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The Paul “Bear” Bryant Award basically tells the Bronco story

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on January 15, 2010 at 8:27 AM

Updated Friday, Jan 15 at 5:09 PM


Friday, January 15, 2010.
Boise State may not have been No. 1 in the polls, but Chris Petersen was No. 1 with the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association last night. Petersen won the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award for the second time in four years, the first coach to take the honor twice in its 24-year history. He was chosen over the likes of Nick Saban of national champion Alabama. But the Bryant balloters got it right. How does a school from one of the least-populated states in the country, from one of the lower-rated conferences in the FBS, with by far the fewest seniors in the country, finish as one of only two undefeated teams in the nation, ranked No. 4 with a second Fiesta Bowl championship in tow? Coaching, baby.
Speaking of that, there’s good news all the way around today at the Bronco Football Complex. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, architect of the creative schemes that took down Oregon and TCU (among others) this season, is staying at Boise State. Wilcox was a finalist for the D-coordinator’s post at Texas A&M. Reports out of Texas say Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter will likely get the job.
If the anti-BCS crusade of Sen. Orrin Hatch is going to have any teeth, it can’t just be about the Utah Utes (or BYU or the Mountain West). A year ago, he was part of a Congressional push to investigate the BCS after Utah thumped Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. So now Hatch is picking up the Boise State flag—and preaching to the choir. President Barack Obama said during his 2008 campaign that he favored a college football playoff, so why wouldn’t he invite the Broncos to the White House along with the national champion Crimson Tide? The senator has written a letter to Obama asking him to do just that. Maybe Boise State should just leave a day early for their game in Washington against Virginia Tech this fall, stop by the White House and say hi, and call it good.
If Hatch really believes all this is going to make a difference, it’s certainly not the time to abandon ship on the Mountain West cause. The league can still make a case as a candidate for BCS automatic-qualifying status. TCU’s loss to Boise State was the Mountain West’s only defeat of the bowl season—the Horned Frogs had taken a four-game bowl winning streak into the Fiesta Bowl. Utah won its ninth straight bowl game when it took apart Cal in the Poinsettia Bowl. BYU has gone 5-2 versus the Pac-10 in five straight Las Vegas Bowls, including its demolition of Oregon State last month. All three of those Mountain West schools finished in the Top 25 for the second straight season. Games like Air Force's rout of Houston and Wyoming's win over Fresno State don't get nearly as much attention, but they’ll be remembered in the long run.
Hopefully San Diego’s bye week will enable Legedu Naanee to take the field healthy Sunday in the Chargers’ AFC semi-final against the Jets. The former Boise State star missed a chunk of practice last week with a foot injury. Naanee’s role with the Chargers has increased steadily this season, to the point that he’s their No. 3 wide receiver with 24 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns. One thing to watch for Sunday might be Naanee in the “wildcat,” which would allow him to draw on his Bronco roots as a one-time quarterback. He has completed one throw this season for 21 yards on a double-pass play.
Other notes out of the NFL today: former Boise State offensive line coach Sean Kugler has been hired as the new O-line coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kugler spent one year with the Broncos—and it was a pretty good one, in 2006. He left after the Fiesta Bowl to join the Buffalo Bills and remains the only core member of Chris Petersen’s staff to leave the program. Also, former Idaho running back Rolly Lumbala has been signed to a futures contract, in effect a free agent tryout deal, with the Miami Dolphins. It’s a longshot—Lumbala had just six carries for 10 yards and a touchdown last season for the B.C. Lions of the CFL. Former Vandal punter T.J. Conley had already inked a free agent deal with the New York Jets.
You could see this one coming. After almost expressing relief that it was playing San Jose State, Boise State let another one slip away last night, falling to 0-5 in the WAC after a 76-74 loss to the Spartans. The Broncos watched Adrian Oliver turn them inside out, scoring 33 points and going 12-for-12 from the free throw line. BSU was 7-for-16 as a team from the charity stripe, symptomatic of a season in a downward spiral. Then there was shooting from the field. The Broncos managed just 40 percent. It’s always somethin’ with this team this season—this time it was Anthony Thomas and Reggie Arnold combining to go 2-for-17. Now Boise State is looking squarely at an 0-7 or even an 0-8 WAC start. Next up are Utah State in Logan tomorrow, Nevada at Taco Bell Arena next Wednesday, and Idaho in Moscow a week from Monday.
If the team the Idaho Stampede put on the floor tonight isn’t the best in the franchise’s 13-year history, it’s certainly the most attractive. Suddenly, the Stampede have two of their best players from last season’s team on board, Lance Allred and former Boise State standout Coby Karl, to go with the newly-assigned Patty Mills from the Blazers. Karl was released earlier this month by Cleveland—for the Stampede he averaged 18½ points and 5½ assists in 22 games before leaving for Spain a year ago. 
Allred, who tested the European waters briefly in Italy this season, returns for a fourth season. He was a key part of the Stampede’s 2008 D-League championship team. And, of course, Allred is an author, releasing “Longshot: The Adventures of a Deaf Fundamentalist Mormon Kid and His Journey to the NBA” last year. Karl, Allred and Mills will suit up against the Reno Bighorns in Qwest Arena tonight.
There’s a six-way tie atop the leaderboard going into the second round at the Sony Open in Hawaii, and one of the six is former Boise State star Troy Merritt. In his PGA Tour debut, Merritt was just as impressive as when he won the grueling final stage of Q-School last fall. He tamed Waialae with a five-under 65 yesterday. Save for a bogey on No. 13, Merritt would be the sole leader. On the other hand, were it not for a birdie on 18, Merritt would be trailing by a stroke. His former Bronco teammate, Graham DeLaet, is five shots back after an even-par 70.
According to PGA, Merritt was asked in the interview room, “Was this anything like you would imagined?" Replied Merritt, "You know, my fiancee asked me…” The questioner interrupted, "You couldn't have a fiancee, you are only 12, aren't you?"  Amid laughter, Merritt said, "That's why I don't clean shave." Merritt's fiancee, though, asked him what he wanted to accomplish in his first round. He told her he'd be "ecstatic if I could go out and shoot 3 under par." He bested that by two—a heck of a first-ever round on the PGA Tour.
This is a good time for Idaho Steelheads goalie Rejean Beauchemin to be called up to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. Because Beauchemin might be back in Boise by the time the Steelheads play again. This is Beauchemin’s second stint with the Moose, who are based in his hometown of Winnipeg. The 24-year-old netminder got the win Wednesday night in the Steelies’ 4-3 shootout victory over Utah to improve to 13-6-1 on the season. The Steelheads don’t return to action until after the ECHL All-Star break—against Las Vegas in Qwest Arena a week from tonight.
Mike Safford, the Voice of the Boise Hawks (and College of Idaho Coyotes, for that matter), has compiled the Hawks Top 10 Moments of the Decade. Heading the list, ironically, is the Hawks’ symbol of the 1990’s. The retirement of former manager Tom Kotchman’s No. 11 in an emotional ceremony during the summer of 2006 is the designated as the Hawks’ best moment of the 2000’s. Second was Luke Hagerty’s eight-inning, one-hit gem in the deciding game of the Northwest League Championship Series against Everett in 2002. Third was the triple play in 2005 that ended up the Play of the Night on ESPN SportsCenter.
This Day In Sports…January 15, 1967:
The Green Bay Packers defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10, in the first Super Bowl, called the AFL-NFL Championship Game. The unlikely hero was veteran Packers receiver Max McGee, who had caught only four passes all season but on this day had seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first official game between the two leagues and was telecast by both CBS (which held the NFL rights) and NBC (which had the AFL).
(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.)