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The importance of winning a bowl game again

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on December 18, 2009 at 8:25 AM


Friday, December 18, 2009. is currently featuring “College football’s 10 signature moments of the decade.” And No. 1 is (the envelope, please): “The Statue of Liberty play; January 1, 2007.” Andy Staples’ description: “The final down of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl was the American Dream rolled into one play from scrimmage.  Using a play (the Statue of Liberty) mastered by millions of boys in their backyards, David (Boise State) scored on a two-point conversion to slay Goliath (Oklahoma) in overtime. The fairy-tale ending also changed college football. Boise's win, which followed Utah's Fiesta Bowl-crash after the 2004 season, earned immeasurable respect for the sport's mid-majors and brought them one step closer to a legitimate shot to compete for the national title.” 
But that brings us to today’s topic: the victory in Glendale was Boise State’s only bowl victory in the past five years. Is it part of the Broncos’ image despite three undefeated regular seasons during that time? Well, is it part of Utah’s pedigree that the Utes have the longest active bowl winning streak in the nation at eight games? Let’s look at the dynamics of those four BSU losses, though. In the 2004 Liberty Bowl, Boise State wasn’t quite ready for prime time, meaning the size and speed of then-elite Louisville in a 44-40 loss. In 2005 the Broncos never did recover from the 48-13 blindsiding at Georgia in the season opener, yet they still were five yards away from beating No. 19 Boston College in the MPC Computers Bowl.
In 2007, it was no secret that the Broncos’ mindset wasn’t right. They wanted something special for their bowl experience the season after the Fiesta Bowl, and they eschewed the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. That was when Ian Johnson was injured in practice during bowl week and hobbled through four carries for 11 yards. That was also when Jeremy Childs’ troubles began—he was suspended for the game against East Carolina after setting a school record with 82 catches during the regular season. Boise State fell behind the Chris Johnson-fueled Pirates 38-14, but still rallied to tie before losing 41-38.
There was no questioning the Broncos’ focus in 2008 at the Poinsettia Bowl. Whereas coach Chris Petersen considered the Hawaii Bowl a tough lesson, he was quick to pay tribute to his players’ maximum effort in the 17-16 loss to TCU last December. In this case, the Horned Frogs were just too much after Boise State has surged to a 13-0 lead. The difference was in the trenches, as the Frogs rushed for 275 yards to the Broncos’ 28. The trenches will make a difference for BSU in the rematch, but that’s a subject for another day.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported last week that highly respected Las Vegas oddsmaker R.J. Bell of sent out this note:  "TCU is undefeated, and people wonder how good they really are.  Here are the projected point spreads: Alabama would be a 7-point favorite over TCU.  Texas would be a 3-point favorite over TCU.  Florida would be a 6-point favorite over TCU.  Oregon would be a 2-point underdog to TCU.  Ohio State would be a 4-point underdog to TCU.  Cincinnati would be a 6-point underdog to TCU." This might be just me talkin’, but the Horned Frogs seem to be really wrapped up in how good they are. Boise State? It’s really wrapped up in…how good the Frogs are, too. Advantage Broncos, at least mentally.
Not exactly a rousing start to the bowl season tomorrow, as Fresno State and Wyoming kick it off tomorrow in the New Mexico Bowl. It’s a trap game for the Bulldogs. Fresno State is favored by 11½ points, but do the ‘Dogs really want to be there? They were in Albuquerque last year, too, and got gashed 40-35 by Colorado State—and as of Wednesday, they had sold 200 tickets to tomorrow’s game. The Cowboys are excited about the trip, rebounding to a 6-6 record this year with new coach Dave Christensen after some bad years under Joe Glenn. It could be the final game for Fresno State star running back Ryan Mathews, who has set a school rushing record this year with 1,664 yards. Mathews says he’ll wait until after hearing from the NFL Collegiate Advisory Committee’s draft evaluation before deciding whether to forego his senior season.
There’s some good TV tonight—the FCS (Division I-AA) national championship game between undefeated Montana and Villanova in Chattanooga, TN. If you saw the Grizzlies’ intense win over Appalachian State last Saturday, you’re hooked. Montana does have one local product on its roster: linebacker Caleb McSurdy out of Borah High. McSurdy, a 6-1, 245-pound sophomore, has 32 tackles and an interception this season.
There’s a “something’s gotta give” sidebar as the Idaho Steelheads go into their weekend series with Alaska tonight in Qwest Arena. Aces captain Scott Burt, the popular former Steelhead, has scored five goals this season—and three of them have been shorthanded, tying him for the ECHL lead in shorthand goals. Conversely, Idaho is the only team in the league that has not allowed a shorthand goal yet this season. Burt hasn’t scored a goal yet this month, though. Meanwhile, the Steelheads had Luke Gazdic for the past four games, but the 21-year-old forward is already back in the AHL. The Texas Stars recalled Gazdic, who collected a goal, an assist, and two fights while with the Steelies. The second fracas occurred exactly one second into Wednesday night’s win over Utah.
Attendance is at a crossroads for Boise State men’s basketball. Actually it might be past the crossroads as the Broncos host Houston Baptist tomorrow afternoon in Taco Bell Arena. The first two home crowds have been stunningly small—an average of 2500 a game for North Texas and San Diego. You have to go back to the days in Bronco Gym to find numbers like that. So what’s the answer? Charisma. And how do you develop charisma? Not sure. Through big wins and star power? The Broncos don’t have any of the former—and have few opportunities at them anyway. And the latter has yet to rise to the surface with this team. Stay tuned.
The Idaho Stampede were resigned to the fact that this wouldn’t take very long. And, in fact, Anthony Tolliver does already have the Stampede’s first call-up to the NBA this season. Tolliver was summoned by the Portland Trailblazers yesterday after averaging 20.7 points and 9.9 rebounds, with three double-doubles in the Stamps’ first seven games. Tolliver has also logged NBA experience with the New Orleans Hornets and San Antonio Spurs. His Stampede colleagues are on the road again tonight, looking to snap a two-game losing streak when they take on the Bakersfield Jam.
The Boise Hawks will have a distinct major league flavor in the dugout next season. Former Cubs catcher Jody Davis has been tabbed to manage the Northwest League club, and a former hurler for the Mariners (among others), Jeff Fassero, will be pitching coach. Davis spent six of his 10 big league seasons as the Cubs’ starting catcher in the 1980’s, while Fassero pitched for nine different teams over 16 seasons. Last year’s Hawks manager, Casey Kopitzke, will skipper the Cubs’ long-season Class A team in Peoria.
This Day In Sports…December 18, 1981:
Brigham Young edges Washington State 38-36 to secure back-to-back wins at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.  Tom Holmoe intercepted a WSU pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to give BYU a comfortable 31-7 advantage in the third quarter, but a revitalized Wazzu scored 29 points in the second half to close the gap.  BYU's Jim McMahon, the nation's leading passer and inaugural winner of the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, passed for 368 yards and three touchdowns, preventing the WSU comeback win.
(Courtesy: The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame)
(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.)