Friday, November 15, 2013.
This could become a weekly feature in the Scott Slant column all the way through basketball season. KTVB’s Jay Tust is a devourer of stats, especially off-the-beaten-path ones that tell interesting stories. When in the world did we ever look at total plays as in important football statistic? But it’s relevant now, and Jay has uncovered some nuggets. Boise State is averaging 81.2 defensive plays per game this season, third most in the country (only Hawai'i at 82.9 and Indiana at 83.8 average more). The Broncos are averaging 12.9 more defensive snaps per game this season. Over a 13-game campaign including the bowl game, that projects to 167.7 more total plays than last season—in other words, about two extra games’ worth.
The issue gets more acute when you take Boise State’s last three games by themselves. Over that period, the Broncos have been on the field an average of 94.0 plays per game. That got Tust to thinking. “Going back to 2006 (because that is as far back as the online stats go), the Boise State defense had hit 90 plays exactly once in 92 games—last season versus Michigan State (the Spartans ran exactly 90),” Jay points out. Here’s how those massive snaps affect stats. Everyone bemoans the fact that the Broncos are 95th in total defense right now, allowing more than 438 yards per game. However, they’re 55th in the country in yards allowed per play at 5.4. The problem is the volume of plays they face.
That 8:15 kickoff for the Boise State-Wyoming game has become an 8:21 kickoff tomorrow night. There was an 8:30 kickoff last year on the blue turf for the San Diego State contest. Did it seem chilly? Truth be told, fans were lucky. That was November 3, with the high reaching 65 and the low that night down to 41. Here we go—the latest word on tomorrow has rain tapering off to showers, with the high at 43 and the low at 29. Last year’s gametime was not dictated by ESPN—this one is. There are some unhappy fans, but do they remember the 2011 and 2012 seasons, when the Broncos went largely without the ESPN Family of Networks? There were similarly unhappy Mountain West fans in the mid-2000’s. They were sick of ESPN dictating kickoff times on weird days of the week. So the conference formed “the mtn.” network in 2006. ‘Nuff said.
While the Wyoming football team was preparing for its flight to Boise, it learned that university president, Bob Sternberg, resigned last night effective at the end of the year. Sternberg, who just took office in July, is the one who ordered an evaluation of the Cowboys’ football and men’s basketball programs by a consulting firm several weeks back. The firm found a "culture of acceptance and validation" pervasive in the athletic department, resulting in lower expectations and a lack of accountability. Athletic director Tom Burman strongly refuted the findings. Since Sternberg arrived, seven of the University's ten college deans, as well as the provost and three associate provosts, have resigned.
I'm struck by the point spreads in the Mountain West this weekend—the size of Boise State's and the lack of size in the rest of the games. The Broncos’ predicted 23-point margin over Wyoming tomorrow night seems large, but then many of their point spreads do. San Jose State is favored by 7½ at Nevada. The Spartans still have bowl-eligibility at stake and a deadly quarterback, David Fales, at their behest. The Wolf Pack is staying home for Christmas, and Cody Fajardo is hobbled. Colorado State, which seems to be on the rise, is only a 6½-point pick at New Mexico. And San Diego State, which has learned how to win again, is favored by just 5½ at Hawaii, which is seriously winless.
Boise State basketball coach Leon Rice said yesterday the Broncos’ “glue guy” is expected to be back in the lineup tonight against Simpson University in Taco Bell Arena. Senior Jeff Elorriaga missed last Friday’s season opening win over UT-Arlington to guard against a possible concussion suffered in practice. Boise State won 116-87 despite the absence of Elorriaga, who averaged 10.2 points per game last season and nailed 84 three-pointers.
It’s hard to spin this any other way—Boise State is likely going to have the opportunity to empty its bench early tonight against NAIA Simpson. That means a better close-up look at the newbies on the Bronco roster. Three in particular bear watching. Australian true freshman Nick Duncan had four points and a rebound last Friday against the Mavericks, redshirt freshman Edmunds Dukulis scored two points but had four rebounds in just eight minutes. And Dezmyn Trent had the look of a possible impact player, logging 13 points and five rebounds. Anthony Drmic isn’t going to play enough minutes to score 34 points again.
Game of the Week in Mountain West hoops actually happened last night. Arizona kept San Diego State at arm’s length much of the way in beating the Aztecs in Viejas Arena, 69-60. UA had beaten SDSU on Christmas Day last year at the final of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu when the Wildcats’ Nick Johnson swatted away the Aztecs’ Chase Tapley’s layin at the buzzer. Two years ago on the night before Thanksgiving, San Diego State had ended Arizona’s 22-game home win streak in the McKale Center, 61-57.
The Idaho Steelheads visit the venerable Cow Palace in San Francisco tonight and tomorrow night. I say “venerable” because I saw the Beatles play there, but you could call it that for a variety of reasons. The arena was originally called the California State Livestock Pavilion when it was built in 1941 and has a colorful history. The 1956 and 1964 Republican National Conventions were held at the Cow palace. The NBA was there in the form of the San Francisco Warriors for seven seasons, and two games of the 1975 NBA Finals were played there when the Oakland Coliseum Arena was booked for the Ice Follies. Four different hockey teams have called the Cow Palace home, including the NHL’s San Jose Sharks during the first two seasons of their existence. Now it’s San Francisco Bulls country.
Other sports doings around the valley: November weather has set in for the state high school football semifinals tonight (should be really fun for Capital in Coeur d’Alene). The Boise State wrestling home opener is set for tonight against Wyoming. With BSU hoops in Taco Bell Arena, the wrestlers will compete in Bronco Gym for the first time in almost five years. The 28th annual Golden Rule Shootout, billed as the “premier small-college tournament in the West,” begins today in Caldwell. The event will work around the Cascade Conference Women’s Volleyball Championships, with Eastern Oregon and Walla Walla tipping off at 1 p.m. and the C of I and Westminster playing at 9 p.m.
Recalling the words of Novak Djokovic in Boise after Serbia’s win over the U.S. in Taco Bell Arena in the Davis Cup quarterfinals: “Unfortunately Janko Tipsarevic didn't play this tie for us, but hopefully he's going to play in September, and hopefully it's going to be against Canada in Belgrade in front of 20,000 Serbian people.” Tipsarevic did play (and win), and it was against Canada, and it was in front of 15,000 Serbian people. Today the Serbs open the Davis Cup Final against the Czech Republic in Belgrade, but Tipsarevic is out due to a nagging heel injury. That puts a lot on the shoulders of Djokovic, who was supplanted as the world’s No. 1 player by Rafael Nadal in October. But Djokovic is on a roll, having won 22 straight matches including a straight-sets victory over Nadal Monday in the ATP Finals.
This Day In Sports…November 15, 1975:
Boise State welcomes its first major college opponent to Bronco Stadium, as Utah State comes in to challenge the undefeated Broncos. BSU was ranked No. 3 in Division II and was riding an 18-game home winning streak, and Tony Knap was fired up to face the team he once coached. But the Aggies unleashed defending Division I rushing champion Louie Giammona—and he was too much, rushing for 198 yards on 40 carries in a 42-19 USU victory.
(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.)