Tuesday, January 14, 2014.
I said on Sunday Sports Extra that tonight’s Boise State game at Nevada (apologies for saying it was Wednesday; I had this Saturday/Wednesday pattern on the brain) a “trap game.” I should revise that to “plain ol’ challenge” for the Broncos, who have lost five of their last eight outings. The Wolf Pack come into the game 4-0 in the Mountain West and—most alarmingly for BSU—vastly improved on the defensive end. Over those four conference games, the Pack is allowing opponents just 35 percent shooting from the field and a piddly 23 percent from three-point range. Nevada is rejuvenated, and it coincides with the activation of 6-9 forward A.J. West. The junior from Brooklyn became eligible six games ago and has started the past five, blocking 14 shots and pulling down almost eight rebounds per game.
This is not a time for Boise State to be facing a team that puts the ropes up on shooters. The “City of Threes” moniker recently applied to the Broncos may be a jinx. They’ve hit just 7 of 34 three-point attempts in their past two games, the narrow losses to San Diego State and Wyoming. And, of course, they shot only 32 percent overall against the Cowboys. When teams design defenses to put the clamps on Jeff Elorriaga, Boise State has to have an answer. Elorriaga played all 40 minutes versus Wyoming and went scoreless, missing all four of his three-pointers. He no longer leads the nation in three-point percentage—Elorriaga has made just four of his last 18, with all four makes in the win against Fresno State.
Nevada certainly appears to have recovered from a woeful debut season in the Mountain West, one in which it was victorious in only three conference games. One of them, however, was a 75-59 decision over Boise State. The numbers from that game sound eerily similar to last Saturday, as the Broncos managed just 36 percent from the floor and 19 from three-point land in Reno. The Wolf Pack also out-rebounded BSU by five. That’s one place the Broncos have to compensate tonight if the shots aren’t falling again.
Productive depth at running back is a priority for Boise State, and Bryan Harsin’s new staff took a significant step last night as Scout.com reported the commitment of Cory Young of Norco, CA. Young visited Boise in November when Chris Petersen was still coach but told Scout.com he was quickly contacted by the new regime after the change in early December. Young is 5-10, 180 pounds with “explosive speed” according to Scout.com’s Greg Biggins. Young’s brother, Kelsey, is a running back at Stanford, but it was Kent Riddle and Andy Avalos—not Mike Sanford—who were Cory’s recruiters.
About this time every year it’s been interesting to check the “Way Too Early Top 25” for the new year, because Boise State has always been in it. The Broncos aren’t in the SI.com feature anymore, but there’s a couple notables on the 2014 list from Martin Rickman. He has Boise State’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game opponent, Ole Miss, at No. 19. The Rebels were 8-5 last year. Writes Rickman: “All those blue-chip recruits from National Signing Day 2013 are a year older, a year wiser and a year stronger. Early playing time was invaluable to those guys, and even in a tough season, Ole Miss impressed with wins over LSU and Texas. The schedule doesn't get any easier in '14, but the Rebels should be ready.” Way Too Early Countdown: the opener in Atlanta is 226 days away.
Rickman’s No. 25 team is Utah State, which was 9-5 in 2013. Rickman’s assessment: “Matt Wells won nine games in his debut season as Utah State's head coach, taking the Aggies to a Mountain West championship appearance despite losing his star quarterback and dealing with a variety of other injuries. The defense ranked among the best in the nation, and it shut down Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch in the Aggies' 21-14 Poinsettia Bowl win over Northern Illinois.” Well, them’s the facts, ma’am. USU comes to the blue turf this fall on a date to be deterrmined.
It may not parlay itself into pro football jobs, but the Medal of Honor Bowl Saturday had to be a positive experience for former Boise State Bronco Geraldo Boldewijn and former Idaho Vandal James Baker. The second-tier all-star game was well-received (if not well-attended due to a tornado watch) in Charleston, SC. Boldewijn made two catches for 16 yards, and Baker had two carries for four yards for the National team.
To say Kyle Wilson’s first four seasons with the New York Jets have been uneven would be an understatement. But there’s been nothing spotty about the off-the-field performance of the former Boise State star and first-round NFL Draft pick. Already named the recipient of the Jets’ 2013 Marty Lyons Award for Community Service, Wilson has been nominated by the team for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. The winner from among the 32 nominees (one from each team) will be announced at the Super Bowl in East Rutherford, NJ, just 33 miles from Wilson’s hometown of Piscataway. According to the Jets’ website, Wilson will stick around New Jersey through Super Bowl Sunday before heading down to his recently purchased house in Florida for the rest of his offseason and beginning to prepare for the 2014 campaign.
Just can’t help following this guy. Dontrelle Willis, the former Boise Hawk whose big league career rapidly rose and rapidly faded, is giving it yet another try. Willis was signed to a minor league contract by San Francisco last Friday, two days before his 32nd birthday. His first five years in the majors included a National League Rookie of the Year award and a 22-win season with the Marlins. Since then, Willis has lost home plate and has gone 4-15 with a 6.15 ERA, last pitching in the bigs with the Reds in 2011. Little-remembered fact: he was part of the eight-player trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers before the 2008 season. Willis was the Hawks’ Opening Night starter for the first year of the Cubs era in 2001.
After a sterling season opener at Utah Saturday, the Boise State gymnastics team has jumped from 23rd to 11th in the GymInfo rankings released yesterday, equaling the program’s highest national ranking ever. The Broncos now brace for their home opener Friday night when they team with the BSU wrestling squad for the annual Beauty & The Beast event in Taco Bell Arena.
This Day In Sports…January 14, 1968:
The Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year, dropping the Oakland Raiders, 33-14. It would be coach Vince Lombardi’s final game with Green Bay and would mark the end of the Packers dynasty. And it produced another famous picture of former Idaho Vandal great Jerry Kramer—helping carry the victorious Lombardi off the field at Miami’s Orange Bowl.
(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.)