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The ring is always the thing

The ring is always the thing

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on November 30, 2012 at 8:20 AM

Friday, November 30, 2012.

During Boise State’s 13-year Golden Era, it’s always been first things first.  And the first thing on the team’s list every season is to win a conference title.  There have been 10 of them since 1999, but they’ve never been taken for granted.  When the Broncos missed out on a championship ring in the regular season finale at Hawaii in 2007, it took a toll.  It hurt last year when TCU stole the crown away on the blue turf.  Tomorrow at Nevada, Boise State can snare a share of the Mountain West championship, and a share is fine.  The trophy was no less cherished two years ago after the final win over Utah State, even though the Wolf Pack had one, too.

After the loss to San Diego State four weeks ago, coach Chris Petersen didn’t want his team thinking about the Mountain West crown that was still out there.  He wanted the Broncos’ focus on the next game against Hawaii, and Hawaii only.  But now the formula is simple.  Win, and the trophy is theirs.  Petersen still wants to keep things in check, though.  “It’s always that fine balance where you want the kids to feel the sense of urgency, but not so much to not put your best foot forward,” said Petersen.  “It’s really about Nevada—about ourselves, playing the best football you can play.  And I’m sure it is for (the Wolf Pack), too.”

The treatment of Boise State fans by the Reno populace during and after Nevada’s 34-31 overtime win in 2010 was a major bone of contention in the weeks following that game.  Many fans swore they would never set foot in the Biggest Little City again after being accosted by drunken Wolf Pack rooters.  We’ll find out tomorrow if a significant number had a change of heart.  Nevada tried to make it more difficult for Bronco faithful to snap up tickets this year, not wanting Mackay Stadium to be a de facto home field for Boise State as it has so many times in the past.  The capper was on that frigid night in Reno in 2004 when, after a six-inch snowfall, the 10,000 Boise State fans in the stands actually outnumbered the Nevada crowd.

Still, it’s sad this 41-year rivalry is coming to an end.  The Boise State and Nevada programs have kind of mirrored each other through the years, dominant at different times.  To generalize, the Broncos had the upper hand in the 1970’s, the Wolf Pack during much of the 1980’s and 1990’s, and the Broncos in the new century.  The two most unforgettable games in the series came in 1990, when Nevada outlasted Boise State 59-52 in triple-overtime in the semifinals of the Division I-AA Playoffs in Reno, and in 2007, when the Broncos got by the Pack 69-67 in a four-overtime donnybrook on the blue turf in Colin Kaepernick’s first collegiate start.

The natural inclination is to dissect the Nevada offense’s chances against the Boise State defense.  But the pressure’s on the Bronco offense to hold up its end of the bargain.  The much-maligned Wolf Pack defense did a pretty darn good job on the blue turf last year.  Kellen Moore was held to a career-low 142 yards passing, with two interceptions.  And it was one of the few times Moore completed less than 60 percent of his passes.  Boise State’s offense gained only 329 yards.  The Broncos were thankful for a defense that held Nevada to just 182.

Going into a rivalry where a couple missed field goals are part of the game’s lore, it’s interesting to note that Boise State hasn’t attempted a field goal since October.  Michael Frisina’s toe may be needed again tomorrow.  Frisina’s last attempt was a 29-yarder at Wyoming that he knocked through.  He’s 10-of-15 on the season, but his longest make is only 30 yards.  All five of Frisina’s misses this year have been from further out.

With Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic having officially announced their move to Conference USA in 2014, does that create a lifeline for Idaho in the Sun Belt, its football home 10 years ago?  Maybe.  Former WAC commissioner Karl Benson now heads the Sun Belt, and one WAC team might be next in line for a spot in the conference—New Mexico State.  But CBS reports that Idaho and Georgia Southern are also under consideration.

The Boise State men’s basketball team tries to bring itself back down to earth in time to play at Seattle University Sunday afternoon.  After their big upset of 11th-ranked Creighton Wednesday night, the Broncos would rather not have the Redhawks do it for them.  The bottom line against the Blue Jays was preparation—dissecting not the good things from last Saturday’s win over UC Santa Barbara, but the problem areas from last week’s 74-70 loss at Michigan State.  “The crazy thing is, after the win over Santa Barbara, as a staff we’re not going to show them the (UCSB) game, we’re going to show them the Michigan State game, and look at the things we did in the final eight minutes.,” said coach Leon Rice.  “My staff was great, with the great game plan.”

The Idaho Stampede shot better last night, but it wasn’t enough to take down Bakersfield in the second game of the season.  The Jam won, 125-119, despite three Stamps topping the 20-point mark.  This time it was turnovers did the Stampede in, a staggering 25 of them.  Former Boise State standout Coby Karl showed he can still be clutch, scoring all 20 of his points in the fourth quarter.  Karl’s barrage included a trio of three-pointers before he fouled out.  Durrell Summers scored 24 and Justin Harper added 20 for the Stampede, who are still looking for their first victory under new coach Mike Peck.  The Stamps play at Austin tomorrow night and Sunday.

Lost through all the talk of the scoring prowess of the Idaho Steelheads and Colorado Eagles is the ability of Steelheads goalie Josh Robinson to keep opponents out of the nets.  Robinson stopped 36 of 39 shots Wednesday night to up his record to 8-0-1.  He has won all five of his starts in November and is 10th in the ECHL with a 2.53 goals-against average.  The Frankenmuth, MI, native turns 23 years old tomorrow.  The Steelheads and Eagles face off again tonight and tomorrow night in CenturyLink Arena.  Idaho remains two points behind first-place Anchorage in the ECHL Mountain Division.

A couple other notes: Boise State men's tennis coach Greg Patton will lead the top American collegiate tennis players at the sixth-annual Master'U BNP Paribas in France next week.  It’s the fourth straight year Patton has coached the U.S. team at the international event. And two members of the 2012 Boise Hawks were named to the Topps/Minor League Baseball Short Season All-Star Team.  Second baseman Gioskar Amaya set a new Hawks record with 12 triples last season, while the popular Dan Vogelbach hit 10 home runs with 41 runs batted in during only half a season in Boise.

This Day In Sports…November 30, 1974:

In one of the most amazing turnarounds in college football history, Notre Dame takes a 24-0 lead over USC in the second quarter and watches a disaster unfold.  Behind tailback Anthony Davis, the Trojans roar back to score eight touchdowns in the next 16 minutes and trounce the Fighting Irish, 55-24, at the LA Coliseum.  Davis scored six TDs during the rally.

(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.)