Monday, December 28, 2009.
With each passing day, you’d think Boise State’s chances of winning the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl a week from tonight are withering. TCU’s stock rises with each resounding Mountain West Conference win. The Bronco injury problems create a quandary, while the Horned Frogs are getting more national love than Oklahoma ever did three years ago. With all that said, the spread on this game has not moved—it’s still TCU by seven.
The consolation for Boise State so far in this bowl season is the fact that underdogs have been winning more than they’ve been losing. That certainly hasn’t been a positive for the WAC, but it could be for the Broncos come next Monday. We’ve seen in the postseason how important mindset is—the kind that Fresno State and Nevada clearly didn’t have in their embarrassing losses. It’s hard to imagine BSU not having it against TCU. Whether that can spell victory versus the Frogs is another matter.
The significance of the Mountain West’s bowl showing is not lost on TCU coach Gary Patterson. "I’ve watched every one of them," Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after practice last night. "No, I wasn’t surprised. The people that are surprised are the same ones that say we’re not a good conference. They can say this team didn’t want to play or that one wasn’t ready to play, but the bottom line is you’re judged on the last game of the season you played and right now we’re 3-0." The Horned Frogs’ regular season opponents, all victims during their undefeated season, are now 5-0 in bowl games.
A Scott Slant reader made a case for juggling the status of the three BCS bowl games involving undefeated teams. Greg Gardner looked at the NCAA statistical rankings in every category among FBS schools, then averaged them. Then Gardner added in the power rankings to show what he would call the nation’s most “complete” team. No. 1 statistical team in the nation? Boise State. No. 2 is TCU. Third and fourth are the BCS Championship Game combatants, Alabama and Texas. And fifth and sixth happen to be Sugar Bowl foes Florida and Cincinnati. Gardner wonders if the national championship game shouldn’t be the Fiesta Bowl. (Wait, I think I’m hearing those “strength of schedule” grumblings out there again.)
Ian Johnson will be watching from afar as his former teammates return to the site of his historic moment next week. For everyone (including me) who has been wondering how things are going for Johnson, Joe Posnanski took care of it in his five-page feature on Ian and Chrissy in this week’s Sports Illustrated. Some of the best stuff in the story comes from Jeff Choate, the Boise State running backs coach in 2006 and now the linebackers coach. Choate talks about how Ian “kind of lost his edge” after the Fiesta Bowl hoopla and the wedding, but that his statistically-disappointing senior season was vitally important as he worked on special teams and mentored younger backs. “Ian’s legacy is that senior year, Choate says in the article. “It’s not the proposal or that great 2006 season. It’s his senior year and what he said and what he left behind.”
The WAC, with shoulders drooped, now turns to the blue turf and says, “Well, Idaho?” The Vandals now have the weight of a conference on their shoulders Wednesday in the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl after Nevada’s sorry showing (or no-showing) on Christmas Eve made the WAC 0-for-2 in the bowl season. It’s time for Idaho to turn loose its running back triumvirate and keep the ball out of Bowling Green’s hands. The exploits of DeMaundray Woolridge are well-documented—853 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. But Princeton McCarty’s been an unsung contributor with his 605 yards. And Deonte Jackson, despite only 381 yards this season, was a thousand-yard rusher two years ago.
Bowling Green has been feeling the Urban Meyer rollercoaster. The Falcons, of course, provided Meyer with his first head coaching job at the age of 37 in 2001. An energetic Meyer took a program that was in the dumps and led it to 8-3 and 9-3 seasons before heading for Utah. Things are a lot more pressurized at the age of 45 for him. First came the bombshell Saturday night that Meyer was stepping down after five seasons as coach at Florida because of health concerns. Then came the detour yesterday, with Meyer announcing that he is instead taking an indefinite leave of absence that opens the door for his return to the Gators.
The Idaho Stampede know they need to do more than one thing well if they’re going to be in the hunt for a D-League championship. So when their renowned offense isn’t working, a more common occurrence of late, a bear-down defense is a necessity. The Stampede got it Saturday night, as D allowed them to rally past Utah, 97-96. Cedric Simmons made up for a 3-for-11 shooting night with seven blocked shots, the last coming with 12 seconds left and the Flash nursing a one-point lead. The Stamps’ Lanny Smith knocked down two pressure free throws at the other end with five ticks on the clock to win it. The Stampede are now 6-4, a game and a half out of first place in the NBADL West Conference.
The Utah Grizzlies are looking at the ECHL season as a marathon, not a sprint. So every two points they collect by beating the Idaho Steelheads count. Utah poured it on early in Saturday night’s game with five unanswered goals over the first two periods, and ran away from the Steelheads, 5-2. The one plus for the Steelheads was Matt McKnight, who continued his toasty December with his sixth goal and 11th point of the month. The Grizzlies trail the Steelies by 14 points in the West Division—with 45 games left to play (Idaho has 42 games remaining). Yes, it’s still early. The Steelheads go to Las Vegas tomorrow night to face the Wranglers for the first time this season.
This is about as busy a Boise sports week as there’s ever been. The Idaho Stampede host Utah again tonight in Qwest Arena. Then both the Boise State Broncos and Idaho Vandals play home hoops games against in-state schools in the city tomorrow night—BSU versus Northwest Nazarene in Taco Bell Arena and Idaho against Lewis-Clark State in Qwest Arena. Then Qwest makes the switch to ice Thursday and Friday when the Idaho Steelheads host Stockton. And the Boise State women’s basketball team offers up a freebie game against Wyoming on New Year’s Eve. Sandwiched in between, of course, is the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl Wednesday.
This Day In Sports…December 28, 2000:
Boise State wins its second straight Humanitarian Bowl on a 26-degree day at Bronco Stadium, beating WAC co-champion UTEP, 38-23. The Broncos got out of the gates with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Bart Hendricks to Jay Swillie and kept the Miners at arm’s length the rest of the way. The game-breaker was a 77-yard third quarter TD run by Hendricks, who wrapped up his college career with the H-Bowl MVP award. It marked the final football game ever played by a representative of the Big West Conference.
(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.)