Wednesday, December 12, 2012.
For those hoping that Boise State would draw Rutgers from the Big East’s opposite division next season, congratulations. You just won’t be able to road trip to Piscataway, NJ, and tie it into a New York City tour. But a Scarlet Knight visit to Bronco Stadium isn’t so bad. The Broncos’ first Big East schedule is pretty good—they also get a visit from Louisville, who shared this year’s conference title with Rutgers and Cincinnati. The other blue turf foes are Houston, one year removed from a nice run under former coach Kevin Sumlin, and Memphis, like Houston a Conference USA expatriate. Boise State’s Big East road games will be against division opponents San Diego State, SMU and Temple and opposite division foe Cincinnati.
I am not preaching to the choir today as we dissect Boise State’s Big East assignments. The Broncos have found out in the computers (if not public perception) the past five years that strength of schedule counts. Utah has discovered that on the field the past two seasons—same for TCU this year. Not that the Broncos’ slate next year will morph into the degree of difficulty the Utes and Horned Frogs are now facing, and granted, we mourn the loss of longtime rivalries. But top-to-bottom the Big East will be considerably more challenging in 2013 while Rutgers and Louisville are still there. You can check out the current computer ratings for the Big East and Mountain West and see it plain as day.
It’s too early to make this kind of comparison, but Boise State may have found another Austin Pettis-type in its latest recruiting commitment, according to Scout.com. The Broncos, who hosted a large group of prospects on official visits last weekend, got another verbal yesterday in the form of 6-3, 195-pound wide receiver Kendal Keys from Helix High in La Mesa, CA (same high school as Jamar Taylor). Scout.com’s evaluation calls Keys “a bigger receiver who has ideal size for a possession receiver, but with much better speed. One of the best route-runners at the position out West, with soft hands and good strength.” Keys has cancelled a January trip to Arizona State.
There aren’t any players on the Sports Illustrated.com All-America first or second team that apply to the two bowl games of local interest. The MAACO Bowl Las Vegas has one honorable mention honoree, Washington tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl has five SI.com honorable mentions, though. Toledo placed running back David Fluellen, linebacker Dan Moll and all-purpose athlete Bernard Reedy on the list, while Utah State is represented by defensive back Will Davis and all-purpose man Kerwin Williams.
Seferian-Jenkins is going to be a beast in Las Vegas. For that matter, he’ll be a beast at Husky Stadium next August, too. He’s only a sophomore, but he’s already broken several Washington records for a tight end, including 63 receptions and 12 touchdowns this season and 104 career catches for 1,327 career yards. Sefarian-Jenkins is the national leader among tight ends in receptions per game at 5.25 and was one of three finalists for the Mackey Award. He also has a bad taste in his mouth from his last game—he was sucker-punched by a Washington State fan when Cougar faithful stormed the field in Pullman following WSU’s Apple Cup win last month.
On Idaho SportsTalk yesterday, Fluellen proclaimed himself “100 percent” for Saturday’s game on the blue turf, saying there’s no way he’s going to miss a bowl game. Fluellen suffered a left ankle injury in Toledo’s 31-24 loss to MAC champion Northern Illinois four weeks ago and missed the regular season finale against Akron. Rocket coach Matt Campbell hopes quarterback Terrance Owens is also ready to go Saturday. Owens was injured against NIU as well, and Austin Dantin called signals versus Akron. Boise State fans will remember both QBs from the Broncos’ victories over the Rockets in 2010 and 2011.
Bryan Harsin, the former Capital High quarterback and Boise State offensive coordinator, has always wanted to be a head coach. At the tender age of 36, Harsin has made it, as multiple reports say he’ll be named the new head coach at Arkansas State today. Harsin has spent the last two seasons as O-coordinator at Texas. As strange as it sounds, he’ll be back in his element. Harsin has always enjoyed working with players who have a fire in their bellies and a chip on their shoulders, and you don’t always get that with the so-called “five-star” recruits. Those who know Harsin best say that’s what he missed the most about Boise State.
I was going to guess that Boise State’s 21-point loss at Utah a week ago could cost the Broncos about 2,000 fans at the gate Friday night when they host their first SEC opponent in Taco Bell Arena. But I think I’d have been wrong. Boise State ticket manager Anita Guerricabeitia told me midday yesterday that “the current count is 8,557 and moving by the minute.” The only tickets left are in the balcony. Maybe the Broncos would have sold the place out had they come home from Salt Lake City knocking on the door of the Top 25, but there is going to be a large throng for the LSU game. We’ll have to do a before-and-after on average attendance—through four home dates, Boise State is drawing 2,687 fans per game.
The Idaho Steelheads will have some NHL moxie on the ice tonight when they host the Alaska Aces. Forward Nick Johnson, who played 77 games and scored eight goals with 18 assists last season for the Minnesota Wild, has signed with the Steelheads and will be in uniform versus the Aces. Johnson was also invited to participate in the NHL Skills Competition during All-Star weekend in Ottawa. Tonight’s tilt is one of only two home games left in this calendar year for the Steelies; the other is December 22. If you go tonight to check out the Steelheads’ potent offense, be aware that Alaska goalie Mark Guggenberger comes into the game tied for the ECHL lead with 12 wins.
This is as local as it gets for a short-season Class A minor league baseball franchise. Gary Van Tol will be the first Boise Hawks manager since Mal Fichman with extensive local ties when he rules the dugout next season. Hawks play-by-play man Mike Safford points out that Van Tol, a Boisean, has worked his way up from ground zero in the profession, kind of like former Idaho Stampede coach Brian Gates did. Van Tol has been a bench coach for the Hawks the past five seasons and director of the Idaho Cubs, a local prep travel team, for the past three (with Cubs scouting duties to boot).
Van Tol gets two other members of last year’s Hawks staff to work with. Bill Buckner will be able to stay home in Boise again and serve as hitting coach after helping the Hawks to the Northwest League lead in batting average, runs, hits, doubles, triples and home runs last year. Buckner, he of the 22-year major league career, joined the Hawks last season after spending one season as manager of the Brockton Rox of the CanAm League. David Rosario will be back with Boise as pitching coach for the third straight year and sixth overall.
This Day In Sports…December 12, 1982, 30 years ago today:
With snow falling throughout the day, the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins go scoreless into the final minute of their game in Foxboro. Mark Henderson, a convicted burglar on a work-release program who was operating a snow sweeper to keep the yard lines visible, drove onto the field with 45 seconds left to clear a spot for the Patriots’ John Smith to kick a field goal. Smith made the 33-yarder, and New England won, 3-0.
(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.)