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Varying degrees of chips on shoulders in the Fiesta Bowl

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on December 9, 2009 at 9:25 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 9 at 3:11 PM


Wednesday, December 9, 2009.
There are reasons under every rock for TCU and Boise State to get roiled up for the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. You have the Horned Frogs wishing they were somewhere else after a dominant 12-0 season left them just short of the BCS title game. “Is this team worthy of playing in the national championship game?” TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said after the BCS pairings were announced. “No doubt about it.  Do we have the very best coach?  No doubt about it.” And you have the Broncos wishing last year had ended differently. In fact, they wish four of the last five seasons had ended another way. BSU’s 17-16 loss to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl was its fourth bowl defeat in five years. More than revenge is just the yearning to win again in the postseason.
If Boise State center Thomas Byrd and newly-named All-WAC offensive tackle Nate Potter needed any inspiration against TCU star Jerry Hughes in the Fiesta Bowl, it was right there on the front page of yesterday. It was a photo from the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl, with Hughes celebrating wildly and Byrd and Potter looking a bit forlorn. The senior defensive end, as he did a number of times last December, had obviously blown up a Bronco play. The image leads into Stewart Mandel’s ranking of all 34 bowl games. He has the Fiesta Bowl as No. 3 behind the national championship game and the Sugar Bowl, writing, “Enough with the outrage, people. You know you're going to watch.” Mandel places the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl between Idaho and Bowling Green at No. 29.
The “Year In Pictures” from Sports Illustrated is always a highlight of the year. I mean, those guys can shoot. Well, this year the first photo in the magazine is a two-page spread of Boise State’s entrance out of the fog machine and onto the blue turf against Nevada. The Broncos ran out in a tight swarm, led by Winston Venable with The Hammer. Boise sports and concert photographer Otto Kitsinger took the shot and wrote, “Usually the team runs out of the fog right after the horse and rider, but at this game they came out slowly, in one group, like a regiment, and paused for a few seconds before breaking into a run. I’ve never been more pleased with their display of the concept of a team.”
Remember that Bryan Harsin is only 33 years old. He’s got 20 or 30 years to win the Frank Broyles Award. Harsin, the Boise State offensive coordinator, was one of five finalists for the Broyles honor that goes to the nation’s top assistant coach. The winner yesterday was Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. If you have Chris Petersen’s record filed away, you know this: the Broncos are 48-4 since Harsin took over the offense, with three undefeated regular seasons and three WAC championships. And two of the most famous play calls in the history of college football, “Circus” and “Statue Left.”
Boise State’s remaining Fiesta Bowl ticket allotment is now on sale to the general public. There are less than 6,000 tickets of the original 19,000 count left, pretty good action considering the challenges this year. Of course, some Bronco fans are securing tickets other ways, just like three years ago when up to 30,000 BSU faithful made the trip to Glendale. There’ll be a lot more people driving this time, but there’s still a bevy of blue and orange lining up for commercial airlines, charters and buses.
Hard to believe it’s all over for Dick Tomey at San Jose State—and forever in coaching. Despite the Spartans’ 55-20 loss at Louisiana Tech last Saturday and their 2-10 season, he remained sentimental about the final stop in his long career. Tomey, outgoing president of the American Football Coaches Association, shared a goodbye column for the next AFCA newsletter with a San Jose Mercury-News reporter. The column's headline: "Saving The Worst For Last—Don't You Believe It."  Tomey writes, "I do not want any plays over, any calls over or any results reversed.  I am eternally grateful for everything. I want to feel the hurt and pain I have experienced and celebrate the joy of every good thing that has ever happened to us."
Boise State is a welcome sight to Idaho State tonight, if only because the Bengals are going to see the Broncos on the basketball floor of Holt Arena. ISU has a bizarre non-conference schedule, with 10 of its 12 games before Christmas being played on the road. The Bengals have had one home game in Reed Gym, beating Colorado Christian. The date with BSU is ISU’s first in Holt Arena this season. The Bengals are 2-6 and have played one WAC opponent, losing 77-44 at Utah State. But last week they fell at Notre Dame by just 10 and at Utah by only 12. ISU is led by senior guard Amorrow Morgan, the seventh-leading scorer in the Big Sky at 15½ points per game. The Broncos come in at 4-3, with some encouraging signs despite an 84-77 loss to Illinois last Saturday.
The second Battle of Canyon County was a classic last night. The College of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene were up and down the floor, finishing regulation knotted at 102. The Crusaders took control in overtime and came away with a 114-108 triumph. Five players topped 20 points on the night, with Drew Eisinger netting 28 for NNU and Steve Peres 29 for C of I. The Yotes’ Matt Ballenger has found his groove. The former Colorado quarterback and Skyview High star scored 25 points, with six three-pointers.
What do we know about the Ontario Reign, the team that comes into Qwest Arena tonight? The Reign, like most of the ECHL’s Pacific Division, have had a tough start to the season, sporting a record of 9-11-3. The Idaho Steelheads answer with an 18-4-1 mark, best not only in the West Division but the entire league. That’s happened despite a lot of yo-yo movement to and from the AHL. The Steelies will have rookie left wing Luke Gazdic on the roster for tonight’s game. Gazdic, who’s under contract to the Dallas Stars, was sent to Idaho by Texas of the AHL yesterday. Fervent Steelheads fans will remember Gazdic’s brief stint last spring—he scored a goal and picked up two fighting majors in the regular-season finale.
This Day In Sports…December 9, 2006:
Idaho athletic director Rob Spear tells the media that Dennis Erickson is headed for Arizona State, less than a year after his celebrated return to the Vandals. Erickson, who had coached Idaho from 1982-85, was 4-8 in his one season back in Moscow. The lure of the Pac-10 proved to be too much as he was drawn to ASU to replace the fired Dirk Koetter, the former Boise State coach.  Washington State defensive coordinator Robb Akey would replace Erickson, and three years later he has the Vandals in a bowl game.
(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.)