Friday, January 31, 2014.
A road game looms for Boise State. It’s against UNLV in Las Vegas tomorrow night. And one of the top storylines is the Broncos’ slow starts in Mountain West road games. There were those first four minutes at Nevada, where they missed their first four shots and fell in a 7-0 hole. Take those first 7½ minutes at New Mexico last week—a 1-for-8 start and a 17-4 deficit. And how about the first 12½ minutes at San Diego State? Boise State started 3-for-13, and found itself trailing 26-8. BSU lost by three to the Aztecs, came back to beat Nevada, and got the deficit down to five points at New Mexico before losing by nine. They cannot start slowly in the Thomas & Mack Center tomorrow night. If they don’t, though, they could win there for the first time.
Jeff Elorriaga snapped out of his slump with 13 points against Air Force Wednesday night. The Boise State senior leader had scored just 10 points in the previous six games combined. But will Elorriaga be able to maintain against the quickness he’ll see from the guards at UNLV? All 13 of his points in the win over the Falcons came in the first half. He has been shut out in four of eight Mountain West games, including road contests versus the renowned defenses of San Diego State and New Mexico. On a positive note, Elorriaga’s 3-for-5 performance from beyond the arc game him 200 three-pointers in his career, moving him into fourth on the all-time Bronco list.
Bob Behler mentioned this while talking about Ryan Watkins on the Bob & Murph Show yesterday. Out of all the 300-some Division I teams in the country, there are only 13 players averaging double-doubles this season. Well, let’s do the math. There are actually 351 Division I schools this year. Multiply that by five starters apiece, and we’re talking 1,755 feature players. Watkins is clearly in an elite group. Now the kicker: UNLV’s Roscoe Smith is, too. Smith leads the country in rebounding at 12.2 per game. And he plays next to the nation’s second-leading shot-blocker, the Rebels’ Khem Birch, who has 71 on the season. Watkins will meet his match—or matches—tomorrow night.
Boise State’s latest football commitment comes from Kaleb Hill, a much-publicized linebacker out of Samuel Clemens High in Schertz, TX. Part of the buzz surrounds his twin brother, Kolin, who’s headed for Notre Dame. But Kaleb has his own resume, good enough for the Bronco staff to assign him to the STUD end position previously occupied by Demarcus Lawrence and Shea McClellin. That put Hill over the top. “To me it was the plan they had for me,” Hill said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk. “I felt they could bring the best out of me.” The 6-2, 216-pounder said he had been offered a scholarship last October by Chris Petersen’s staff and was recruited in part then by Scott Huff, a holdover on the new staff.
The latest honor for Jay Ajayi is kind of ironic. The Boise State running back has been named one of 12 “Players To Watch In 2014” by the Touchdown Club of Columbus. Ajayi is the player Bronco fans most love to watch. He’ll be honored at the 59th Touchdown Club of Columbus Awards Banquet a week from tomorrow. Among the others on the list is a prominent opponent on Boise State’s schedule this fall, BYU quarterback Taysom Hill. Ajayi is coming off an All-Mountain West season as a sophomore as he rushed for 1,245 yards and 18 touchdowns.
This Seattle-Denver Super Bowl is one to remember for Treasure Valley fans, if only because of history. The Broncos are the original local NFL favorite, and it has nothing to do with their shared nickname. Denver wasn’t as close as the Bay Area in the 1960’s (uh, nor is it now), but because we’re in the Mountain Time Zone, Broncos TV games were always fed to the Boise market in the old days of the AFL on NBC—continuing past the merger and into the 1980’s. The force-feeding created a fan base. The Seahawks debuted in 1976 in the AFC. Seattle is much closer, and Boise is tied more to Seattle than it is to Denver. But when push came to shove, the Broncos would always end up showing in the Boise market. In this era of NFL Ticket and the digital universe, the Seahawks have been able to gain a foothold. But there’s always that residual Bronco effect.
Something John Feinstein said yesterday on CBS Sports Radio was too perfect. He was plugging an upcoming Super Bowl segment with Jerry Kramer (“from Boise, Idaho”) and exclaimed, “I just routinely said ‘Hall of Famer Jerry Kramer.’ It never occurred to me that he’s not.” That the former Idaho Vandal great is not in the Hall is one of the great mysteries of our time. “Recently I’ve been named to the ‘Top 10 Packers of All-Time’—that’s a pretty good honor,” said Kramer. But, que sera, sera. “I made up my mind a long time ago that I wasn’t going to grovel,” said Kramer. “I got 99 presents under the tree, and I didn’t get that one. So am I going to let that spoil my career?”
The Idaho Steelheads used two goalies in Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss at Alaska, Brad Phillips and Josh Watson, and they may put neither on the ice tonight in the second game of the three-game series. Pat Nagle is getting the AHL yo-yo treatment, as he’s already been returned again to the Steelheads by the Texas Stars. The club said Nagle was traveling from Austin to Anchorage yesterday and is expected to be available tonight at Sullivan Arena.
The Idaho Stampede are 3-3 in their last six games---three wins at home, and three losses on the road. The Stampede are home in CenturyLink Arena this weekend, so they hope the pattern persists. Fans can expect to see a bit more of newly-signed Derrick Caracter tonight as Idaho tries to fill the considerable gap left five games ago by the departure of Richard Howell, who was averaging a double-double over the first 20 games. The Stamps will be wearing pink as they host the L.A. D-Fenders tonight and tomorrow night—it’s the third straight year the Stamps have gone pink to support breast cancer awareness through the Mountain States Tumor Institute.
Graham DeLaet put together a decent first round yesterday at the Phoenix Open, carding a four-under 67. The start wasn’t so hot, as the former Boise State star took a bogey on the first hole, but that was the only one of the day. DeLaet is tied for 18th, three shots behind first-round leaders Bubba Watson and Y.E. Yang. Incidentally, DeLaet jumped five spots to No. 34 in the world rankings after his second place finish at the Farmers Insurance Open last week.
Making the campus rounds: the Boise State wrestling team tries to get back on track, hosting Northern Colorado tonight in Taco Bell Arena and traveling to Utah Valley State tomorrow. The Bronco women’s swim team wraps up the season with a dual meet against Oregon State tomorrow at the West Y, featuring the BSU football team’s annual “Big Splash” competition. And the Boise State women’s basketball team guns for its sixth straight win tomorrow afternoon versus UNLV.
Also, College of Idaho football coach Mike Moroski has hired his inaugural defensive coordinator, Chris Jewell, who spent the past two seasons as defensive backs coach under John L. Smith at Division II Fort Lewis College. And here’s some spring fever for you—the C of I baseball team opens the season tomorrow with an exhibition doubleheader against St. Katherine in San Diego before playing a couple counters Sunday versus Bethesda University in Anaheim.
This Day In Sports…January 31, 1998:
Gerry Washington sets a Boise State record for most free throws made in a game without a miss in a 72-67 loss to Idaho in the Kibbie Dome. G-Dub was 14-of-14 from the line—he is still eighth on BSU’s career list for free throw percentage at 78½ percent. The popular Washington remains in a vegetative state after collapsing during a pickup game in April of 2000.
(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.)