been averaging more than 11 offensive rebounds a game going into a game against a Wyoming team that was out-muscled 14-5 on the offensive boards against New Mexico.
The team that has given the Idaho Stampede the most trouble this season pays a two-game visit to CenturyLink Arena tonight and tomorrow night. After the Stampede had their eight-game season-opening winning streak snapped at Bakersfield last month, the Defenders smashed the Stampede at the cozy Toyota Center (the Lakers’ practice facility), 121-91, and followed that up nine days later with a 114-99 victory in Boise. L.A. held Stampede star Pierre Jackson to a season-low 11 points in the 30-point blowout, but he responded with 30 points in the second meeting.
New Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin has completed his staff with the formal announcement of Eastern Washington wide receivers coach Junior Adams filling the same role with the Broncos. Former BSU running back Lee Marks is aboard as assistant strength and conditioning coach under Jeff Pitman. Marks was part of a four-year run of WAC championships for the Broncos from 2002-05. Also joining the staff is director of player development Blake Baker, who served as Harsin’s safeties coach last season at Arkansas State.
Boise State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford in effect delivered an autobiography Wednesday when detailing the roots of his current vocation. “I feel like my coaching career really began on the sidelines as a backup quarterback,” said Sanford. During his senior year, Sanford battled tooth-and-nail with Jared Zabransky for the Broncos’ starting job. Coach Dan Hawkins didn’t officially reveal the winner until Zabransky trotted out for the first series of downs on Labor Day weekend against Idaho. It was then that Sanford hit the reset button. “Once that decision was made, I saw myself as the second quarterbacks coach,” Sanford said. “On my resume I try to put ‘backup quarterback at Boise State’ as my first job as a coach.”
Boise State's Geraldo Boldewijn and Idaho's James Baker will suit up tomorrow in the inaugural Medal of Honor Bowl in Charleston, SC. It’s a second-level college all-star game that gives both players a chance to show their upside. Boldewijn probably still hasn’t reached his potential—he finished his Bronco career with 39 catches this season for 523 yards and two touchdowns. Baker’s senior year with the Vandals produced 593 rushing yards and six TDs.
There are two Boise State products remaining in the NFL Playoffs, and they’ll both be on the same sideline this weekend. Quintin Mikell and Richie Brockel have helped Carolina into Cinderella territory. Mikell’s solid season has been well-chronicled. You seldom see Brockel in the box score, but you often see him blocking for Cam Newton and the Panthers’ running game. Carolina hosts the 49ers Sunday afternoon in the NFC divisional round. Jeron Johnson would be playing for Seattle against New Orleans tomorrow had he not been placed on injured reserve a month ago due to lingering hamstring problems.
The College of Idaho officially released its first football schedule since 1977 yesterday, and a couple things jump out. One, all 11 games will be played on Saturday afternoon, with a 1:00 local kickoff regardless of location. What a concept. Two, the Frontier Conference schedule features three home-and-home series—the Coyotes will play Montana Western, Southern Oregon and Eastern Oregon twice. The C of I’s inaugural game will be a non-conference affair at Pacific University, the same school against which the Yotes played their last football game on November 12, 1977 (they won 24-23).
Some housekeeping going into the Idaho Steelheads’ two-game series at Colorado starting tonight. The Steelheads have split their only two meetings of the season with the ECHL Mountain Division-leading Eagles. The deeper into the game the Steelies go, the more they like their chances. Idaho is a perfect 11-0 when leading after two periods and leads the ECHL with 41 third-period goals—and with 14 successful shootout goals.
Troy Merritt is back at the Sony Open for the first time in three years, shooting an even-par 70 in yesterday’s first round. The former Boise State star is tied for 65th at Waialae. Merritt missed the cut in 2011 at the Sony Open, but it was there in 2010 he made a splash in his debut as a PGA Tour card holder, finishing in a tie for 20th and earning $61,800. He made it back to the big circuit with his performance in the Web.com Tour Finals in September. Merritt missed the cut at the Frys.com Open and the McGladrey Classic last fall at the beginning of the reconfigured PGA Tour season.
On the Olympic sports front, the 23rd-ranked Boise State women’s gymnastics team opens its season in the toughest way possible, facing No. 6 Utah (along with BYU and Southern Utah) tonight in Salt Lake City. Gymnastics meets at the Huntsman Center are well-attended affairs, sometimes outdrawing men’s basketball. And the Boise State wrestling team lost 19-12 last night at Stanford. Tonight the Broncos travel to fellow Pac-12 affiliate Cal State Bakersfield.
This Day In Sports…January 10, 1939:
The birthday of one of the most beloved San Francisco Giants ever. Willie McCovey debuted in 1959 when the club was still playing at old Seals Stadium, a year after moving to the West Coast from New York. Despite playing in just 52 games, he was named National League Rookie of the Year. McCovey was known as “Stretch” for his fielding at first base and his looping swing. He was NL Most Valuable Player in 1969, hit 521 career home runs, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. Willie McCovey…75 years old today.
(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.)