Thursday, December 5, 2013.
Gonzaga basketball and Boise State football are often compared to each other. Mid-major programs that have made an impact at the highest level of their sports. Both started their runs in 1999, although the Zags got the glory a lot earlier, thanks to their surprise trip to the Elite Eight that first year. The Broncos had to pay some dues, earning their first Top 25 ranking in 2002 and working their way up from there. Where am I going with this? Boise State has had—by its standards—a down year in football. An 8-4 record after seven straight 10-win seasons. Gonzaga knows all about that rodeo and has always rebounded.
Boise State basketball coach Leon Rice was Mark Few’s top assistant at Gonzaga when it went 23-11 in 2006-07 and was drummed out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round. “It’s motivating—that’s the way we always looked at,” Rice told me. “It has an effect on you, and you bounce back.” Rice pointed out that the the Broncos’ 8-4 season and the Zags’ 23-11 mark seven years ago, are “way more realistic than the way it has been.” That’s what makes each program’s 15-year track record so remarkable.
It’s interesting how close Rice’s observation was to Chris Petersen’s right after the win over New Mexico last Saturday night. “I think it’s motivating,” said Petersen. “The seniors spoke to the team (Friday) night, and it was the first time we even spoke about our record. ‘We need to remember this, and this isn’t how we want it to feel.’ It was good for those guys to hear that.” The Boise State football program has the same stability, culture and support as the Gonzaga basketball program. Naysayers are probably going to find next year that reports of the Broncos’ demise were greatly exaggerated.
The Statesman’s Chadd Cripe and Scout.com report that defensive end Will Dissly of Bozeman High in Montana has committed to Boise State, becoming the 13th current member of the Broncos’ 2014 recruiting class. Dissly is a 6-4, 240-pounder who led Bozeman to the state championship game this fall with 9.5 sacks and also made 50 catches for 860 yards and 10 touchdowns as a tight end. He visited Boise State last weekend for the New Mexico game and tells Cripe he ultimately chose the Broncos over his hometown Montana State Bobcats. Dissly has the look of another diamond in the rough, not unlike fellow Montanan Matt Miller.
The Chris Petersen-to-Washington rumors are still roiling, with the Seattle Times saying now that Petersen and Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier are the two front-runners to become the new UW head coach. Some sources say Petersen has already been offered the job and has already turned it down, though. There’s a lot of support for Nussmeier, the former Idaho star quarterback. Nussmeier was O-coordinator for the Huskies during Steve Sarkisian’s first three seasons. Proponents point out that it was Nussmeier who coached UW quarterback Keith Price during his huge sophomore season that produced 3,063 passing yards and 33 touchdowns. Nussmeier played for the Vandals from 1990-93 and is UI’s career passing leader.
After two games that made the Boise State hoops offense look human, it could get back to its earlier ways tonight in Taco Bell Arena against Carroll College. The Broncos are 7-0, and the NAIA Saints come in at 4-5. Boise State has averaged just 72½ points per game in its past two outings after scoring 100 or more in three of its first five games. Yet the Broncos still lead the nation in scoring with a 93.6-point average.
Turnovers have helped Boise State throughout the young season, as the Broncos lead the Mountain West with 9.3 steals per game. They’ve outscored opponents 123-60 in points off turnovers this season and 54-28 on fastbreak points. BSU recorded nine more steals in Tuesday night’s 69-67 win over Utah, but they were able to convert only two points on the fastbreak against the Utes. Expect a few more tonight. For what it’s worth, this is the first time the Broncos have faced Carroll in 43 years. Boise State has won 25 consecutive non-conference games in Taco Bell Arena.
The Idaho Steelheads put up a healthy 40 shots on goal last night, and the law of percentages played out in a 6-3 win over Stockton at CenturyLink Arena. The Steelheads’ six goals were spread among five different players, with Anthony Nigro potting two of them, the first one breaking a 2-2 first period tie. Idaho’s outburst came against a pretty good goalie, Stockton’s Brad Foster. Pat Nagel got the start in goal for the Steelheads and picked up his fifth win of the season. The Steelies’ special teams starred, too, as the Thunder’s league-leading power play went 0-for-5. The two teams tangle again tomorrow night and Saturday night.
Mitch Wahl scored one of the Steelheads’ goals last night, giving him a 12-game point streak, three short of the Steelheads’ club record. It was a nice way for Wahl to celebrate his ECHL Player of the Month honor. He was honored after posting 17 points (six goals and 11 assists) in just 11 games during November. Wahl is the seventh Steelie to receive the monthly award and the first since Evan Barlow in January of 2011.
While former Boise State stars and current PGA Tour pros Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt watch the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge from afar this week, Boise’s Maddie Sheils is trying to catch on with the LPGA Tour. Sheils, the Bishop Kelly grad and former Nebraska standout, is one of 154 players to make the third and final stage of the LPGA’s version of Q-School. The grueling 90-hole tournament teed off yesterday in Daytona Beach, FL, with Sheils getting off to a good start. She shot a one-under 71 and is tied for 33rd—the top 20 will earn LPGA Tour cards on Sunday.
This Day In Sports…December 5, 1998, 15 years ago today:
Senior Roberto Bergersen produces one of the best big-game performances in Boise State basketball history, scoring 32 points to lead the Broncos past No. 15 Washington in the BSU Pavilion, 69-61. Bergersen, who originally signed with UW out of high school, connected on 13 field goals while going up, over and around the Huskies. Washington was the highest-ranked team Boise State had ever defeated—and would remain so until the Broncos stunned No. 11 Creighton in November, 2012.
(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.)