Tuesday, February 25, 2014.
The Mountain West finally has two teams in the Top 25 again. And my feeling is, it impacts Boise State. Not because of San Diego State, which fell yesterday to No. 13 in both polls after falling 58-44 at New Mexico Saturday. It’s those Lobos, who are back in the AP rankings at No. 25. “They are, in my opinion, the best team that we played this season,” said Aztecs coach Steve Fisher. “That includes Kansas. That includes Marquette. That includes Creighton. They’re a terrific team.” If that’s the case, is Boise State’s victory over New Mexico two weeks ago now a signature win? Yes it is, as long as the Broncos can make it count by continuing to win down the stretch. There are two road games this week that will have them living on the edge—at Fresno State tomorrow night and at Wyoming Saturday.
Here in the Gem State we judged Leon Rice’s exuberant reaction to the officials’ notification of Boise State’s victory Saturday night through local eyes. The Bronco coach was one excited guy with a 91-90 win unexpectedly in the books. Well, UNLV fans have vilified him on social media for being “classless.” This after Rebels players had dog-piled on the floor of Taco Bell Arena when they thought they had won. If you watch Rice’s crouching double fist-pump again (and it’s easy to find), you’ll see that he caught himself as soon as he completed his quick celebration and went immediately to UNLV coach Dave Rice to give him a handshake and half man-hug. No harm, no foul.
The Las Vegas media rejects the Rebel fan firestorm. There’s this from Las Vegas Sun columnist Taylor Bern: “I have zero problem with Leon Rice’s reaction. It was an emotional moment for everyone involved, and the Broncos have been through a buzz saw of close defeats this season. Take your ‘classless’ argument somewhere else because I’m not hearing it. Moving on.” For UNLV’s Dave Rice, it was all about the game. “We have to build on this,” he said. “The ones where you don’t play well and don’t compete and don’t give great effort are the toughest ones. This is difficult because you feel so bad for your team because it deserved to win, just like Boise State deserved to win.”
Ed Graney of the Review-Journal, while agreeing that Deville Smith’s shot at the buzzer was too late, did question Taco Bell Arena’s infrastructure. Where was the red light surrounding the scoreboard? “The arena had emptied when a few workers lowered the basket at which Smith shot, pushed a few buttons and, presto! The red light went on,” wrote Graney. “I’m pretty sure those guys will be taken off light duty and serving chalupas at a drive-thru come Monday.”
Anthony Drmic’s ceiling keeps getting higher, as he has caught fire again. The Boise State junior added another solid offensive night to his typically pesky defense, scoring 22 points against UNLV while going 8-for-19 from the floor and 4-for-9 from 3-point range. Not to forget Drmic’s fellow Aussie, Nick Duncan, who has started the last nine games. The true freshman put up 12 points, hitting double figures for the first time in a month. The beginning of the game Saturday was very Australian—Drmic and Duncan combined to score 16 of the Broncos’ first 20 points against the Rebels.
Demarcus Lawrence went through his on-field paces yesterday with the defensive linemen at the NFL Combine. The former Boise State star managed only 20 reps in the bench press while running the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds, 13th best among 41 D-linemen who tested. A little Google tour shows the former Boise State star’s name all over NFL teams’ “Combine players to watch lists.” The Packer Report values Lawrence as a “sackmaster.” DallasCowboys.com calls him a “tweener.” Says scout Bryan Broaddus: “Teams had better have a solid plan in what they are going to do with these players, because making mistakes on what they can and cannot do will determine how good or bad your defense really is getting pressure and playing the run.” DetroitLions.com suggests Lawrence could be “an impact player on Day 2 or 3” of the NFL Draft.
Walk-ons have been bread-and-butter at Boise State over the years, and this one is intriguing. Scout.com reports that Mike Miller, a 6-5, 290-pound first-team Oregon all-state offensive lineman, will be a preferred walk-on with the Broncos this year. Miller is from Jesuit High School in Portland (Jeff Elorriaga’s alma mater) and was ranked as one of Oregon’s top 10 O-linemen last season. How did he not get an FBS scholarship offer somewhere?
This is a rather strange circumstance. Adam Muema, the San Diego State running back who was an occasional thorn in Boise State’s side the past two years, left the NFL Combine Sunday. Muema said God told him to do it, because he’s going to play for the Seattle Seahawks regardless. The 5-10, 205-pounder left SDSU after his junior year to enter the NFL Draft—and he left Indianapolis without participating in a single drill. Muema had better show well at the Aztecs’ Pro Day next month. He rushed for 1,244 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior last season, with 230 yards and three TDs in an MVP performance in his final college game at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on the blue turf.
Idaho Steelheads player movement notes: fan favorite Jeremy Yablonski was activated from injured reserve over the weekend, and Saturday night he played his first game since November 1. The 33-year-old forward got right into the box score where you’d expect him, logging four penalty minutes. In four games with the Steelheads this season, Yablonski has one goal and 22 penalty minutes. And the Steelies have traded defenseman Tyler Elbrecht to Toledo in exchange for the ECHL rights to defenseman Russ Sinkewich, who has been splitting time between the Walleye and Texas of the AHL. The Stars have now reassigned Sinkewich to Idaho. The Steelheads are back in CenturyLink Arena tomorrow night to take on the Alaska Aces.
Kevin Murphy and Dee Bost have taken charge offensively since the Idaho Stampede’s superstar, Pierre Jackson, decided to go to Turkey. Murphy poured in 34 points last night and Bost added 27 in a 103-99 road win over the Bakersfield Jam. The Stamps did it again with a short bench, using only seven players. Bost, incidentally, was named D-League Performer of the Week for the first time yesterday. The former Mississippi State standout averaged a triple-double last week in wins over the Maine Red Claws and L.A. D-Fenders. The Stampede return home this weekend for a couple of pivotal games against the Santa Cruz Warriors.
Kudos to Marty Holly, the friend of many and the College of Idaho’s athletic director for the past 33 years. Holly has been named the 2013 NAIA AD of the Year and will be recognized at the 73rd Annual NAIA Convention Awards Luncheon on April 12 in Kansas City. Holly’s key accomplishment the past year has been the C of I’s smooth reinstatement of football, which kicks off in September after being absent from the Caldwell campus since 1977.
Boise’s Madeleine Sheils is back on the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental tour. The season opened with the Gateway Classic over the weekend in Mesa, AZ. Sheils, the Bishop kelly and Nebraska graduate, tied for 54th, finishing three-over in the 54-hole tournament. Money is hard to come by on the secondary women’s pro circuit—Sheils earned $368 for her efforts.
This Day In Sports…February 25, 1964, 50 years ago today:
In Miami Beach, 21-year-old Cassius Clay shocks the world by dethroning heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. Displaying lightning-quick feet and hands, the brash young boxer kept the powerful Liston frustrated for six rounds. Claiming a shoulder injury, Liston didn’t come out for the seventh, relinquishing his crown. It was a big weekend in Miami—the Beatles were also in town during the first visit to America to make their second appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
(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.)