Wednesday, December 11, 2013.
No sooner do I post the column this morning than word comes down that Arkansas State coach Bryan Harsin has landed the job as Boise State’s new head coach to replace Chris Petersen. I had just been definitively told earlier in the morning that it wasn’t true Harsin had withdrawn his name from consideration. Man is Harsin going to hear about it in Jonesboro, Arkansas. This is the third straight year the Red Wolves have had a coach leave after one year at the helm. But this is a one-time opportunity for Harsin to come home and take the job he’s always dreamed of. Remember the vitriol in Boise when Houston Nutt bolted the Broncos after one season to go to Arkansas? Same deal—that was Nutt’s dream job, and it was his only opportunity. Now Bronco Nation is on the other side of the fence.
Harsin was 29 years old when Petersen named him as offensive coordinator the day he replaced Dan Hawkins at Boise State eight years ago. Now Harsin, a brilliant offensive mind, is 37. That’s still pretty young, but he’s been preparing himself for this since he was a graduate assistant under Dirk Koetter with the Broncos in 2000. He’s a Boise native, a Capital High grad, and very locked in to this community.
Boise State thus chooses youth and energy over the worldly experience of 54-year-old former Bronco coach Dirk Koetter, who remains the offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons. The move by Boise State now allows Petersen to get serious in discussions with Justin Wilcox to remain defensive coordinator at Washington. Who knows if Wilcox actually interviewed with the Broncos? It’s going to be a busy rest-of-the-week. More tomorrow, of course.
One mild surprise on the All-Mountain West teams announced yesterday: Boise State’s Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe made the first team at defensive tackle. Tjong-A-Tjoe’s grassroots work in the trenches has been rewarded. The senior entered the Bronco program as a raw Dutchman with limited experience as a foreign student at Boise High. He’ll leave after the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl as an FBS-level all-conference performer. Boise State had three other first-teamers. Demarcus Lawrence was a natural at defensive end. He had another monster year, finishing second behind Colorado State’s Shaq Barrett in sacks and tackles-for-loss. Barrett was the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
On offense, Boise State’s Charles Leno Jr. got the first-team nod at tackle. That positions him well for a shot at the NFL Draft next April. Jay Ajayi capped an outstanding sophomore year with first-team honors at running back. Ajayi is third in the Mountain West in rushing and second in rushing touchdowns. The leader in both those categories, Colorado State’s Kapri Bibbs, is the other first-team running back. The Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year was an obvious choice—Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr and his 405 passing yards per game and 48 touchdown throws.
You kept thinking Boise State’s shots had to start falling sooner or later. Then you’d get a glimpse of that artificially-blonde aircraft carrier, and you knew it wasn’t going to happen for the Broncos against Kentucky. Seven-foot sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein, the only non-true freshman starter for the Wildcats, blocked nine shots to key a 70-55 victory last night on ESPN. “And that’s not even counting the six or seven that he altered,” noted coach Leon Rice on his KBOI postgame show. “He looked like Kareem out there.” Rice marveled at UK’s athleticism. “They can let you get by ‘em, and they can still get back and block the shot,” he said. That’s what got the Broncos. It wasn’t Adolph Rupp Arena. Despite a crowd of 21,565, the largest to ever to see a game involving Boise State, it seemed amazingly quiet.
Boise State shot just 32 percent for the game and 23 percent in the second half in losing its first game of the season. Its one-two scoring punch of Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks combined to go 13-for-40 from the field. Yet the Broncos were still in it with less than 14 minutes left, getting the UK lead down to seven. But then it was game-set-match when the Wildcats went on a 14-2 run capped by an alley-oop slam with 8½ minutes left to make it 62-43. That Boise State was able to keep it from getting out of hand from there is a tribute to the team’s toughness. “I’m proud of the fact our guys continued to battle,” said Rice.
Boise State comes away from Lexington with a primo learning experience with undefeated Saint Mary’s coming to Taco Bell Arena Saturday and Mountain West play looming in 3½ weeks. The Broncos played arguably the most purely talented team in the country—all five starters could be in the NBA a year from now. “The good thing for us is, it’s like the Michigan State situation (a four-point loss last year in East Lansing),” said Rice. “We’ve got to find a way to do everything right. That’s why you play these games—to learn those things.”
As well as some of these Idaho Stampede guys have been playing, you have to start to wonder about NBA call-ups. Pierre Jackson is scoring 28.6 points per game, second in the D-League. Richard Howell has five straight double-doubles to start the season and is averaging 23 points and 12½ rebounds. Dee Bost is contributing almost 18 points and nine assists a night. And Dallas Lauderdale is shooting an amazing 84½ percent from the field. The Stampede continue their East Coast swing with their first-ever games against the Delaware 87ers tonight and tomorrow night.
The College of Idaho beat Northwest Nazarene last night for the first time in Nampa since 1996, the same year the Coyotes won the NAIA Division II national championship. The Yotes and NNU were in a grinder until the C of I went on a 20-5 second half run, leading to a 79-62 victory in Game 2 of the United Heritage Insurance Mayors Cup Series. Demetrius Perkins led five Coyote players in double figures with 16 points.
Just as we started talking about the Idaho Steelheads’ Austins, Fyten and Smith, one of them is headed back to, well, Austin. Smith has been recalled by the AHL’s Texas Stars. That removes one scoring option from the Steelheads lineup just in time for another solid goalie to visit CenturyLink Arena. The Alaska Aces’ Olivier Roy was named ECHL Goaltender of the Week yesterday—the third time Roy has grabbed the weekly honor. He went 2-1 last week with two shutouts, a 0.65 goals-against average, and a save percentage of 97.6. The Steelies and Aces, tied for second in the ECHL Mountain Division with 26 points (Idaho has played two more games), open a three-game series tonight.
This Day In Sports…December 11, 2010:
Boise State’s Kellen Moore finishes fourth in Heisman Trophy voting at ceremonies in New York, the highest honor yet for the school’s most decorated player. Moore joined Auburn’s Cam Newton, the runaway Heisman winner, Stanford’s Andrew Luck, and Oregon’s LaMichael James on ESPN’s nationally-televised program. Moore was, needless to say, the Broncos’ first-ever Heisman Trophy finalist. Earlier that day, the Football Writers Association of America named Moore its first-team All-America quarterback, passing over Newton and the ongoing play-for-pay controversy surrounding the Auburn superstar.
(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.)