Wednesday, November 20, 2013.
Pick your poison—you can remember the Adam Muema of last week, or the one from a year ago as Boise State prepares for him Saturday night at Qualcomm Stadium. At Hawaii last week, San Diego State’s junior tailback got it going in the second half, rallying the Aztecs past the Warriors with a 163-yard performance on just 24 carries. Muema took care of overtime himself, going all 25 yards on three totes, capped by the game-winning touchdown. He logged over 100 yards after halftime for the fourth straight game. Or you can recall the Muema that graced the blue turf last November. He rushed 127 yards and a TD in SDSU’s 21-19 upset of Boise State. Muema had runs of 19 and 43 yards in the second half to help keep the Broncos at bay.
Muema’s peers admire him. “I watch some of his tape to see what kind of stuff he does,” said Boise State starter Jay Ajayi, who says he’s always aware of stalwart individual opponents like Muema. Ajayi acknowledges the competitive spirit flows during the battle. “Then you shake hands after the game,” he said. “I love playing against great running backs, because it brings out the best in me.” Muema is just 42 yards away from joining Ajayi in this season’s 1,000-yard club. But there’s more. It’s a two-pronged ground attack that promises to give Boise State problems Saturday. True freshman Donnel Pumphrey, the 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year in Nevada, has rushed for 639 yards this year and is averaging 6½ yards per carry. “It’s a power run game, and they get ‘em into a rhythm and pound way,” said Bronco coach Chris Petersen.
Another sour Boise State memory from last year is the opening kickoff. That’s the one that cast a pall over the blue turf, the one San Diego State’s Colin Lockett took back 100 yards for a touchdown. Did that set the tone or what? With the Broncos losing by two points, you could say it was the difference, even though the game had 59 minutes and 47 seconds to go. The Broncos have shored up special teams in a big way this season. “I think we’re playing well, but you kind of go game-to-game on all this stuff,” said Petersen. “Sometimes you like your matchups, and sometimes you don’t.” And yes, Lockett is still around. He’s averaging 25.3 yards per kickoff return this year.
With the BCS system coming to an end, Sporting News ran “The 10 Biggest November/December Upsets of the BCS Era” yesterday. One of them goes like this: “If ever there were a chance for Boise State to make a case for playing in the BCS National Championship Game, this was it. The Broncos had big non-conference wins over Virginia Tech and Oregon State—and had beaten Oregon in back-to-back seasons the previous two years to bolster their collective resume as a legit program. But a bitterly cold night ended when Broncos kicker…” You know the rest.
Second-ranked Florida State hosts Idaho Saturday as one of the most heavily-favored teams in college football history. The spread is now up to 57 points, making it the biggest between two FBS teams in 20 years. There have been larger spreads involving games against FCS teams. Florida State was a 65-point pick over Savannah State last year, and Miami was favored over Savannah State by 60 in September this year. Hawaii had a 60-point spread on the board for its game versus Northern Colorado in 2007. The Vandals can only hope to get through this and then zero in on a team in the same boat in more ways than one—they finish next week at fellow football independent New Mexico State.
The Boise State basketball team has plenty of revealing tape to devour after being “held” to 86 points last night by Seattle University. The Broncos shot only 42 percent from the field but made up for it with a 27-for-33 night at the free throw line in their 86-68 victory. Free throws had been a problem in their first two games, but coach Leon Rice wasn’t worried after the Simpson game last Friday. “We’re an 80 percent (free throw shooting) team,” said Rice. “To me, that’s a concentration thing.” Sure enough, Boise State canned 82 percent. The Broncos were also flying around on defense, forcing 17 Redhawk turnovers, including 13 steals. They started employing their press with 13 minutes left in the first half, and in a matter of nine seconds, Mikey Thompson converted two layups off steals, one of them his own and one by Jeff Elorriaga.
Boise State’s coveted three-pointers weren’t falling last night, especially those put up by Anthony Drmic. The Aussie was just 1-for-7 from beyond the arc, but he drew foul after foul on penetration in the second half and was 14-of-18 from the free throw line. Drmic ended up unconventionally leading the Broncos in scoring with 25 points after having just two at the intermission. Last night’s game was telecast on ROOT Sports, and it was announced yesterday that next Wednesday’s Boise State-Idaho tilt from CenturyLink Arena will be, too. In between is a Saturday morning date at New Orleans, the Broncos’ first road game of the season.
Three weeks away from Boise State’s game at Kentucky, there’s a measuring stick. The fourth-ranked Wildcats hosted Texas-Arlington last night, the same team that opened the Broncos’ season in Taco Bell Arena. And you know what? The margin of victory was exactly the same: 29 points. UK beat UTA 105-76, and Boise State toppled the Mavericks 116-87. James Young was the latest of Kentucky’s freshmen to go off, scoring 26 points.
This kind of snuck up on us. The Idaho Stampede played their exhibition game last night in Winnemucca. The Reno Bighorns blew past Idaho 125-102 as Stampede coach Michael Peck got a game-look at his squad. The team’s first-round pick in the D-League Draft, Pierre Jackson, led the Stamps with 26 points. The season opens for real Friday night versus the Bakersfield Jam in CenturyLink Arena.
I mentioned a month ago that you might want to mark Wednesday, November 20, on your calendar to see if Utah’s Jamie MacQueen still has it when he visits Boise for the first time. But MacQueen, who tallied four goals and accounted for all of the Grizzlies’ scoring in their 4-2 victory over Idaho on Opening Night, won’t be in CenturyLink Arena tonight after all. He also scored goals in the second and third games of the season and was promptly called up to Norfolk of the AHL. Utah has been lukewarm without him and comes in with a 4-5-2 record, although the Grizzlies did beat Colorado in overtime Monday night. The Steelies are 6-4-2 after their road sweep of San Francisco.
You often see longtime local PGA teaching pro Jim Empey qualifying for major regional tournaments for club professionals. Now Empey has made the final stage of the Champions Tour Q-School, which teed off yesterday at TPC Scottsdale. Empey, named the Golf Digest Teaching Pro of the Year in Idaho, carded a one-over 72 in the first round and is tied for 57th in the 78-player field.
This Day In Sports…November 20, 2012, one year ago today:
Conference realignment rears its ugly head again, as Rutgers announces it is leaving the Big East for the Big Ten in 2014. Maryland, a founding member of the ACC, had announced a move the Big Ten the day before. The sudden change in Big East membership was cause for concern at Boise State, which was set to join the Big East in 2013. The dominoes kept falling, with Louisville moving to the ACC and the seven Catholic non-football schools in the Big East choosing to break away. At the 11th hour on New Year’s Eve, the Broncos elected to stay in the Mountain West.
(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.)