Wednesday, January 22, 2014.
Sure, Boise State’s second-half rally fell short last night in an 84-75 loss at New Mexico. But you had to marvel at Ryan Watkins, dominating the boards against two of the best big men in the Mountain West, Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow. While the Broncos were battling back from a 17-point hole and five separate 15-point deficits during the game, Watkins was pulling down 22 rebounds—11 on the offensive end and 11 on defense. Career-highs for Watkins on each count. It kept Boise State in the game when things looked truly bleak.
Watkins’ performance on the glass was the best in the nation so far this season. It eclipsed the best night on the glass by a Bronco in recent memory—current Idaho Stampede forward Jason Ellis had 21 against Tulsa nine years ago. In fact, it was the most rebounds by a Boise State player in at least 28 years, as far back as the school’s game-by-game statistics go (we do know the record is 24 by the late Bill Otey, who hit that number twice in 1969). Looking forward to hearing the increasingly-appreciative Taco Bell Arena crowd respond to Watkins’ offensive rebounds this Saturday versus San Jose State. Every game seems better than the last.
New Mexico won the “Aussie Bowl” decisively, as Hugh Greenwood scored 20 points and Bairstow 17. Greenwood had been averaging just 5.3 points per game but clicked with five three-pointers. Bairstow, the Mountain West’s second-leading scorer, was a known quantity—and he did not disappoint. Among the Boise State Australians, true freshman Nick Duncan’s three-point stroke started in an icebox. Duncan did recover to make five treys and score 16 points. Anthony Drmic, who looked like he was under the weather, managed just nine points, while Igor Hadziomerovic didn’t even play. Boise State’s American players struggled plenty in the first half. With four minutes left before the intermission, the Broncos were 6-for-27 from the field and 1-for-12 from beyond the arc. That they got it down to a two-possession game in the final minutes is amazing.
Derrick Marks scored 19 points, 14 in the second half, but he didn’t take over this game the way he did the Utah State game last Saturday. The crowd of 15,242 took over with a chorus of boos every time Marks touched the ball after he refused a Lobo’s helping hand off the floor early in the first half. While he was unfazed by that, Marks did commit two crucial turnovers in the final minutes when Boise State had the game within reach.
Here’s something refreshing: an early announcement from Boise State of not only the junior college transfers that started school yesterday, but a “greenshirt” (a guy who graduated early from high school in order to enroll for second semester). That would be the much-anticipated arrival of safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner, the one-time Texas A&M commit who followed Marcel Yates to Boise. Also in school is A.J. Richardson, the wide receiver who committed a year ago but had to get his academic house in order. The two JC transfers, quarterback Tommy Stuart and offensive tackle Jerhen Ertel, were also announced, as were long snapper Kolton Donovan, who played at Southern Utah in 2012 before going on an LDS mission, and a couple grayshirts, possibly walk-ons, wide receiver Dusty Fisher and running back/defensive back Skyler Seibold.
Save for a pilfering (unlikely—see below) by the Cleveland Browns, the only NFL team without a coach, the college carousel has finally ground to a halt. SI.com’s Stewart Mandel grades the major coaching hires and handed out only three A’s. Two went to Boise State for Bryan Harsin and Washington for Chris Petersen. Regarding the Broncos, Mandel writes: “Harsin, 37, played quarterback for the Broncos in the late 1990s. He was a Boise State assistant for 10 years, the last five as Chris Petersen's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. His familiarity with the program should help with continuity, while his subsequent outside experience—especially his two seasons at Texas—presumably inspired fresh ideas for running his own team.”
Mandel’s assessment of the Huskies’ hire: “Alum Jim Mora was the school's first choice, but the Huskies know they did well because Petersen, their second option, has a career record of 92-12. There are some concerns about the previous major-conference failings of Petersen's Boise State predecessors, Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins, but Petersen took that program to another level, routinely beating power-conference foes and churning out NFL prospects. Oh, and Petersen knows a thing or two about the Northwest.” Mandel gave USC a C+ for Steve Sarkisian. He also includes Boise State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford among his “10 impact coordinators/assistants.”
Back to the Browns, Koetter has emerged as a candidate for that job as the club continues to scrounge for a new coach. Alex Marvez of FOX Sports reports that Koetter will interview with Cleveland which fired Rob Chudzinski at the end of the season. Also still in the mix are Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, as well as Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who’s kind of busy right now. Koetter has been an NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons after being fired at Arizona State, five in Jacksonville and the last two in Atlanta.
Kellen Moore knows who he’ll answer to now. New Detroit coach Jim Caldwell has hired New Orleans quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi as his offensive coordinator. Lombardi, while consumed with the project of getting Matthew Stafford straightened out, will evaluate Moore and his status as the Lions’ No. 3 QB. Lombardi, grandson of the legendary Vince Lombardi, has worked with the Saints’ Drew Brees since 2007 and has been his quarterbacks coach since 2009. On the surface, Lombardi would seem like a good fit for Moore.
Fortunately for San Francisco’s Mike Iupati, the injury he suffered in the NFC Championship Game at Seattle was not a broken ankle, but a broken fibula. The healing process, therefore, should be easier for the All-Pro guard out of Idaho—probably eight weeks, which would allow him to participate in some or all of the 49ers’ offseason program. The 2014 season will be a big one for Iupati, as he’ll be in the final year of his rookie contract and will be poised for a gigantic raise.
New Idaho Stampede addition Dexter Strickland, the former North Carolina star, didn’t play last Saturday night in the win over Santa Cruz. It’s expected that Strickland will debut tonight when the Stampede visit Rio Grande Valley. He went undrafted last June—then played for Portland in the NBA summer league. Another guy to follow tonight is EJ Singler, who got his first start of the season last Saturday against the Warriors. The former Oregon star responded with 23 points and made seven 3-pointers. Rio Grande Valley continues to boast the best record in the D-League at 17-5. The Stamps are 13-8.
This Day In Sports…January 22, 2006:
Kobe Bryant scores 81 points, second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962, leading the L.A. Lakers to a 122-104 over Toronto at Staples Center. The Lakers trailed the Raptors by 18 points early in the third quarter—and Bryant scored 51 points after that in an incredible one-man rally. He was 28-of-46 from the floor, including 7-of-13 from 3-point range, and 18-of-20 from the foul line.
(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.)