Monday, January 6, 2014.
Boise State was favored over Fresno State by 13½ points, could have beaten the Bulldogs by 20, and won by seven Saturday night at Taco Bell Arena. Welcome to the Mountain West schedule. The Broncos ran off a stunning 20-0 run in just over four minutes’ time in the first half, and they can thank their lucky stars for that. Actually, though, they can thank the grunt work they did throughout the game. That is what’s going to win games in the MW for Boise State. Read that: rebounds. The Broncos had a commanding 16-rebound advantage on the Bulldogs, with Ryan Watkins pulling down an amazing 17, eight of them on the offensive end. Watkins must like playing Fresno State—he had a career-high 18 boards versus the ‘Dogs in Taco Bell Arena a year ago.
As hot as Fresno State was down the stretch Saturday night, Boise State might not be 1-0 right now were it not for free throws. In the final two minutes of the game, the Broncos canned 15 of 18 attempts from the charity stripe. Anthony Drmic was 6-of-6, Mikey Thompson 5-of-6 and Watkins 4-of-4. Only two misses by Igor Hadziomerovic at the 51-second mark gave the Bulldogs real hope. For the game, Boise State was 28-of-36 from the free throw line, including 27-of-34 in the second half. Yes, the Broncos attempted just two free throws before halftime. The makes and attempts were the second-most this season on both counts.
It was a strange way for Derrick Marks to hit the 1,000-point milestone in his Boise State career. Marks scored only four points against Fresno State. Fortunately he needed only two to become the 24th Bronco to hit a thousand. Marks has been held to single digits in three of his past four games. With 19 points Saturday night, Anthony Drmic moved into the top 10 in career scoring for the Broncos at 1,166 points.
Up next for Boise State is San Diego State on the road Wednesday night, and how about them Aztecs? They went into Allen Fieldhouse and took down Kansas yesterday, 61-57, to improve to 12-1. SDSU ended the Jayhawks’ 68-game home winning streak against non-conference teams. And it gives the Mountain West a big boost. The Aztecs went in ranked 21st, and that number will take a leap today. Kansas was 16th, and down will go the Jayhawks.
It was nice knowing you, CJ McCollum. The NBA lottery pick made his professional debut for the Idaho Stampede over the weekend while essentially on a rehab assignment from Portland and is now headed back to the Blazers. In a split with the team with the best record in the D-League, Rio Grande Valley, McCollum played a combined 41 minutes for the Stamps and scored 37 points, including 24 Saturday night in a game he won’t soon forget. The Stampede and the Vipers battled to a 126-126 deadlock at the end of regulation. It was a thunderous dunk at the buzzer by Dallas Lauderdale that sent the game to overtime, and the Stamps fed on that in taking a 138-131 victory. The Stampede now go to the D-League Showcase in Reno, where a slew of NBA scouts will watch them play Canton midday today and Erie midday tomorrow.
Let’s check up on Boise State’s 2014 football recruiting class today, exactly one month after the departure of Chris Petersen. It’s also one month minus a day before National Letter of Intent Day. And wow, has this been interesting. On December 6, the Broncos had 13 verbal commitments. Defensive end Jaylen Johnson reneged immediately upon Petersen’s move to Washington (although Scout.com still lists him as a “soft verbal”), and defensive tackle Greg Gaines followed a few days later.
Quarterback Jalen Greene, who had been considered Boise State’s top recruit, then infamously flipped to UW. But Greene bolted again and is now at USC. Which makes you wonder. Tight end Drew Sample switched to the Huskies two weeks ago. And it’s well-documented that Rocky Mountain’s Khalil Oliver is waffling. That has had everybody wondering whether new coach Bryan Harsin was going to be able to save this recruiting class.
Well, what Harsin is doing is going out and creating a new one. What a weekend on the Boise State recruiting front. First came the flip of four-star prospect Dylan Sumner-Gardner of Mesquite, TX. Sumner-Gardner, rated the No. 8 high school senior safety in the country, had committed to Texas A&M but will join the Aggies’ former co-defensive coordinator, Marcel Yates, in Boise. Then the Broncos picked up tight end David Lucero of Holtville, CA. Lucero will be a Jeff Pitman project, as he’s listed at 6-5, 215 pounds. And last night came word that offensive lineman Tennessee Suesue of East High in Salt Lake City has given his verbal. So not counting the three “soft verbals” (Oliver and offensive lineman Ryan Griswold of Pearland, TX, are the others), the Broncos currently have 10 commits—with rumblings of more in the coming days.
George Iloka’s second NFL season came to an end yesterday as Cincinnati was stopped by San Diego in the only non-wild game on Wild Card Weekend, 27-10. Iloka had two tackles from his strong safety spot. During the regular season, the former Boise State star had 66 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception in his first year as a starter. The rest of the playoff openers were crazy. What you’ve gotta love is Boise State faithful who double as 49ers fans (and there’s plenty of them) rooting for Colin Kaepernick. The former Nevada great looked very familiar in San Francisco’s frigid 23-20 win in Green Bay.
What used to be the Division I-AA championship game was played Saturday, with North Dakota State routing Towson 35-7 for its third straight national title. New Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl guided the Bison in his final game before heading to Laramie, and his crew was impressive in winning its 24th consecutive game. Here’s my question. What will the FCS, the Football Championship Subdivision, be called next year when the FBS, the Football Bowl Subdivision, has a championship mini-tournament of its own? Like everyone else, I eventually tranistioned to the FCS term over the years, but it’s still Division I-AA to me. Politcal correctness run amok.
You had to like the passion Arkansas State displayed during and after the game last night in the GoDaddy Bowl. The Red Wolves held off Ball State 23-20, getting the winning touchdown with 32 seconds left—and then blocking a Cardinals field goal attempt on the game’s final play. That set off an emotional celebration surrounding interim coach John Thompson, the ASU defensive coordinator who is now looking for work. Bryan Harsin’s former team still had four new Boise State staffers in the house in Mobile, AL. Kent Riddle, Julius Brown, Steve Caldwell and Eliah Drinkwater, plus strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman, will now officially get to work for the Broncos.
It’s tough to get wins in Anchorage, so the Idaho Steelheads can accept a split over the weekend with the Alaska Aces. The Steelheads took the Aces to a shootout Saturday night and made quick work of the one-on-one contest, getting tallies from William Rapuzzi, Mitch Wahl and Tommy Grant while Idaho goalie Pat Nagle was blanking the home team to earn a 4-3 victory. Friday night Alaska got the better of it against the Steelies, 4-3, but Grant, who played his college hockey at Alaska-Anchorage, put a scare into the Aces with two third period goals. The Steelheads had trailed 3-0 two minutes into the final stanza. Idaho remains on the road this week with two games at ECHL Mountain Division leader Colorado.
This Day In Sports…January 6, 1994, 20 years ago today:
One of the most infamous incidents in Olympics history takes place a month before the Winter Games. Figure skater Tonya Harding and ex-husband Jeff Gillooly had her bodyguard hire hitmen to whack rival Nancy Kerrigan on the knee after practice at the U.S. Olympic trials, hoping to keep Kerrigan off the American team in Lillehammer. Kerrigan was given a spot on the U.S. team anyway, and Harding got one, too, before pleading guilty to obstruction in March and being banned from competitive figure skating for life in June.
(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.)