Monday, November 11, 2013.
The only concern going into Boise State’s basketball season opener was, had the Broncos been reading too many of the press clippings they’ve never had before? Not a problem, as BSU came within two points of its 42-year-old team scoring record in the 116-87 blowout of Texas-Arlington Friday night. The Broncos played to their strengths and took nothing for granted against a team coming off a 19-14 season and a berth in a postseason tournament. Boise State, which at one time went 17 seasons without a 100-point game until breaking through again 10 years ago, has topped the century mark in each of Leon Rice’s four seasons—and we’re just one game into the fourth.
Anthony Drmic couldn’t have started his junior year at Boise State much better, equaling his career-high with 34 points against UTA. It was the highest point output in a season opener in school history. Drmic now has a pair of 34-point games in his career, a pair of 28-pointers, and a pair of 26-point efforts. The gritty Australian has scored in double figures in 46 of the 62 games in his career, and the Friday night explosion was his 20th game of 20 points or more. Drmic and the Broncos are back in Taco Bell Arena this Friday night against Simpson, an NAIA school.
Boise State basketball had the weekend all to itself during the football bye week, but now it’s back to business as Wyoming kicks off the home stretch this Saturday. And the guessing game begins—will the Broncos be healthy enough to get back in a groove on defense? The fact that they’re home has to help. Boise State has allowed 34 points a game on the road this season and only 14 at home. Total yards yielded away from the blue turf is staggering—531 compared to 321 at home. And they’re giving up an average of 348 yards through the air on the road and less than half of that, 170, in Bronco Stadium. The numbers are skewed by the competition, though, especially the passing yards. For example, the Broncos faced Derek Carr of Fresno State on the road…and Air Force at home.
Pop quiz: who is Boise State’s second-leading rusher three-quarters of the way through the season? It’s quarterback Grant Hedrick with 246 yards and six touchdowns. At this point, the running back position is what it is—Jay Ajayi and, well, Jay Ajayi. The Broncos just haven’t found that second option since the injury to Aaron Baltazar more than five weeks ago. Jack Fields has netted only 130 yards and is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry, while Derrick Thomas has 78 yards and a 3.2 average. Fields’ touchdown is the only score between them.
Wyoming scored the first 10 points of the game Saturday night against Fresno State, but it was lights out in Laramie after that. The Bulldogs bulldogged the Cowboys 48-10 to move to 9-0 on the season. Fresno State put up an even 600 yards on Wyo, with Carr passing for 360 yards and four touchdowns. The Bulldogs rushed for 234 on the Pokes, who have had trouble against the run all season. Fresno State moved up to No. 14 in the BCS Standings last night, but Northern Illinois is now one spot back at No. 15. There is a significant gap between the two in BCS points average, though.
Elsewhere in the Mountain West, Utah State became bowl-eligible and stayed on Boise State’s heels in the Mountain Division with its 28-24 win at UNLV. That blocked the Rebels from their long-sought bowl path for another week—they can get there by beating Air Force this Saturday. San Diego State kept San Jose State from qualifying for the postseason by rallying past the Spartans, 34-30. The Aztecs can become bowl-eligible with a win at winless Hawaii this week. And Nevada is officially out of the bowl picture for the first time since 2004 after a 38-17 loss at Colorado State that saw Rams running back Kapri Bibbs rush for 312 yards.
A track meet broke out in the Kibbie Dome Saturday, and Old Dominion pulled away in the final two laps to outdistance Idaho, 59-38. The Vandals went toe-to-toe with the Monarach’s powerful offense in the first half, and the game was tied 31-31 at the break. But quarterback Taylor Heinicke riddled the Idaho secondary in the second half as ODU outscored the Vandals 28-7. Heinicke threw for 533 yards and four touchdowns, overshadowing a huge day by Idaho wide receiver Dezmon Epps, who made nine catches for 175 yards and a TD. It didn’t come without a couple crucial dropped passes, though. The Vandals fall to 1-9 on the season and now have a bye before a trip to—gulp—Florida State.
Another edition of Sunday Night Football, another chance for Orlando Scandrick to tell the nation where he’s from. And how about this—for the first time (correct me if I’m wrong), it was “Orlando Scandrick, Boise State University.” It was downhill from there, as Dallas was roughed up by New Orleans, 49-17. Scandrick had seven tackles for the Cowboys, while fellow former Bronco cornerback Chris Carr had two stops and a pass deflection for the Saints.
Also as it pertains to Boise State products, George Iloka logged four tackles in Cincinnati’s 20-17 overtime loss to the Ravens. Veteran Quintin Mikell had three tackles and a key fumble recovery late in the third quarter as Carolina rallied past San Francisco, 10-9. As expected, Chicago’s Shea McClellin sat out yesterday with a hamstring injury incurred in practice during the week. And we need to mention Chase Baker, who last Thursday recorded his first NFL tackle in Minnesota’s 34-27 win over Washington.
Had the Alaska Aces drawn a line in the sand or what? The Aces riddled the Idaho Steelheads in the first two games of their three-game series, but the Steelheads impressively salvaged the finale Saturday night, 4-2. Idaho scored the first two goals of the night in the first period, but Alaska came into the game having outscored its opponents 18-1 in the second. When the Aces pulled to within one on a second period goal by Evan Trupp, the pressure was on the Steelies. But captain Justin Mercier scored his first two goals of the season in the third stanza to spark the victory. Pat Nagle made 27 saves against the hot-shooting Aces. The Steelheads got defensemen Hubert Labrie back from the Texas Stars Saturday, and his physical play earned him the third star of the night behind Mercier and Nagle.
More weekend wrap: Boise State won the third annual Bronco-Vandal “Black & Blue” hockey game, beating Idaho 10-5. The event between the two club teams at CenturyLink Arena benefitted Meals on Wheels in Ada County. The Boise State women’s soccer team made the Mountain West Tournament championship game before falling to San Diego State Saturday, 1-0. And the College of Idaho women’s cross country team won the Cascade Conference title in Caldwell Saturday behind—who else?—defending NAIA individual champion Hillary Holt, who easily won the league crown again.
I was saddened to see the Statesman obituary yesterday for Steve Connor, one of the original icons of Boise State basketball. Connor died in North Carolina, where he was now living, at the age of 57. After leading Borah High to what was then the state A-1 title in 1974, he went on to BSU to play for his dad, Bus. Connor became the Broncos’ career scoring leader with 1,927 points, holding that spot until Tanoka Beard eclipsed it in 1993. The obit says Connor’s favorite moment was a last-second basket against Montana that sent Boise State into the first four-team Big Sky Tournament in 1976. I vividly remember that bucket. Connor hit it from well beyond three-point distance in the days before the arc. The Broncos went on to win the Big Sky tourney and go to their first NCAA Tournament. Connor’s sweet left-handed stroke was unforgettable.
This Day In Sports…November 11, 2006:
The closest call of Boise State’s unbeaten regular season, as Anthony Montgomery boots a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the game to beat San Jose State, 23-20. The Broncos had trailed 20-12 midway through the fourth quarter before mounting their rally, helped by Ian Johnson. The sophomore sensation had suffered a partially collapsed lung earlier in the game but played through it to the tune of 149 yards rushing. Johnson ended up spending five days in a San Jose hospital and missed the following week’s game after returning to Boise.
(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.)