Monday, April 1, 2013.
Is it just me, or has an eery calm settled on the Boise State offense as spring football resumes today? The Broncos seem poised to make a leap this season with quarterback Joe Southwick now a senior, older and wiser and carrying momentum from his strong 2012 finish. The quiet confidence extends to the running back position, even though it loses D.J. Harper and his 2,779 career rushing yards and his 41 total touchdowns. But Jay Ajayi showed last season what might be coming, especially when he rushed for 118 yards in two second quarter possessions at New Mexico.
If Ajayi doesn’t do it, Jack Fields might. Fields did not break out like Ajayi last season, rushing for only 135 yards, but the feeling is that Fields is on the cusp. If Fields doesn’t do it, Devan Demas might, having packed some muscular poundage on his 5-8 frame during the winter. If Demas doesn’t do it, junior college transfer Derrick Thomas might. The physical 6-1, 210-pounder out of Butler Community College in Kansas was brought in to balance the classes. And if Thomas doesn’t do it, Aaron Baltazar might. Baltazar, one of the prize signees of the Broncos’ 2013 recruiting class, doesn’t arrive until this summer.
There are many a Vandal fan pulling for Chad Chalich to win the starting quarterback job at Idaho. The former Coeur d’Alene star didn’t disappoint them Saturday, seizing the moment with a strong performance in the first spring scrimmage of the Paul Petrino era. Chalich went 21-of-32 for 299 yards as the Vandal offense racked up 11 touchdowns in a session that lasted a whopping 130 snaps. Chalich’s main competition appears to be senior Taylor Davis, the only QB on the roster who’s taken a Division I snap. Davis was a steady 15-of-25 for 186 yards. Austin DeCoud struggled, throwing three interceptions, and junior college transfer Anthony Neyer did not play.
When was the last time a Boise State basketball coaching staff was raided by another Division I school for a head coach? How about never. It happened Friday, at the direction of a man with intimate knowledge of the Bronco program. Then-athletic director Gene Bleymaier hired Leon Rice three years ago—then he watched Rice hire an excellent staff, one Rice constantly credited while the Broncos were winning 21 games and going to the NCAA Tournament this season. Rice’s designated right-hand man was Dave Wojcik, and now Bleymaier has Wojcik as his new head coach at San Jose State. The only Boise State assistants to go directly to Division I head coaching jobs were promoted within the program—Bus Connor took over when Murray Satterfield was fired in 1973, and Rod Jensen became head coach when Bobby Dye resigned in 1995.
Does UCLA’s hiring of Steve Alford as head coach mean New Mexico is vulnerable next season? Depends on who you talk to. The Lobos return just about everybody of consequence from their Mountain West championship team but are said to be a little weak in their last two recruiting classes. New Mexico players strongly support assistant Craig Neal, named interim head coach, getting the job full-time. But are the Lobos at a point where they have to go out and get a “name” coach to satisfy their rabid fan base? Many are wondering how Alford and his strong personality are going to play in the Los Angeles media. But that’s not New Mexico’s problem now.
It’s time for serious Davis Cup prep now, with the United States-Serbia quarterfinal coming up this Friday at Taco Bell Arena. Founded in 1900, Davis Cup is the world’s largest annual international men’s team competition with 130 nations competing this year. The U.S. leads all nations with 32 Davis Cup titles and is 110-16 all-time in cup matches played on home soil. Idaho will become the 34th state to host a U.S. Davis Cup competition. This will be just the second meeting between the U.S. and Serbia in the Davis Cup. It’s a long wait until the semifinals—the winner of this week’s quarterfinal will play in the semis September 13-15.
Playoff rosters can be fluid, but the Idaho Steelheads may have found an answer between the pipes as the regular season comes to an end and Josh Robinson remains in the AHL. It’s not often that a goalie records a shutout in his professional debut, but Chris Rawlings stopped all 23 shots he saw Friday night as the Steelheads blanked the San Francisco Bulls, 5-0. Then Rawlings was called upon Saturday night in a 4-2 loss at Stockton after Tyler Beskorowany allowed three first-period goals. It marked the first time all season that coach Brad Ralph had opted to change his goalie mid-game, and Rawlings, fresh out of Northeastern University, responded by stopping 16 of 17 shots over the final two periods. The Steelheads open the Kelly Cup Playoffs Wednesday night against the Colorado Eagles in CenturyLink Arena.
The Idaho Stampede’s come-from-behind win over division-leading Bakersfield Saturday night had to be the high point of the season, and the exclamation point was Justin Holiday’s call-up to the Philadelphia 76ers after the game. The Stampede trailed the Jam by 23 points with 9½ minutes left in the third quarter and took the lead before the period was through, thanks to a 30-6 run. The Stamps outscored the visitors 67-31 the rest of the way for a 108-95 victory. It could have been the best game of a stellar season for Holiday, who had 28 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks. The Sixers had already made up their minds, and Holiday will join his brother Jrue for Philly’s game at Charlotte Wednesday night.
Graham DeLaet was not spectacular, but he was steady at the Shell Houston Open. And it was worth $35,163. The former Boise State star had a chance for more but had to settle for an even-par 72 in yesterday’s final round thanks to a bogey and triple-bogey on the back nine. Still, DeLaet made his sixth consecutive cut on the PGA Tour, with earnings now totaling 553,575 for the season.
Lewis-Clark State didn’t take too kindly to the College of Idaho’s 3-2 win Friday afternoon at Wolfe Field, sealed by Riley Humberger’s sun-aided two-out, two-run single in the seventh. So the perennial NAIA baseball power answered in the “Gem State World Series” with wins of 17-3 and 11-7 in a doubleheader Saturday and capped the weekend with a 13-0 blanking of the Coyotes yesterday. The Warriors improved to 27-8 on the season. Meanwhile, it’s Opening Day in the majors. There are 19 former Boise Hawks on big league rosters—more on that, of course, as we move forward.
This Day In Sports…April 1, 2006:
George Mason’s Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament ends with a 73-58 loss to eventual national champion Florida at the Final Four in Indianapolis. The suburban commuter school from Fairfax, VA, produced one of the great stories in the history of March Madness, knocking off Michigan State, North Carolina, and Wichita State to reach the Elite Eight. The 11th-seeded Patriots then stunned No. 1 seed Connecticut, 86-84 in overtime, to reach the Final Four. In December of that year, George Mason took out a full page ad in the Idaho Statesman wishing fellow Cinderella Boise State good luck against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
(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.)