Monday, January 20, 2014.
There was never a lead that was comfortable for Boise State Saturday night. Not 12 points in the first half—not the 11 points in the second half. Playing a Utah State team that has dominated them for almost two decades of Division I play, the Broncos knew it was going to take a 40-minute performance in the first-ever Mountain West meeting with the Aggies. Sure enough, Stew Morrill’s disciplined USU crew willed itself to a five-point lead with less than three minutes remaining. Then it was Derrick Marks time. The junior guard rallied Boise State, scoring nine of its final 12 points in a pivotal 78-74 victory. “We get a stop on Marks, just one stop,” Morrill lamented in the Logan Herald-Journal. “He just kept penetrating. But if you come off their shooters, then you give them a three.”
It was clear from the outset that Boise State wanted to get its three-point mojo going again Saturday night. The Broncos bombed away in the early going. The first player to try one was…Ryan Watkins? He missed, but Jeff Elorriaga and Anthony Drmic did not. The two treys in the first five minutes of the game from Elorriaga were refreshing considering his recent struggles, but he and Drmic cooled off from there. In fact, every Bronco did except Nick Duncan, who rained five three-pointers on Utah State and scored a career-high 17 points. Of course, the “City Of Threes” was a hospitable host to the visiting Aggies, who connecting on nine treys themselves, six of them in the final eight minutes of the game.
Fans in Taco Bell Arena have begun to cheer every offensive rebound by Watkins, who continues to pile them up impressively. But there’s never been a roar for that effort like the one that came midway through the second half Saturday night. Boise State had a possession that lasted a minute and a half, thanks to four offensive boards, three of them by a scrambling Watkins. After the last one I said to the person next to me, “Sure would be a drag if they didn’t score after all this.” Then Watkins finished it with a contested jumper that went down. “That possession goes down in Bronco history, I think,” said coach Leon Rice on his KBOI postgame show. Watkins ended up with 15 points and 16 rebounds.
The Idaho Stampede had one of the most thrilling finishes in its 16-year history Saturday night. It was especially notable coming against Santa Cruz, breaking a first-place tie with the Warriors in the D-League’s West Division. With Santa Cruz in possession, leading by a point in overtime and with less than four seconds on the clock, the Stampede’s Dee Bost stole the inbounds pass. Bost missed a wild shot attempt, but teammate Reggie Hearn was there for a putback and a 119-118 victory. Bost exploded for a career-high 30 points and added seven assists and six rebounds. The Stamps now face a busy (and challenging) week away from Boise, with games at Rio Grande Valley Wednesday, Austin Thursday and Tulsa Saturday.
It was a big football recruiting weekend at Boise State, with more than a half-dozen prospects very visible circling Taco Bell Arena Saturday night with Bronco staffers. One of them (not sure which one) was a guy named Thomas—or Tommy—Stuart, and man are Bronco Nation diehards scrambling to get information on him today. Stuart committed to Boise State yesterday. And he is a quarterback. Obviously, the Broncos are going to need one or two of those. Stuart is a junior college transfer from Baltimore by way of JC national champion Butte College in California and will have four years to use three seasons of eligibility. The 6-1, 200-pounder will return to Boise today and start school tomorrow as the spring semester begins.
Scout.com reports that Butte ran a run-heavy offense, but Stuart still completed 65 percent of his throws for 1,927 yards, 29 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He also rushed for 153 yards and six TDs. Stuart finished his true freshman year as Nor Cal Offensive Player of the Year and was Most Valuable Player of the JC national championship game. Oh, and his Twitter account is @TommyFootball1. There’s some self-induced pressure for you. A couple sources say it’s unclear at this time whether Stuart will be a scholarship athlete or a preferred walk-on. Boise State also lost another of its Chris Petersen commits over the weekend. Offensive tackle Ryan Griswold of Pearland, TX, flipped to TCU. Defensive tackle Greg Gaines, who opened up his recruitment shortly after Petersen left Boise State, has finally opted for UW.
Utah has been muddling through this season through with a losing record, a rarity in hockey with overtime and shootout losses essentially counted as ties. But the Idaho Steelheads helped the Grizzlies close in on .500 over the weekend, victimized in a home shutout loss and a road defeat. Friday night it was a chippy 3-0 decision in CenturyLink Arena that featured 110 penalty minutes on 30 infractions (Idaho’s Andrew Conboy was suspended two games as a result). Saturday it was a 4-2 loss in West Valley City, marking the debut of Steelheads goalie Josh Watson, acquired Friday in a trade with the Reading Royals. Watson allowed two goals in the first 95 seconds of the game before settling down. Today Utah tries to get to .500 as it hosts the Steelies again, wrapping up the four-game home-and-home series.
A disastrous first round kept Troy Merritt from making the 54-hole cut at the Humana Challenge over the weekend. Merritt took four bogeys on the first day at the PGA West course in La Quinta, CA, and finished at three-over 75. The former Boise State star rebounded with a 70 Friday and a 66 Saturday. Merritt’s one-time Bronco teammate, Graham DeLaet, returns to PGA Tour action this Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA.
Two more athletes with Idaho ties have earned spots on the U.S. Olympic team for the Winter Games in Sochi next month. Nick Cunningham, the former Boise State trackster, has made it in the four-man bobsled after his crew finished fourth in a World Cup race Saturday in Innsbruck, Austria. And Kaitlyn Farrington, who grew up on an Idaho cattle ranch and honed her snowboarding skills at Sun Valley, won an Olympic halfpipe trial yesterday at Mammoth Mountain, CA.
A campus wrap: the Boise State men’s tennis team couldn’t follow through on an upset of Northwestern after winning the doubles point Saturday. The Wildcats dominated singles and beat the Broncos 5-2 at the Boise Racquet & Swim Club. Boise State won’t be home again until a March 9 match against Minnesota. The 12th annual Beauty & The Beast was a hit in the stands with 3,393 fans, but it was a mixed bag on the floor of Taco Bell Arena. The Bronco gymnasts scored a 195.15 to out-distance Denver and BYU, but the BSU wrestlers were dropped 26-15 by North Dakota State. And the College of Idaho men’s basketball team kept its grip a atop the Cascade Conference standings with a home sweep of Corban and Northwest Christian, the latter coached by former Idaho Stampede standout Luke Jackson.
This Day In Sports…January 20, 2007:
Over 25,000 fans crowd the streets of downtown Boise and jam around the Capitol for Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl Celebration Parade and Statehouse Salute. The loudest chant was a “Pete-Pete-Pete” reserved for coach Chris Petersen as the Broncos lined the steps behind him. A roar almost as large went up when Fiesta Bowl offensive MVP Jared Zabransky stepped to the podium. Zabransky soaked up the adulation a little over a year after hearing some boos while accepting the MPC Computers Bowl MVP trophy.
(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.)