Friday, November 22, 2013.
“The only consistent thing about this Aztecs team is how it’s played to the level of its opponent all year,” wrote Stefanie Loh of the San Diego Union-Tribune this week. That was a negative last week when San Diego State squeaked by in overtime at Hawaii. It’ll be a positive tomorrow night when the Aztecs host Boise State with their bowl resume at stake. This is an SDSU team that lost by three touchdowns at home to FCS Eastern Illinois in the season opener—and would have taken down undefeated Fresno State last month were it not for a blocked field goal on the last play of regulation. The Aztecs have become closers, scoring at least two touchdowns in the fourth quarter each of the past four games and in five of their last six. Make no mistake, San Diego State will play up tomorrow, even with the Broncos in revenge mode.
Here comes another big game for Grant Hedrick (and the rest of the Broncos) on the road, and on natural turf. The last time Boise State had that combination, it didn’t go so well—the 37-20 loss at BYU four weeks ago. San Diego State feels it can use its pressure to force Hedrick into mistakes at Qualcomm Stadium. Hey, Hacksaw Hamilton said as much on Idaho SportsTalk the other day. The Aztecs have seen last week’s fumble on the opening possession, and the interception thrown into traffic, and the underthrow that Matt Miller turned into a dazzling 48-yard touchdown. Hedrick, of course, more than offset though hiccups in the win over Wyoming, throwing for 265 yards and three TDs. There’s going to be little margin for hiccups tomorrow night.
Miller’s catches are on a typical trajectory this season, but his yards-per-catch are not, especially in the past two games. For the season, Boise State’s junior wide receiver has 60 grabs and is averaging 12.4 per reception after averages of 11.7 and 11.0 yards the past two seasons. But the past two games Miller has hauled in 13 catches at an average of 18.4 yards per grab. He had receptions of 48 and 51 yards last week and a 26-yarder at Colorado State. Miller’s new propensity for deep routes is not a mirage. “I’m not lying to you guys, telling you I worked on a little speed in the offseason,” Miller told the media after the Wyoming game. “I think it adds a new dynamic to my game where I can run those intermediate routes or go a little deeper too.” With 188 career receptions, Miller is now one catch away from the No. 3 spot in school history.
As far as single-season catches go, Shane Williams-Rhodes bears watching. He and Miller have been deflecting attention from each other, and it’s been paying off for both. The season began very quietly for Williams-Rhodes, as he had only two receptions for 19 yards in the loss at Washington—both in the fourth quarter when the game was decided. SWR had a pedestrian 18 grabs in the first four games, but he’s pulled in 53 in the last six games. His 71 catches for the season make him only the seventh Bronco to reach the 70 mark. With at least three games to go, Williams-Rhodes is just 11 receptions away from Jeremy Child’s single-season record of 82 set in 2007. And in the immortal words of Keith Jackson, “He is only a soph-o-more.”
In the Mountain West bowl-eligibility sweepstakes, UNLV got there last night with a 41-21 win over Air Force on the frozen tundra at Colorado Springs. There were already four other bowl-eligible teams in the Mountain West—the conference needs one more to fill its six bowl berths for 2013. Will it be San Jose State? The Spartans had better nail it down tonight when they face Navy on ESPN2, because they close the regular season next week against Fresno State. Will it be Colorado State? The Rams have six wins, but they need seven since they play 13 games this year. It’ll be tough for CSU to get it tomorrow at Utah State, but the Rams finish the season at home against Air Force. Wyoming isn’t dead yet—the Cowboys need two wins and host Hawaii tomorrow. But the Pokes finish at Utah State next week.
How does Florida State approach a game tomorrow against an Idaho team that has lost 32 of its last 36 games? Well, it might depend on how the Seminoles approach the predicament of its star freshman quarterback, Jameis Winston. Now that law enforcement officials have confirmed that Winston’s DNA matches that taken from the clothing of the woman who has accused him of sexual battery, FSU is being engulfed in distraction while it tries to maintain its No. 2 status in the race for the BCS Championship Game. The net result of Florida State’s unsettling turn of events for the Vandals: Idaho has been shirttailed into the national news all week. The effect on tomorrow’s 57-point spread remains to be seen.
The Boise State hoops team gets to test its mettle away from home for the first time this season, as the Broncos visit New Orleans tomorrow morning. The timing is right, according to coach Leon Rice. “I’m really excited to get a road game right now,” Rice said. “It’s what we need at this point. College basketball on the road is one of the toughest things to do. We’re pretty excited to get to do this.” The Broncos cruised in their first three games in Taco Bell Arena and are averaging 104 points per game. But they cooled to 86 in Tuesday night’s win over Seattle. “We’re not going to score 110 every night,” said Rice. “Sometimes when you make all those shots like in the first game, you get a little spoiled that everything you throw up is going to go in.”
Unless Anthony Drmic is totally off the mark tomorrow morning, he’ll become 23rd player in Boise State history to score 1,000 career points. The Australian junior is 12 points away. With most of his junior year and his senior year still ahead, Drmic has a shot at Tanoka Beard’s school record of 1,944 points from 1989-93. But that could be difficult to achieve on a team that shares the scoring load so much. Another thing that could stand in Drmic’s way is his health. “He’s the ultimate competitor and throws that body around,” said Rice. “I’m always trying to take him out of practice to give him a break.”
It’s Opening Night for the Idaho Stampede in CenturyLink Arena, with Bakersfield the guest as they open the franchise’s 16th season. This is the Stamps’ eighth in the NBA Development League after spending their first eight in the Continental Basketball Association. The Stampede hope to start this campaign better than the last one, when they lost their first six games. There were rumors the past two weeks that last season’s leading scorer, Justin Holiday, might end up back with Idaho. But Holiday ended up overseas. So the scoring torch appears to have been passed to Pierre Jackson, the one-time College of Southern Idaho star who was the Stampede’s first-round pick in the D-League Draft.
I don’t know if it was Ryan Button’s game-winning laser for the Idaho Steelheads in Wednesday night’s win over Utah, or the fact that he had a six-game point streak (pretty good for a defenseman). But Button has been called up to the Texas Stars of the AHL to help shore up an injury-depleted unit in Austin. So the Steelheads go to California without Button for three games this weekend, beginning tonight in San Francisco. The Steelies’ penalty kill has been a major factor in the team’s three-game winning streak. Idaho was 3-for-3 on the penalty kill Wednesday and has erased opponents’ power plays 13 times in its last 14 tries. The Steelheads play at Stockton tomorrow night and Sunday.
Other weekend notes: Boise State’s Emma Bates, the NCAA West Region women’s cross country champion, runs at the national meet tomorrow in Terre Haute, IN. Bates will be joined on the men’s side by the Broncos’ Jeff Howard. The BSU wrestling team takes on Oregon State Sunday at Gill Coliseum in its Pac-12 opener. The Broncos and Beavers will wrestle in the first phase of this season’s Border War, with the winner getting the Border Axe, currently in Boise State’s possession. And Boise teaching pro Jim Empey carded a one-over 72 yesterday at the Champions Tour Q-School at TPC Scottsdale. Empey is one-over for the tournament, tied for 63rd going into today’s final round.
Thirty-five years after Bishop Kelly’s first official state football championship (led by current Capital City Development Corporation executive director John Brunelle in a 30-21 win at snowy Wallace), the Knights play for yet another tonight in Bronco Stadium against Skyview. The Idaho High School Activities Association first sanctioned state titles in 1978. The BK-Skyview 4A game will be preceded on the blue turf by Council and Salmon River playing for the 1A Division II crown, while Fruitland goes to Holt Arena in Pocatello tomorrow to face Shelley for the 3A championship.
On this, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I remember exactly where I was when I got the news. It was Friday. I was in Miss Tighe’s seventh grade English class, and the History teacher from across the hall, Mr. Jackson, burst into the room and tearfully gave us the news. Everything stopped. We listened to the radio on the school PA system—then we were sent home. Our family didn’t leave our black-and-white TV all weekend. Thankfully, even though all seven scheduled NFL games were played as scheduled that Sunday, CBS didn’t show any of them. As a 12-year-old sports nut, I wouldn’t have watched anyway.
This Day In Sports…November 22, 2003, 10 years ago today:
Utah ends BYU's NCAA-record streak of 361 consecutive games without being shut out as the Utes top the Cougars 3-0 in Provo. Blustery winds and snow showers hampered both offenses, and a 41-yard Bryan Borreson field goal proved to be enough for Utah as it clinched the Mountain West Conference title. BYU had scored in every game dating back to October 3, 1975.
(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.)