Tuesday, December 3, 2013.
Boise State’s four-year basketball series with Utah comes to an end tonight, and this is the best setup yet. The Broncos and Utes both come into Taco Bell Arena undefeated—and scoring a lot of points. Utah scored a lot more last year, drilling Boise State 76-55 in Salt Lake City. The Broncos won by the same margin the year before in Boise, 80-59. The Utes are 6-0 and are winning by an average of almost 34 points per game, allowing less than 57 points a game on defense. So why, unlike the Broncos, are they not receiving votes in the polls? Well, if you’re inclined to say Boise State hasn’t played anybody yet, Utah really, really hasn’t played anybody. The Utes’ closest game was a 14-point win over Savannah State.
There was a lot of talk in yesterday’s press conference about opponents’ not-so-secret tactic of blanketing the three-point line to prevent Boise State’s favorite offensive maneuver. The Broncos adjusted well against Idaho and Portland State, but they won’t find compensating with penetration so easy as the major portion of their schedule hits. “We have to be able to be patient when we need patience, and move the other team around a little bit,” said coach Leon Rice. “As the competition gets better, you have to execute more things to get the right shots in the right spots.” Heck, maybe Utah will dare Boise State to try the three—the Utes are allowing foes to shoot just 18 percent from beyond the arc.
Anthony Drmic ended up doing his best Derrick Marks impression last Friday, eschewing big scoring numbers in the box score to do the little things in the win over Portland State. With nine points, Drmic was short of double-figures for the first time at home since February, 2012. And he attempted just one three-pointer, the fewest in his career. On the other hand, he pulled down a season-high eight rebounds. “I just want to win,” Drmic said. “And as long as the win column goes up and the loss column doesn’t, I’m fine.” Drmic knows “little things” tonight means defense. Utah tattooed Boise State in transition in last year’s rout. “Over the last three years, rebounding is definitely up there, but defensive transition has been the second-most thing coaches have focused on,” said Drmic.
San Diego State has something now that Boise State doesn’t have—a win over a Top 25 team. And that’s all it took to get the Aztecs into the rankings, as they debuted yesterday at No. 24 in the AP Poll. SDSU is bubbling under in the Coaches Poll, third in line to get in, while New Mexico is second on that waiting list—third in AP. Boise State is treading water in the “Others Receiving Votes” category, now tied for sixth among those knocking on the door on the AP list, and seventh in line to get into the Coaches Poll.
Early yesterday morning, ESPN.com’s Joe Schad reported that Boise State’s Chris Petersen had withdrawn his name from consideration for the USC job. Sometimes it’s because a guy just says no, and sometimes it’s because he knows another coach has already been selected. We may never know which way that leaned, but by midday Washington’s Steve Sarkisian was reported to be the new head coach of the Trojans, which he will be. What was wrong with Ed Orgeron, anyway? Word is that former Bronco defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, the current D-coordinator with the Huskies, will follow Sarkisian to L.A.
Ahem…here comes “Chris Petersen to Washington! Chris Petersen to Washington!” It didn’t take very long for the Seattle Times to post the online poll, “Who should be the next Washington football coach?” Jim Mora of UCLA, a Washington alum, is the overwhelming No. 1 choice, with Petersen second. Not that he’d go or even be offered, but the Huskies would be a better fit for Petersen than USC. Seattle’s just a better place to live, for one thing. And UW’s facilities are superior—Petersen got to witness that first-hand when the Broncos served as guests August 31 for the grand re-opening of Husky Stadium. The people in the Puget Sound area are more Petersen’s style, more Northern California-like. This is the best match for Petersen outside of Stanford, and he didn’t take that job three years ago.
Unless something crazy happens, Petersen’s focus will be on Boise State’s bowl game. At least once he knows where it is and who it’s against. There’s increasing sentiment that it will be the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque—perhaps versus Washington State. If the Broncos stay in one of the Mountain West’s designated bowls and don’t get successfully shopped elsewhere, one of the conference’s seven bowl-eligible teams is going to be left out. Commissioner Craig Thompson noted yesterday that there are currently eight extra bowl-eligible teams across the nation, and that number could rise as high as 10 this weekend. So Boise State is likely to stay in the Mountain West fold.
Who wouldn’t make the cut? San Jose State and UNLV can’t even travel fans to their own stadiums, much less a bowl game. With their bowl worthiness at stake, the Rebels drew fewer than 16,000 fans for their 45-19 win over San Diego State Saturday (and that was the announced number). The Rebels have the better record at 7-5, although that’s not the determining factor. Despite their wild upset of Fresno State, the Spartans are only 6-6 and average just over 16,000 fans themselves—and that was padded a bit by a huge throng of Bulldog fans Saturday.
Auburn’s truly unbelievable victory over Alabama Saturday has given major media outlets the opportunity to revisit the greatest finishes of all-time in college football, and Boise State can’t be upset about that. ESPN had the Statue of Liberty that won the 2007 Fiesta Bowl over Oklahoma as its No. 2 game-ending play Saturday night behind Cal’s 1982 lateral-fest against Stanford. USA Today chimed in with a top 5 last night, and Auburn’s miracle bumped “Statue Left” to No. 5. The top three are Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary in 1984, the Cal kickoff return, and Kordell Stewart’s Hail Mary for Colorado that beat Michigan in 1994. Boise State’s hook-and-lateral that preceded the Statue was as dramatic as any of them, but it wasn’t a game-ending play.
It was a game Idaho should have won Saturday, but the Vandals have to live with a 24-16 loss at New Mexico State and a 1-11 record through the winter. Despite 459 yards of total offense, Idaho managed just one touchdown as it kept stubbing its toe. Would things have been different with redshirt freshman Chad Chalich at quarterback? Chalich was injured early in Game 7 at Arkansas State and never returned to the field this season after completing 61 percent of his throws for 1,224 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Senior Taylor Davis took over and completed just 46 percent of his attempts for 1,324 yards with eight TDs and seven picks. Chalich’s pass efficiency rating was 123—Davis had a rating of just 104 (reminder: 130 is average, 150 is good, and 170 is great).
This Day In Sports…December 3, 1956:
Seven-foot sensation Wilt Chamberlain makes his debut for the Kansas Jayhawks before a capacity crowd at newly-constructed Allen Fieldhouse, scoring 52 points in an 87-69 win over Northwestern. Chamberlain would play just one season at Kansas before joining the Harlem Globetrotters. After that, Wilt the Stilt embarked on his legendary NBA career.
(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.)