Wednesday, December 18, 2013.
It would be naïve to think that Aaron Baltazar will be the only Boise State player to leave the program with the eight-year Chris Petersen era now over. New coach Bryan Harsin will only be able to do so much in dealing with those hit hard by Petersen’s exit. This is when not only senior, but junior leadership is needed in the Bronco program. The seniors have less than a week to go in their careers. Presumably all the juniors will be back as seniors next year, and those are the guys who need to light the fire under the underclassmen—to keep them glued together. This year’s junior class is fraught with leaders. You can easily see Corey Bell, Bryan Douglas and Matt Miller quelling any uneasiness among Bronco youngsters. Tyler Horn, Grant Hedrick, Jeremy Ioane, Beau Martin, and Blake Renaud could also fill that role.
As Boise State’s Sheraton Hawaii Bowl practices continue, the Broncos will see a lot of Harsin. But the new head man reiterated the other day on Idaho SportsTalk that he won’t be doing any coaching. As hard as he admits it’ll be, Harsin will just be a “fly on the wall,” as he has plenty of distractions right now. In addition to circling the wagons around those recruits still committed to Boise State, Harsin is sorting out the staff situation, with special teams coach Kent Riddle reportedly aboard already. Yesterday came two official announcements—Petersen holdovers Andy Avalos and Scott Huff will remain on the Bronco staff.
Avalos has coached the defensive line the past two seasons. Although that’s been a largely productive unit, Avalos’ assignment on Harsin’s staff is to be determined. He played linebacker for the Broncos from 2001-04 and is best remembered for rumbling 92 yards for a touchdown with an interception against Louisville in the 2004 Liberty Bowl. Huff’s roots run deep, too. He anchored the offensive line as the Broncos made the transition from the Big West to the WAC and won their first WAC championship when he was a senior. It’s the O-line that Huff will be coaching again after four seasons as tight ends coach (plus special teams coordinator the past two years).
Former Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease, the one-time Mountain Home Tiger, is…not coming home to the Treasure Valley. Coachingsearch.com reports that he’ll be joining Petersen’s staff at Washington. Pease was fired as O-coordinator at Florida earlier this month after the Gators suffered their first losing season since 1979. It’s not clear what role Pease will play with the Huskies.
We talk about Matt Miller and Shane Williams-Rhodes being just five catches away from the Boise State single-season record—each has 77 receptions going into the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. Well, Brandin Cooks has 120, shattering the Oregon State school record and breaking the Pac-12 mark as well. It earned him not only the Biletnikoff Award last week, but first-team AP All-America honors yesterday. Cooks leads the nation in receiving yards at 1,670, and he has 15 touchdown catches. And the Beavers will run him, too, when the opportunity presents itself. Cooks has 188 yards rushing this season and two TDs.
One of the top-shelf subjects in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl press conferences this week will be the future status of San Diego State’s Adam Muema. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Muema tweeted—then quickly deleted—a message that said, "I'm declaring to the NFL, there's no secret." So there is a possibility that Muema’s final game as an Aztec may come Saturday on the blue turf against Buffalo. The question will be, did he show scouts enough during an injury-affected season to demonstrate he’s ready to declare early for the NFL Draft? An ankle sprain slowed Muema during September, but he still rushed for 1,015 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
Now this is what I call game prep. From the Buffalo News comes a list of favorite varieties of potatoes from Buffalo’s five first-team All-MAC seniors. Wide receiver Alex Neutz: “I like french fries. I gotta go french fries.” Offensive guard Jasen Carlson: “Mashed with lots of gravy and butter.” Linebacker and MAC Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack: “I like sweet potatoes.” Cornerback Najja Johnson: “I’m going to be a simple man and go baked potato, with a big piece of steak. Salt and pepper, that’s it. I’m simple. Salt and pepper.” And running back Bo Oliver: “Sweet potato. Put it at 400 in the oven for like an hour and 20 minutes and just let it sit after that for like 20, 30 minutes, let it cool down.” I’ll try that.
It’s been almost three years since Boise State played basketball versus Hawaii, the team against which it opens the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu late Sunday night. But there are three current Bronco seniors still familiar with the Rainbow Warriors, who won 73-66 in Taco Bell Arena in February, 2011. The top performer in that game among the trio was not Jeff Elorriaga, nor Ryan Watkins. It was Thomas Bropleh, who came off the bench to play 28 minutes and score 14 points, hitting three treys along the way. In fact, Bropleh did the same thing off the bench earlier that season, when Boise State routed Hawaii 79-55 in its last trip to Oahu. He had 14 points in that game, too. The Broncos would be happy to get that kind of production out of Bropleh Sunday.
The Mountain West spent most of last season near the top of college basketball’s conference RPI ratings, but things aren’t going swimmingly for the conference so far this year. Case in point: New Mexico State upended MW favorite New Mexico last night, 67-61. And the Aggies did it in the Pit in Albuquerque. The Lobos are just 9-5 now after starting the season in the Top 25. The only Mountain West team in the polls is San Diego State. The league is 0-11 against ranked teams this season.
The Idaho Stampede try to improve on their franchise-best 8-0 start tonight when they visit the Bakersfield Jam. The Stampede are riding an 11-game winning streak overall dating back to last season. This is uncharted territory for the Stamps—they were 1-7 after eight games in two of the past three seasons. Their best record out of the gate previously at this point was 7-1 in 2008-09 when Bryan Gates was still coach. The face of the squad right now is Pierre Jackson, the leading scorer in the D-League at 30.9 points per game. But the unsung members of the supporting cast have been Dee Bost, the league leader in assists at 9.3 per game, and Dallas Lauderdale, who has thrown down dunks on 22 of his 35 field goals this season.
The Idaho Steelheads will welcome, in a manner of speaking, one familiar face when the hockey version of Bakersfield comes to CenturyLink Arena tonight. The Condors’ leading scorer is Michael Neal with 14 points. Neal ranks seventh in the ECHL era in games played for the Steelheads—he appeared in 166 contests from 2009-12. The 24-year-old left wing scored 18 goals and 55 points total over three seasons. Another nugget: Bakersfield is one of two teams the Steelheads have been playing since the Idaho franchise was born in 1997, when the two organizations were members of the old West Coast Hockey League. The Condors were known then as the Fog. Solid decision on the nickname change.
This Day In Sports…December 18, 1981:
Brigham Young edges Washington State 38-36 to secure back-to-back wins at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Tom Holmoe (current BYU athletic director) intercepted a WSU pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to give BYU a comfortable 31-7 advantage in the third quarter, but a revitalized Wazzu scored 29 points in the second half to close the gap. BYU's Jim McMahon, the nation's leading passer and inaugural winner of the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, passed for 368 yards and three touchdowns preventing the WSU comeback win.
(Courtesy: The National Football Foundation & College 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.)