Wednesday, January 29, 2014.
When the prevailing expectation was an NCAA Tournament berth for the Boise State basketball team last fall, a lot of people tried to handicap the season. And when they saw San Jose State and Air Force back-to-back at home in late January, many thought, “Okay, piece 'o cake!” But the Broncos themselves knew then and know now that every game in the Mountain West can be a trap game, and Air Force qualifies tonight in Taco Bell Arena. The Falcons are a middling 9-9 overall and 3-4 in conference, but that's better than it looked like they were going to be at the season’s outset. Air Force has found a groove in Mountain West play, topping Utah State in the Aggies’ Mountain West debut before beating UNLV in Las Vegas, something the Broncos have never done. The Falcons lost to San Diego State by only seven.
Air Force plays the type of control-the-tempo game that tends to frustate Boise State. At least that’s the conventional wisdom. But let’s harken back to the Broncos’ trip to Colorado Springs last year. The Falcons had just suffered a stunning 39-point blowout loss at Colorado State, scoring only 40 points. Then they came out against the Broncos and already had 40 with 1:51 left in the first half on the way to a surprising 91-80 victory, with Michael Lyons pouring in 37 points. You never know.
It’s hard to ask for consistency from a player who’s shooting better than 54 percent from three-point range in Mountain West play. But Nick Duncan is the type of guy who can help bury an opponent if he gets in a rhythm early. The true freshman forward missed his first three attempts from beyond the arc at New Mexico last week as Boise State fell behind the Lobos 17-4. But he canned two treys in the final three minutes of the first half, giving the Broncos a modicum of hope. Then against San Jose State last Saturday, Duncan nailed a three in the first minute of the game—and BSU led by 22 at the half. He’s 19-of-35 from long-range through seven Mountain West games after going 12-of-31 during 13 non-conference matchups.
Former Boise State star Kellen Moore was on the Bob & Murph Show yesterday on KTIK and said you can’t really blame players for following Chris Petersen to Washington. There was another one late last night, as defensive end Jaylen Johnson gave the Huskies his verbal. “You get to know these coaches for nine months (while being recruited), and they’ve worked really hard,” said Moore. “That’s the tough part of a coaching change like this.” At the same time, Moore said he’s really excited about Bryan Harsin and the new staff coming in with the Broncos. Is it time for Kellen to come back from the Detroit Lions and join in? “I want to coach—but I’m really enjoying these offseasons.”
But what if someone who had committed to Washington jumped ship and went with Boise State? Well, it happened last night. Coeur d’Alene High tight end Chase Blakley, locked in with the Huskies long before the carousel started rolling, has flipped to the Broncos. Most coaches will discount the “star system” utilized by recruiting websites, but let’s go there for a moment. With Johnson’s move, UW has picked off six Boise State commits, none of them rated as four-stars by Rivals.com. The 6-5, 240-pound Blakley is a four-star, ranked as the No. 8 tight end in the country by Rivals. He’s the second four-star recruit nabbed by Harsin—safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner is already in school.
Scott Linehan, the one-time Idaho quarterback, uncle of former Boise State tight end Gabe Linehan, father of current Vandal QB Matt Linehan, and NFL mentor of Moore the past two seasons, now appears to be a foe of Dallas offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. Linehan has been hired as passing game coordinator by the Cowboys and has been tabbed to call the plays, and Callahan is said to be none too happy. Linehan was swept out of his O-coordinator’s post in Detroit when Jim Schwartz’s Lions staff was fired after the season.
Danny Langsdorf, Mike Riley’s offensive coordinator at Oregon State since 2005, is going to dip his toe into the NFL waters. And it’ll be with Eli Manning, no less, as Langsdorf has been named quarterbacks coach of the New York Giants. The 38-23 Hawaii Bowl win over Boise State on Christmas Eve was, therefore, his OSU sayonara. To refresh, Langsdorf was a backup quarterback for the Broncos in Skip Hall’s final year, 1992, and began the season as the starter in Pokey Allen’s first year, 1993. Langsdorf was relegated to the No. 2 spot when Allen burned Tony Hilde’s redshirt year in the fifth game of the ’93 season. When it became clear that Hilde was going to be the guy the next four years, Langsdorf elected to transfer to Linfield and play for his dad, Ed.
The Idaho Steelheads know they play Alaska Aces three times in Anchorage this week, beginning tonight. But the Steelheads don’t know exactly how many games they’ll play the rest of this season. A revamped ECHL schedule may be unveiled today in the wake of the folding of the San Francisco Bulls franchise Monday. Aces managing member Terry Parks told the Anchorage Daily News he expects his team’s season to be trimmed from 72 games to 70. Parks said all eight ECHL Western Conference teams will make the Kelly Cup Playoffs, and because teams will play an unbalanced schedule, playoff seedings will be determined by regular-season winning percentage. This is the first time the league has had a team abandon ship during the season since the Fresno Falcons folded a few days before Christmas five years ago.
The Idaho Stampede’s 2013-14 season reaches the halfway point tonight with a game against Santa Cruz in CenturyLink Arena. With a 13-11 record, the Stampede have clinched a winning first-half, but they don’t like the way the script has gone. They’ve lost 11 of their last 16 games following an 8-0 start. Nine days ago the Stampede beat the Warriors 119-118 in Boise to re-take first place in the D-League West Division. Now the Stamps have been relegated to fourth. The Stamps have star power, though, as Pierre Jackson continues to lead the D-League in scoring at 30.7 points per game and has scored 122 points in his last three games.
Congrats to our friend Bob Behler, voice of the Broncos, who has been named Idaho Sportscaster of the Year for the fourth-consecutive year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association announced recently. Behler gets another trip to North Carolina out of it—he’ll be honored at the 55th Annual NSSA Awards Weekend, held June 7-9 in Salisbury.
This Day In Sports…January 29, 1974, 40 years ago today:
History would prove the Pittsburgh Steelers to be brilliant with their picks in the NFL Draft. The Steelers’ first four choices that day were wide receiver Lynn Swann, linebacker Jack Lambert, wide receiver John Stallworth, and center Mike Webster. They would become key components of the Pittsburgh dynasty that would win four of the next six Super Bowls. All four were eventually voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
(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.)