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WAC coaches got it right this year - and then some

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on December 8, 2009 at 8:31 AM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 8 at 10:24 AM


Tuesday, December 8, 2009.
It was a race to the finish for WAC Offensive Player of the Year, and you’d have to think Kellen Moore’s performance against Nevada was the difference as the Boise State quarterback got the nod over Colin Kaepernick. And Chris Petersen is Coach of the Year after going undefeated in the regular season for the third time in four years. But check out the first team All-WAC offensive line. Talk about a climb to the mountaintop. Former Timberline High star Nate Potter didn’t even start the opener against Oregon, and here he is first-team all-conference. This is particularly significant considering Potter’s had to follow the best there ever was at left tackle for BSU, Ryan Clady, now one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL.
As for Moore, it was pretty simple, really. He was consistent—from the muggy opening bell in September to Petersen’s icy Gatorade bath last Saturday. Going into the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the sophomore from Prosser, WA, still leads the nation in pass efficiency and is also tops in touchdown-to-interception ratio (39 TDs to just three picks). He threw at least one scoring pass in every game. Petersen had some competition for Coach of the Year honors for a while from Nevada’s Chris Ault and Idaho’s Robb Akey, but Boise State’s November wins over the Wolf Pack and Vandals were obviously too impressive to ignore. 
The Broncos had seven first-team All-WAC selections overall, most in the conference, with Austin Pettis, Titus Young, Ryan Winterswyk and Kyle Wilson joining Moore and Potter. Young was named twice, as a wide receiver and kick returner. Idaho had one player named first-team, Outland Trophy candidate Mike Iupati on the offensive line. The conference Defensive Player of the Year was Nevada defensive end Dontay Moch.
The sentiment over the matching of TCU and Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl seems to be swinging toward respect. That’s the way Stewart Mandel of looks at it, anyway. To all the e-mailers and Twitter Nation people, Mandel says: “Have you guys not looked at the latest rankings?  TCU is fourth.  Boise State is sixth.  Both are undefeated.  Why would they better prove themselves by beating their originally projected opponents, Georgia Tech and Iowa—both of which rank lower and sport two losses apiece—than by beating each other?” As Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker says, "If we're going to say these programs are on same level as others, then we shouldn't be making any distinction about who they play other than the ranking of their opponent. Maybe its time for people to think outside the box a little bit."
Every year at this time, we file away some names from the Boise State team banquet: the Scout Team Players of the Year. It always seems to turn out being significant the following season or two. The defensive award went to tackle Matt Paradis, yet another classic Bronco walk-on from Council. Paradis was the Idaho 1A Player of the Year in 2008. On offense, quarterback Joe Southwick of Danville, CA, was honored. Southwick was designated as Boise State’s No. 3 QB in August and probably would have played this season were it not for the preservation of his redshirt year. And the special teams nod went to Gabe Linehan, the do-it-all tight end from Banks, OR. 
There’s a pass-happy matchup awaiting at the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl December 30. H-Bowl executive director Kevin McDonald was selling those numbers yesterday. Bowling Green is eighth in the country in passing offense at 310 yards per game, and Idaho is 11th at 290. The other time the Vandals played in a bowl game, it was an entertaining affair. They beat Southern Miss 42-35 in the 1998 Humanitarian Bowl, still tied for the highest scoring game in the H-Bowl’s history. The key this time for Idaho would be a healthy Nate Enderle—all indications point to the junior quarterback returning to face Bowling Green after a fourth quarter injury in the season finale against Utah State.
You may recall that, surprisingly, Nevada’s Luke Lippincott had just one carry for seven yards in the Wolf Pack’s 44-33 loss to Boise State on Thanksgiving weekend. And you may recall why: it was revealed that Lippincott had a toe injury which limited his ability to drive forward. Then it was discovered he had torn ligaments under his left big toe, ending the senior running back’s college career (Nevada plays SMU in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve). Surgery for such an injury requires a specialist, and the nearest one happens to be in Boise. So Lippincott has returned to the blue turf today, or least the building adjacent to it—the Idaho Sports Medicine Institute. Lippincott was one of the three Wolf Pack runners to go over 1,000 yards this season, helping to set an NCAA record.
The United Heritage Tip-Off Series between the College of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene wraps up with part two tonight in Nampa. The Coyotes and Crusaders will meet for the 185th time at the Johnson Sports Center in a rematch of the contest won by C of I 79-72 last month before a standing room only crowd in Caldwell. It’ll also serve as a rematch and reunion for the Yotes’ Matt Ballenger and the Crusaders’ Louie Beech, who led Skyview High to back-to-back state 4A titles in 2005 and 2006. In the first meeting between the two schools four weeks ago, Ballenger managed 10 points but was just 3-for-12 from the field, and Beech had only two points. Last year, Ballenger was playing quarterback for Dan Hawkins at Colorado. He got into the games against Texas and Kansas last season, going 8-of-12 for 118 yards and one touchdown.
The Idaho Stampede’s torching of the nets in the early season has gotten the attention of the D-League. The league has named not one, but two Stampede players as its first Co-Performers of the Week this season. Top draft pick Sundiata Gaines is scoring a league-leading 27 points per game off the bench, while starting forward Anthony Tolliver is averaging 23.8 points and 11.5 rebounds a game. Gaines and Tolliver will take their considerable skills on the road with the rest of the Stampede Friday against the L.A. D-Fenders in Staples Center. Of course, there may be some Lakers brass hanging out to watch.
The 2010 PGA Tour season will be a lively one locally, as we have both Troy Merritt and Graham DeLaet to follow. Merritt did the incredible yesterday, winning the six-round final phase of the tour’s Q-School in West Palm Beach, FL. The two-time WAC Player of the Year at Boise State took medal honors by one shot over veteran Jeff Maggert. Merritt has never played a PGA Tour event but will hit the trail next month, armed with the card he and 25 other golfers earned in the Q-School finale. Fellow former Bronco DeLaet had a tough go in the final round but was a shoe-in, as he went into yesterday’s action in second place. The Canadian standout finished in a tie for eighth. A story at PGA was already into the spirit of this story. Wrote Craig Dolch, “Before you ask, no, they didn't play on blue fairways in college.”
This Day In Sports…December 8, 1990:
One of the classic games in Boise State football history is played in the semi-finals of the Division I-AA playoffs. The Broncos had a rematch with Nevada, a team they beat in Boise four weeks earlier. BSU recovered from a horrible first half when Duane Halliday came off the bench to throw for a career-high 382 yards. The Broncos caught the Wolf Pack in the third quarter—then found themselves trailing 45-38 with less than a minute left when Halliday was injured momentarily and original starter Mike Virden came in to throw a game-tying touchdown pass. Nevada would end up winning in triple overtime, 59-52.
(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.)