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Boise State basketball: Does ‘W’ mark the spot?

Boise State hopes to look back on January 18 as the night that launched a darkhorse run in the Mountain West. Maybe the Broncos have some mojo now.
Credit: Boise State Athletics
Boise State's RayJ Dennis brings the ball upcourt against Utah State in ExtraMile Arena Sat. Jan. 18, 2020, in Boise, ID. Dennis scored 19 points in the final 3:27 of regulation as Boise State rallied to win 88-83 in overtime.

BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday, January 22, 2020. 

One consensus takeaway from Boise State’s truly unbelievable comeback win over Utah State last Saturday night is that it could become a season-maker.  That’s an interesting concept moving forward after the most improbable ending of the college hoops season.  The 18-point rally was gutty, gritty and thrilling, and it was a perfect storm with RayJ Dennis catching fire the way he did.  Was it just an out-of-body experience for the Broncos, or is this who they will be the last seven weeks of the season?  They don’t have the benefit of tapping right into the massive momentum rolling out of the historic night, as they have the Mountain West’s mid-week bye tonight and don’t get back on the court until this Saturday night at Fresno State. 

I haven’t seen this math on the stunning performance by Dennis.  A lot has been made of Boise State trailing Utah State by 18 points with 4:10 left.  But the Broncos were still down 18 until 3:37 remained, when R.J. Williams hit a pair of free throws—and Dennis re-entered the game.  The true freshman, of course, scored 19 points in less than 3½ minutes.  And for ease of calculation, let’s round it up to four minutes.  A college basketball game is 40 minutes long, so take the final four minutes of regulation and multiply by 10.  RayJ could have scored 190 points if he had stayed that hot all night.  Safe to say he’s a starter for good. 

AZTECS ARE BLOWING UP THE MOUNTAIN WEST 

San Diego State nailed its 20th win of the season last night, and it was only January 21.  The Aztecs entered Viejas Arena as 23-point favorites over Wyoming—the Cowboys covered, but it was still a 72-55 rout.  SDSU, of course, hasn’t lost yet and is the only unbeaten team in the country.  At No. 4, the Aztecs have equaled their top AP ranking ever, last reached nine years ago when they also started 20-0 with Kawhi Leonard and finished 34-3.  San Diego State is now 9-0 halfway through its Mountain West schedule, and it’s hard to fathom anybody getting the best of the Aztecs down the stretch.  By the way, Utah State bounced back with a vengeance last night, smothering Air Force 72-47 in Logan. 

BOLT IS LEGIT 

As if he needed to, Borah High’s Austin Bolt completely validated Boise State’s signing of him last month at Monday night’s Blue-Grey All-American Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.  Bolt started by hauling in touchdown passes of 12 and 37 yards—then he caught a 25-yard TD toss in overtime to give the West a 37-30 win over the East and was named the game’s offensive MVP.  Considering the national talent in that high school football showcase, you can say that Bolt’s jaw-dropping senior season was not a mirage.  That capped a good three-day stretch in Boise State’s recruiting world.  There are two new verbals: graduate transfer linebacker Brock Miller from North Carolina State and two-way lineman and one-time USC commit Kyle Juergens from San Juan Capristrano, CA, who is slated to play on the O-line for the Broncos.

GRAHAM A GOOD GROUP OF 5 GET

At this time of year, two weeks before the traditional National Letter of Intent Day, good coaching candidates aren’t growing on trees, especially when Group of 5 schools are out looking.  Hawaii was in a predicament with Nick Rolovich having bolted for Washington State last week, but the Rainbow Warriors have landed an experienced coach to replace him.  Todd Graham, who parted ways with Arizona State at the end of the 2017 season, has been hired to replace Rolovich.  Graham has also served as head coach at Pittsburgh, Tulsa and Rice.  His four-year stint at Tulsa may be the best indicator of what he could do at Hawaii.  Graham went 36-17 with the Golden Hurricane, who gave Boise State its closest regular-season call when the Broncos went undefeated in 2009, falling 28-21. 

CORREA HAS HAD HIS BREAKOUT 

No former Boise State Bronco in the NFL has more momentum going into the offseason than Kamalei Correa of the Tennessee Titans.  The Titans’ Cinderella run came to a halt in Sunday’s 35-24 loss at Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game, but not before Correa registered a team-leading 10 tackles.  Six of them were solo, including one sack of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.  The tackles total shattered Correa’s previous career-high of six set in a win over Indianapolis on December 1.  He seems poised for a feature role on Tennessee’s defense in 2020.

NEW HOME FOR TYLER RAUSA’S TOE 

If you follow former Boise State kicker Tyler Rausa on social media, you know that he often posts video of his kicking sessions (many of them on the blue turf).  Rausa’s been training hard for a shot, and he got one Tuesday by signing with the new DC Defenders of the XFL.  Rausa set a Broncos record for single-season field goals when he nailed 25-of-30 in 2015.  The XFL season opens Saturday, February 8. 

A BLEYMAIER IN THE BIGGEST BOWL

So who is the lone local tie in Super Bowl 54?  Bishop Kelly grad Joe Bleymaier is in his fourth season on the Kansas City Chiefs staff and is now the assistant quarterbacks coach and pass game analyst.  It’s been fun work with Mahomes at the helm at QB.  Bleymaier, the son of former Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier, got into coaching as an intern for three years under current Chiefs coach Andy Reid in Philadelphia a decade ago.  Bleymaier played college ball at Delaware and was part of the Blue Hens’ 2003 Division I-AA national championship team. 

I sat with Gene Bleymaier and his wife Danell on a flight from Oakland to Boise on Monday and got updated.  Yes, they are going to the Super Bowl in Miami to root Joe on.  Gene was hoping for a Green Bay-Kansas City Super Bowl for nostalgia’s sake.  Not only would his son be on one sideline, it would have been a rematch of the first Super Bowl, then called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game.  The Packers beat the Chiefs 35-10 in January, 1967, and Gene attended as a 14-year-old in the L.A. Coliseum.  We talked about a wide range of college sports issues.  But unfortunately, none of that stuff was on the record…

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…January 22, 2017: 

The Los Angeles Lakers suffer the worst loss in their storied history, falling 122-73 to the Dallas Mavericks.  The 49-point thrashing edged the Lakers’ two previous worst margins of defeat of 48 points, one of which came in a 123-75 rout at Utah the previous March.  That was toward the end of the worst season in franchise history, a 17-65 campaign in 2015-16.  L.A. was trying to rebuild under new coach Luke Walton, but this was a setback, to be sure.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK.  He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)