Tuesday, January 21, 2014.
I called tonight’s Boise State game at New Mexico the “Aussie Bowl” on Sunday Sports Extra. You have the Lobos’ Australians, Cameron Bairstow and Hugh Greenwood, against the Broncos’ Anthony Drmic and Igor Hadziomerovic—and the wild card, true freshman Nick Duncan. Bairstow is peaking big-time as a senior, second in the Mountain West in scoring at 20.5 points a game and 10th in rebounding at 7.2 boards per outing. Duncan had to guard Utah State’s Jarred Shaw Saturday night, and he’ll spend some time on Bairstow tonight. By the same token, Bairstow’s going to have to follow Duncan out beyond the three-point line. Duncan canned five treys and had career highs in points (17), rebounds (6), and minutes (35) against USU.
Drmic, Hadziomerovic and Greenwood go way back—to before they were two Broncos and a Lobo. The trio played together on the Australian U19 team at the World Championships 2½ years ago. In the Boise State-New Mexico series last year, a UNM overtime win in Taco Bell Arena and a 10-point Lobo victory at the Pit, Drmic and Hadziomerovic played okay. Iggy’s minutes have been dropping lately—he didn’t start versus the Aggies and played only four minutes. The Broncos did a pretty good job on Bairstow in Boise last season, but he was a huge factor in Albuquerque. Greenwood, meanwhile, came up big in the first game but was fairly neutralized in the second. He has been hot-and-cold for the Lobos this season. Greenwood and Drmic have a friendly but intense rivalry going.
The numbers for Boise State’s Derrick Marks weren’t eye-popping the last two games, but the intangibles were, and Marks has been named the Mountain West Player of the Week, the first such award for the Broncos this season. Marks put up 21 points in handing Nevada its first conference loss of the season a week ago tonight and held the MW’s leading scorer, Deonte Burton, to 1-for-8 shooting from the field and a season-low seven points. Against Utah State Saturday, Marks scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half, blocked what could have been a game-clinching shot by the Aggies, and scored the game-winning bucket at the other end.
Elsewhere in Mountain West doings, San Diego State has jumped to No. 7 in both polls, having won its 15th straight game with a 63-52 stifling of UNLV Saturday. A 16th consecutive triumph is likely tomorrow night at San Jose State. The Aztecs’ rankings are the highest for a Mountain West team since BYU was ranked third in both polls at the end of February in 2011. SDSU’s only loss this season was to currently top-ranked Arizona in the second game of the season at Viejas Arena.
ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach is working on his “Way Too Early Top 25” for 2014, too. Unlike SI.com’s Martin Rickman, Schlabach doesn’t have Boise State’s Chick-fil-A Kick off Game opponent, Ole Miss, on his. But you will find Washington at No. 17 on the ESPN.com version. Chris Petersen came to the Huskies from the Broncos with high expectations, and Schlabach heightens them, writing, “Petersen inherits a pretty good situation in Seattle, as the Huskies are expected to bring back seven starters on both offense and defense.”
Here’s an understatement, though, one that could really affect the Huskies’ fortunes: “UW will undoubtedly miss departing quarterback Keith Price, junior tailback Bishop Sankey and junior tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who are entering the NFL draft. But rising sophomore Cyler Miles has shown signs of being a big-time quarterback, and the Huskies will bring back a solid corps of receivers, especially if rising senior Kasen Williams recovers quickly from a broken leg. The Huskies will have to replace three of their starting defensive backs, but returning linebacker Shaq Thompson, cornerback Marcus Peters and defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha are three of the best defenders in the Pac-12.” Price, Sankey and Seferian-Jenkins gone? Miles “has shown signs?” Williams recovering from a broken leg? Those are serious question marks.
Tim DeRuyter has broken new financial ground at Fresno State. The Bulldogs coach has been given a new five-year, $7.5 million contract through 2018 that more than doubles his base salary, and—with performance bonuses—would make him the Mountain West’s highest-paid coach (now that Petersen is gone from Boise). The Fresno State program was in disarray after Pat Hill was fired following a 4-9 season in 2011. Since DeRuyter took over, the Bulldogs have gone 20-6 and have won two Mountain West championships. Bryan Harsin’s five-year deal at Boise State is worth $6.5 million. Petersen made $2.15 million with the Broncos last season.
Now that there’s a Seattle-Denver matchup set for Super Bowl XLVIII, let’s start with the local ties. The biggest one: these are the Boise market’s two favorite teams—the first time they’ve ever met in the Big One. Former Boise State stars Ryan Clady of the Broncos and Jeron Johnson of the Seahawks will have to be content to watch their first Super Bowls from the sidelines. Clady went on injured reserve after Week 2 and Johnson after Week 14. Former Idaho Vandal Benson Mayowa wasn’t active for the NFC Championship Game Sunday and hasn’t played since September, but he’s still part of Seattle’s 53-man roster. And there’s always Denver coach John Fox, who was secondary coach at Boise State when the Broncos won the 1980 Division I-AA national championship.
A win for the Idaho Steelheads over the ECHL Mountain Division’s last place team was essential yesterday after two straight losses. It took three separate rallies from one-goal deficits, but the Steelheads got it done in the Martin Luther King Day matinee, beating the Utah Grizzlies in overtime, 4-3. After David de Kastrozza tied the game on an improbable short-handed goal with 2:12 left in regulation, William Rapuzzi won it 2½ minutes into OT, back-handing a defensive-zone turnover past Utah goalie Igor Bobkov. The game-winning goal was assisted by de Kastrozza, who potted two goals for the afternoon. The victory salvaged a split for Idaho in the four-game home-and-home series.
The U.S. will field the same Davis Cup team it did when it hosted (and lost to) Serbia last April at Taco Bell Arena. John Isner and Sam Querrey will play singles, and the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, will compete in doubles. The Americans face Great Britain in the Davis Cup’s first round next week in San Diego. The biggest news in tennis, of course, involves the guy who clinched the match for Serbia in Boise last year. Novak Djokovic, the three-time defending champion of the Australian Open, was upset in the quarterfinals today by Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.
This Day In Sports…January 21, 1979:
In Super Bowl XIII, still one of the most exciting, the Pittsburgh Steelers win their third championship with a 35-31 defeat of the Dallas Cowboys. The turning point comes in the third quarter when veteran Dallas tight end Jackie Smith drops a sure touchdown pass while all alone in the endzone. The Steelers would win the Super Bowl again the following year to give Terry Bradshaw and the Steel Curtain four titles, then a record.
(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.)