Monday, February 1, 2010.
It all starts Labor Day night (if the Virginia Tech game gets moved). But wait, maybe it’s August 9, with the beginning of fall camp. Or possibly March 8, with the start of spring football. Ask the players, and they’ll tell you it’s already underway. Boise State is kicking off the second week of winter conditioning, which is the annual flashpoint for the Broncos’ uncanny success on the field. Strength and conditioning coach Tim Socha is in charge right now. There’s a correlation between the stars in the weight room in the winter and the stars on the blue turf in the fall.
Socha used subtle and not-so-subtle reminders of the Hawaii game two years ago to keep players on edge in the winter going into the “Take Back The WAC” season. He hasn’t had to do anything special since. “I think at this time we have guys that believe that the process of working hard through the off-season leads to success on the field. It is something that has been established over time and needs to be emphasized every year. Hawaii two years ago was a great motivator, but we need guys that are constantly trying to be the best football players they can be no matter what the situation is.” And it appears it has come to that.
All the attention is on Boise State’s game against Virginia Tech, be it Labor Day or October 2. Just so you don’t forget September 25, I submit this from Dave Curtis’ recap of “January story lines” in the Sporting News. “Coach to remember: Oregon State’s Mike Riley. Maybe Riley could have prevented many of these shenanigans by replacing Pete Carroll at USC. Instead, score one for staying put. OSU returns the Rodgers brothers on offense and as many as 10 starters on defense. If sophomore Ryan Katz or Virginia transfer Peter Lalich excels at quarterback, OSU will contend in the Pac-10. And it could rattle the national championship picture, too, with a September trip to Boise State and an expected season opener versus TCU at Cowboys Stadium.”
By all accounts, Boise State’s Kyle Wilson played well Saturday at the Senior Bowl. Starting at left cornerback, Wilson made six tackles, three of them solo in the North’s 31-13 win. He also had one kickoff return for eight yards. Wilson made almost as big a splash with his family’s “K-Dub” RV, the 34-foot vehicle decked out in blue and orange with Kyle’s image. Yes, it found its way to Mobile. "When I first saw it, all I said was 'Wow!' That's exactly what I told him," fellow North cornerback Brandon Ghee of Wake Forest said. "I said, 'When can I take a ride on your bus?'” The RV has racked up more than 20,000 miles since August, traveling to every Bronco game (except Hawaii) from its home port in Sacramento. Meanwhile, Idaho’s Mike Iupati shined in the Senior Bowl, as expected. Iupati was called “easily” the best lineman down there.
There was a lot less at stake at the Pro Bowl in Miami last night. Former Boise State stars Ryan Clady and Quintin Mikell both started in the game, the first two BSU products ever to reach the Pro Bowl. Clady’s AFC team won 41-34. Mikell had three tackles, but he did miss a tackle on Vincent Jackson of the Chargers on what ended up a 48-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
Ten minutes into the game Saturday night—at the midway point of the first half—Boise State and Fresno State were tied 8-8. Multiply that by four, and you have a rousing 32-32 game at the end, with the prospect of watching more paint dry in overtime. But the Broncos took off at that 10 minute-mark and rolled up 26 points the rest of the half, enabling them to roll over the Bulldogs 65-49 for a second straight WAC win. Fresno State may have been a little dysfunctional offensively without injured leading scorer Paul George, but the Broncos did a lot right defensively. It was probably their best effort on that side of the ball this season, as they forced 25 turnovers by the Bulldogs and held them to 41 percent from the floor, including a 1-for-15 night from three-point range. Fresno State hasn’t won a WAC road game in over two years.
The Idaho Stampede has probably never seen this much tumult on its roster in the franchise’s 12-year history, at least not at the top end of its lineup. Already missing Sundiata Gaines, Anthony Tolliver Lanny Mills and Cedric Simmons (not to mention Patty Mills after his brief assignment from the NBA), the Stampede had to make a go of it without Coby Karl against Bakersfield over the weekend. The former Boise State star was signed to a 10-day contract by the Golden State Warriors, where he joined Tolliver. Without Karl, the Stamps were wailed upon by the Jam Friday night 137-116. But two of Idaho’s January arrivals keyed a 123-115 win over Bakersfield Saturday night, as Donell Taylor scored 27 points and veteran Lance Allred chipped in 25, with 15 rebounds.
Baseball has its “dog days of summer.” Let’s call these the “dog days of winter” in hockey vernacular, as this stretch after the All-Star break seems so far from playoff time—yet so long after the season’s start in October. The Idaho Steelheads appear to have a second wind, though, after sweeping a pair from Pacific Division-leading Bakersfield and adding a 5-2 win at Ontario last night that featured four unanswered third period scores. Evan Barlow revisited the site of his ECHL All-Star Game MVP honor in the win over the Reign, and he celebrated with a pair of goals. Barlow has an amazing eight goals and six assists in the past four games, all Steelheads wins.
You get the feeling Troy Merritt is not far away from a PGA Tour victory, despite being a green rookie at golf’s highest level. The former Boise State star put together another solid four days at the Farmers Insurance Open over the weekend, tying for 15th at Torrey Pines. Merritt shot a one-under 71 yesterday to finish at nine-under for the tournament, just four strokes behind winner Ben Crane. It was a profitable January for Merritt—he made $87,450 yesterday and now has $159,770 in three tour events. Former BSU teammate Graham DeLaet had missed the cut in La Jolla Friday, but he has to be happy with his first month as a rookie as well. DeLaet made $94,186 in January.
Ups and downs around campus: the Boise State men’s tennis was on the down side, falling to Washington and Virginia Tech at the ITA Kickoff Weekend in Champaign, IL. Coach Greg Patton wanted to pick up the school’s first win of 2010 over Virginia Tech, but the Hokies prevailed, 4-3. The BSU wrestling team stayed unbeaten in Pac-10 action, though, sweeping road tests at Stanford and UC Davis. The Bronco wrestlers are definitely on the ups since being upset by North Dakota State 2½ weeks ago.
This Day In Sports…February 1, 1995, 15 years ago today:
In a 129-88 triumph over Denver, Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton sets the all-time NBA record for assists. Fittingly, it came on a pass to Karl Malone—Stockton’s 11th assist of the game (he would have 16 that night). The Gonzaga product broke Magic Johnson’s standard of 9,921—at that point he had played 14 fewer career games than Johnson in eclipsing the record.
(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.)