Friday, December 27, 2013.
The Bryan Harsin Era at Boise State officially began yesterday, but the new coach actually arrives back in town this afternoon from Jonesboro, AR, to dive into it. What he hopes he finds is the attitude displayed by several prominent Broncos after the 38-23 loss to Oregon State Christmas Eve in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl—guys like Matt Miller and Jay Ajayi who said five losses are unacceptable at Boise State and that they look forward to bouncing back. There are lots of issues in getting that done. One is confidence, something that was lacking at times during the 2013 season. Harsin and his staff can be a positive force there. Another is recruiting—who will stay and who will go among those currently committed to the Broncos’ 2014 class. BSU has already had three players de-commit since the loss of Chris Petersen.
Ken Goe of the Oregonian magnifies the national perception of where the Bronco program is right now, and the challenge it faces to prove skeptics wrong. “In short, Boise State didn't match up,” wrote Goe of Tuesday night’s Oregon State victory. “The Broncos have more in common with Hawaii, Colorado, Washington State and California, teams OSU rolled over in September and October, than the upper-echelon programs to which the Beavers lost in November. The victory wasn't a statement. It was confirmation of the Beavers' mid-rung status in the Pac-12, not awful, not great.” Goe sums it up: “To join the upper echelon, the Beavers need to beat upper-echelon teams. Colorado and Cal don't count. Neither does Boise State.”
There are a few more Boise State postseason records worth mentioning out of the Hawaii Bowl. The first one gives me an excuse to dip into the history book. Grant Hedrick’s 382 yards passing tied the Bronco postseason mark set in the 1990 Division I-AA semifinals by Duane Halliday at Nevada. Halliday, who had thrown all of 10 passes during the regular season, did all his damage in 2½ quarters after coming on in relief in the eventual 59-52 triple-overtime loss. Halliday’s son, Connor, is the starting quarterback at Washington State. Hedrick’s 44 passing attempts versus OSU also tied a Boise State record set by Taylor Tharp in the 2007 Hawaii Bowl. And Dan Goodale’s three field goals tied a Bronco postseason mark as well.
There weren’t a lot of impact performances by the Boise State senior class at Aloha Stadium, but one guy has to be singled out. Kirby Moore wrapped up a career that started way back in 2009 with seven catches for 74 yards, his best performance since he was injured at Fresno State in September. Moore finished the season with 36 receptions for 280 yards and two touchdowns and amassed 115 catches for 1,137 yards and six TDs in his career. Moore was the only Bronco left from the 2010 Fiesta Bowl team—he caught four passes from brother Kellen for 28 yards in the 17-10 win over TCU.
Utah State struck a chord for the Mountain West last night, beating No. 24 Northern Illinois 21-14 in the Poinsettia Bowl. The conference’s top defense held Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch in check, as the Huskies managed only 289 yards, and Lynch rushed for just 39. The Utah State offense was living dangerously in the second half. Chuckie Keeton’s fill-in, Darell Garretson, threw an interception in the end zone with just over two minutes left in the third quarter when the Aggies were poised to pad a 13-7 lead. Then on USU’s next possession early in the fourth, Garretson was picked off again, this time at the Aggie 13-yard-line. But the Utah State defense held, and NIU’s Mathew Sims missed the field goal. The Aggies then marched 80 yards in 17 plays, with bowl MVP Joey DeMartino scoring at the other end to put the game away.
Tonight Chris Petersen will be as interested an observer as can be when Washington takes on BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. The new Huskies coach will have an interesting perspective, too, as he knows about competing against the Cougars. While it will be Keith Price’s final game as UW quarterback, Petersen would like to know if it’s going to be the final appearance for juniors Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Bishop Sankey. Seferian-Jenkins, the star tight end, has reportedly received a second-round grade from NFL Draft evaluators. Sankey, the running back who punished Boise State the past two seasons, says he’s been tabbed a third-rounder.
Aaron Rodgers and Shea McClellin will meet again. The news that Rodgers will play in the Green Bay finale Sunday at Chicago has resulted in McClellin’s collarbone-breaking sack of Rodgers 7½ weeks ago to be shown over and over again on the sports networks. The three-sack performance in that game on Monday Night Football is easily the best of McClellin’s young career. The former Boise State star has had only a half-sack since.
As Boise State starts mapping out its Mountain West season that starts a week from tomorrow against Fresno State, Leon Rice has settled into a regular eight-man rotation. The three players coming off the bench are all contributing—Mikey Thompson, Thomas Bropleh and Nick Duncan. True freshman Dezmyn Trent has not been able to crack the rotation, nor has junior Joe Hanstad. And sophomore Edmunds Dukulis has been slowed by a knee injury. The pleasant surprise in the depth department has been Bropleh, the senior who had a very quiet junior year, averaging 3½ points per game. Bropleh is up to 5½ points per game (and rising) this season and is shooting 48 percent from three-point range.
When we last saw the Idaho Stampede in CenturyLink Arena, they were beating Reno 108-80 on Thanksgiving weekend. That’s Thanksgiving weekend. The Stamps are looking forward to their CenturyLink Arena homecoming tonight against the Texas Legends. Stampede fans are, too, now that they know this team is really good. There’s a three-game losing streak to deal with, but every club is going to go through that in a 50-game season. The Stampede have star power, led by one-time College of Southern Idaho standout Pierre Jackson, the D-League’s leading scorer at 27.9 points per game. Jackson is currently listed as the league’s No. 2 NBA prospect.
The Idaho Steelheads are on the other end of the spectrum from their CenturyLink Arena co-tenants. The Steelheads haven’t been on the road since the weekend before Thanksgiving. Now the Steelies hit the trail for games in Las Vegas tonight and tomorrow night and in Bakersfield Sunday. And, at least at the outset, they’ll be without starting goalie Josh Robinson, who was called up yet again yesterday by the AHL’s Texas Stars. Robinson is 9-3-1 this season with a save percentage of 92 percent and a goals-against average of 2.28 per game. The Steelheads, who have won just one of their past four games, hope to lean on their special teams moving forward. They’re second in the ECHL on the power play at 21.0 percent.
This Day In Sports…December 27, 1998, 15 years ago today:
A high point in Jake Plummer’s NFL career, as Chris Jacke hits a 52-yard field goal as time runs out to give Arizona a 16-13 win over San Diego at Sun Devil Stadium. The victory clinched the Cardinals’ first playoff berth since moving to Phoenix from St. Louis in 1988. The following week, the Capital High grad would lead the Cards to their first playoff win in half a century with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
(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.)