Friday, December 20, 2013.
You’re going to see some “keys to the game” leading up to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Tuesday night. Any way you slice it, Jay Ajayi has to be at or near the top of the list. On the Boise State side: “Get Ajayi going.” On the Oregon State side: “Stop Jay Ajayi.” The Beavers have had some problems against the run this season, and they acknowledge it. “From what I’ve seen he’s a very hard runner, low runner, has a little acceleration and breaks a lot of tackles,” OSU cornerback Steven Nelson said in the Corvallis Register-Guard. “But we’ve been playing against those types of backs all year, so I think we’ll be ready.” Oregon State has seen Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney, USC’s Silas Redd and Javorius Allen, Arizona State’s Marion Grice, Washington’s Bishop Sankey and Oregon’s Thomas Tyner since October. Each of them rushed for more than 100 yards on the Beavs.
There are state of Idaho (and Boise) ties on the Oregon State side in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. Let’s revisit coach Mike Riley’s connection with the state . Riley was born in Wallace while his dad, Bud, was head coach at Wallace High. Bud then moved on to Lewiston High, and eventually to the University of Idaho as an assistant under Demosthenes Konstandies Andrecopoulos (uh, that’s Dee Andros). Bud followed Andros to Oregon State when Mike was in junior high, hence the younger Riley’s lifelong bond with the Beavers. He’s considered one of the good guys in college football.
One key Oregon State assistant once played on the blue turf, which isn’t earth-shattering. But he was a Bronco when he did it. Danny Langsdorf was a backup quarterback for Boise State in Skip Hall’s final year, 1992, and began the season as the Broncos’ starter in Pokey Allen’s first year, 1993. Langsdorf was relegated to the No. 2 spot when Allen burned Tony Hilde’s redshirt year in the fifth game of the ’93 season. When it became clear that Hilde was going to be the guy the next four years, Langsdorf elected to transfer to Linfield and play for his dad, Ed. Langsdorf has been OC under Riley since 2005. Also on the Beavers’ staff is former Boise Burn offensive lineman Kyle DeVan, who left the team during its final season in 2009 to join the Indianapolis Colts. DeVan is currently an OSU graduate assistant.
As wrenching as it is for some local fans to pull for San Diego State, they’d best hope for an Aztec victory over Buffalo tomorrow in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Mountain West needs it. San Diego State is emblematic of what has been a tough year in football for the conference. It was SDSU who dropped an unfathomable 40-19 decision at home on Opening Night to FCS Eastern Illinois. The Aztecs have recovered—their presence on the blue turf tomorrow is a testament to that. But the perception of the Mountain West, which strives to be the strongest of the non-power conferences, has not. The Mountain West had a miserable time in non-conference play this year, and bowl season is about redemption.
The MAC has been a thorn in the Mountain West’s side, as the MAC has been a conference on the rise. Most prominent this year has been Northern Illinois’ leapfrogging of Fresno State in the BCS Standings (although that ended up a moot point). Buffalo is going to be a tough customer tomorrow, a team that is especially glad to be in Boise and is hungry for the first bowl victory in school history. The Bulls are calling their 21-player senior class “the best in UB history.” Yes, there’s plenty of reasons to go to Bronco Stadium tomorrow. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl remains a gift—one more college football game for a community that loves it.
Half of the Mountain West’s bowl representatives will be done after Day 1 of the bowl season. Colorado State kicks things off tomorrow against Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl. That’s one of three Mountain West matchups against the Pac-12 this month. Fresno State follows with its Las Vegas Bowl tilt against USC, the biggest bowl event to come the Bulldogs’ way since the 2007 Liberty Bowl. This will be Derek Carr’s final calling card before going into NFL Draft preparation. Fresno State’s challenge will be to keep Carr upright against the Trojans’ stout defense. It’s been pointed out that the Bulldogs beat Utah State at home and Hawaii on the road, and USC beat Utah State at home and Hawaii on the road. Must be a tossup.
Boise State begins play at the Diamond Head Classic late Sunday night against host Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors are 7-2, but (stop me if you’ve heard this before) they haven’t played anybody. Hawaii’s last game was on Kauai against Chaminade, a 94-84 victory. The combined record of the five Division I opponents UH has defeated is 13-29. The combined record of the other seven teams participating in the Diamond Head Classic is 39-13. One Bronco footnote: with his six three-pointers last Saturday against Saint Mary’s, senior Jeff Elorriaga has moved into Boise State’s top five in career treys with 184. He’s tied for fifth with Gerry Washington, which prompts a question I haven’t been able to answer. Does anyone know how Washington is doing? The popular guard collapsed during a pickup game in 2000 and has required constant care since.
The Idaho-Idaho State “Holiday Hoops Classic” is set for tonight in CenturyLink Arena. If this event is all about the state of Idaho, let’s check out the Idahoans on each squad. The state is represented on the Vandal roster by senior guard Connor Hill of Post Falls. Hill has really come into his own this month, hitting 17-of-34 from three-point range since his last appearance in Downtown Boise versus Boise State last month. He’s averaging 14.9 points per game. The only Idahoan on the Idaho State roster is Clint Thomas, a sophomore guard from McCall. Thomas has appeared in four games this season and is averaging 3.3 points. He redshirted last winter.
This is the biggest hoops weekend in Caldwell in recent memory. The College of Idaho, off to a 10-4 start under new coach Scott Garson, hosts Oregon Tech and second-ranked Southern Oregon in the J.A. Albertson Activities Center. Southern Oregon is just the third team ranked in the top two of NAIA Division II ever to visit the Coyotes. It also happened with Oregon Tech in 2003 and Eastern Oregon last season.
The Idaho Stampede are 8-1 now instead of 8-0, but there are no complaints from the club’s front office. Staffers would just like the Stampede to get home so fans can enjoy them, and CenturyLink Arena can enjoy butts in the seats for D-League games. It has to be exhiliarating for coach Michael Peck, who was enduring a flip-flopped record a year ago. “Right now, we’re just staying focused and locked in, game by game,” Peck said earlier this week. “It is so early. This eight-game road trip is going to tell a lot about our team.” The Stamps visit the L.A. D-Fenders tomorrow and the Santa Cruz Warriors Sunday.
The Idaho Steelheads, licking their wounds after an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Bakersfield Wednesday night, try their luck again versus the Condors tomorrow and Sunday. The Steelheads will have to get well without not only their leading scorer, but the second-leading point-getter in all of the ECHL. Anthony Nigro, who has 14 goals and 17 assists on the season, has been called up by the AHL’s Texas Stars. He also leads the league in power-play goals with six. Nigro is the fourth player who has skated for Idaho this season to be added to the current Texas roster, joining forward Taylor Vause and defensemen Hubert Labrie and Ryan Button.
This Day In Sports…December 20, 1985:
Two years after his final season on Monday Night Football, Howard Cosell retires from ABC. That autumn, Cosell had been pulled off ABC telecasts of the World Series following the release of his book “I Never Played The Game,” which criticized many of his network colleagues. He was a color commentator during Monday Night Football’s first 16 seasons, mostly alongside Frank Gifford and “Dandy Don” Meredith. Cosell was known as "arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a showoff.” His words.
(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.)