Monday, November 25, 2013.
With Utah State’s 13-0 win over Colorado State already in the books, Boise State knew it had to beat San Diego State to realistically seal a trip to the Mountain West championship game. But the Broncos suffered an offensive toe-stubbing of epic proportions, and the Aztecs hung around for a 34-31 overtime victory Saturday night. Hmmm. That 34-31 score sounds familiar. Overtime, missed field goal at the end of regulation. But I digress. Boise State had no answer for San Diego State’s 3-3-5 defense, or whatever coach Rocky Long calls that thing he threw out there at Qualcomm Stadium. Forty-nine yards in the first half? An 18-yard pick-six?
The Broncos continuously dug themselves a hole on first down. Just four times all night did they make another first down on a first down play. They ended up with 2nd-and-short (one to three yards) three times, 2nd-and-medium (four to seven yards) four times, and 2nd-and-long a whopping 18 times. That made third down all the more difficult. Boise State was an agonizing 2-of-15 on third down conversions.
The Boise State defense did have its bright spots. The Broncos wanted to stop the run and force quarterback Quinn Kaehler, the walk-on junior, to beat them. Well, both things happened. But BSU was impressive against Adam Muema and the San Diego State ground game. The Aztec star seemed poised for a big night based on the past two years. Muema had 119 yards and 9.2 yards per carry two years ago versus Boise State, and 127 yards and more than five yards an attempt last year. Saturday night: 46 yards rushing and 1.9 per carry. As a team, SDSU netted just 61 yards with a 1.4 average per tote. Kaehler was good (23-of-37 for 288 yards with one Donte Deayon interception), but the spots he picked for big throws were great, moving the chains and collecting two touchdowns, including the game-winner to Colin Lockett in overtime.
The irony of special teams Saturday night is not lost on anybody. Just when it looked like the specials would save the day for Boise State with Bryan Douglas’ 100-yard kickoff return, Mercy Maston’s fumble recovery on a punt, and Taylor Loffler’s fumble takeaway on a kickoff return, things went south. The 41-yard punt return for a touchdown by San Diego State’s Tim Vizzi and the missed field goal at the end of regulation by Dan Goodale are what the Broncos have to live with now.
There wouldn’t be things like this to chronicle had Boise State not been so good the past 15 years. But they’re in the wheelhouse now. The loss to San Diego State takes the Broncos into territory not seen in recent years. They have four losses overall for the first time since 2005 and two conference losses for the first time since 2001. It's been 16 years since they suffered four road losses—that was in 1997 under Houston Nutt. And, if you take the Mountain West as a 12-team unit, there’s this. Even though Boise State is mathematically alive for the Mountain West championship game, it will finish third or lower in overall league standings for the first time in 15 years (behind at least Fresno State and San Diego State).
Fresno State was dealt a major blow in its quest for its first-ever berth in a BCS bowl when it was jumped by Northern Illinois last night in the BCS standings. And the Bulldogs were seriously jumped. Despite a 69-28 blowout of New Mexico, they actually dropped a spot to No. 16, while NIU went from No. 16 to No. 14. Fresno State is 13th in both the Harris and Coaches’ Polls (the Huskies are 17th and 20th, respectively). but the computers are killing the Bulldogs. Elsewhere, San Jose State failed to become bowl-eligible Friday night, falling to Navy 58-52 in triple-overtime. The Spartans have one last chance—against Fresno State this Saturday. Bad timing.
Idaho has to build on the few positives it takes from its money game at Florida State, which broke a school scoring record in an 80-14 pasting of the Vandals Saturday. Hey, Dezmon Epps had 126 yards on seven catches, including a 68-yarder from Taylor Davis. Idaho passed for 286 yards, more than any other team versus the second-ranked Seminoles this season. And Trey Williams had an interception in the end zone. But Vandal QBs were sacked seven times and were intercepted four times, with two taken back for touchdowns. FSU covered the 57-point spread rather easily.
NFL notables from yesterday involving Boise State products. Orlando Scandrick got Dallas off on the right foot, forcing a fumble by the New York Giants’ Victor Cruz that the Cowboys’ Jeff Heath returned for a 50-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Dallas went on to win the pivotal NFC East game, 24-21. Quintin Mikell had three tackles on defense and another on special teams in Carolina’s 20-16 win over the Dolphins. Shea McClellin returned to action for Chicago and had just one tackle in the Bears’ 42-21 loss to St. Louis—Austin Pettis did not have a catch for the Rams in that game. And Billy Winn made two tackles including one for loss in Cleveland’s 27-11 loss to Pittsburgh.
Boise State’s first basketball road game was much like the first three at home: a dominating 100-80 win Saturday morning at New Orleans. Anthony Drmic topped the 1,000-point plateau for his career with an exclamation point, slicing and dicing the UNO defense for 24 points. Derrick Marks also scored 24, while Igor Hadziomerovic played perhaps the best floor game of his career. Iggy netted 13 points, dished out six assists, and added six rebounds. Hadziomerovic also had two of the Broncos’ 11 steals. Boise State topped the century mark for the third time in four games, but that is not what this team is all about. When Marks hit a free throw to get to 100, there was no towel-waving or cheering on the Bronco bench. In fact, there was hardly any reaction—I don’t think I saw even a hand clap.
Boise State plays again Wednesday night in the downtown “Battle In Boise” against Idaho at CenturyLink Arena. Jeff Elorriaga will no doubt use the off-time to let some bruising heal after a hard fall in the first half against the Privateers. On the replay, it looked like Elorriaga came down hard on his tailbone, but he stayed in the game the rest of the half—right through a three-pointer that was followed by a visible grimace with about 30 seconds left. Elorriaga scored 18 points, all from beyond the arc. The senior “glue guy” is averaging six made three-pointers per game and is 18-for-27 on the season from three-point range.
On the pro sports front, Idaho Stampede did a 180 from last season’s opening weekend, sweeping Bakersfield in CenturyLink Arena. Pierre Jackson lived up to the hype, scoring 29 and 32 points in the two victories. Seven of the nine Stamps who played finished in double figures on Opening Night. On Saturday night, former Boise State standout Jason Ellis pulled down 10 rebounds in 26 minutes. And the Idaho Steelheads extended their winning streak to four games in San Francisco before taking it on the chin at Stockton in the remaining two games of their road trip. Things went swimmingly Friday night after goalie Josh Robinson had been recalled to the AHL’s Texas Stars. Backup Pat Nagle responded with a 41-save shutout in the Steelies’ 6-0 rout of San Francisco. It’s the third time Robinson's been called up to the AHL already this season.
Around the horn: Bishop Kelly survived a chilly see-saw battle with Skyview to win the state 4A championship Friday night at Bronco Stadium, coach Tim Brennan’s fourth with the school. Boise State’s Emma Bates finished second at the NCAA Women’s Cross Country Championships Saturday in Terre Haute, IN, while the College of Idaho’s Hillary Holt won the NAIA national championship for the second straight year. The Coyote women were second as a team. And the Boise State wrestling team upset No. 6 Oregon State yesterday in Gill Coliseum, 19-18, to retain possession of the Border Axe, the rivalry’s trophy. The Beavers will come to Boise to try to wrestle it away on February 7.
This Day In Sports…November 25, 2005:
Caldwell native Gary Stevens announces his retirement after a 26-year Hall of Fame horse racing career during which he won over 5,000 times. Stevens’ victories included three Kentucky Derbys, two Preakness Stakes, and three Belmont Stakes—and in three different years he won two legs of the Triple Crown. Stevens, of course, came out of retirement this year and won the Preakness and the Breeders Cup Classic. He began his career while he was still a Capital High student in 1979, with his first win coming at Les Bois Park aboard a horse named Little Star.
(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.)