BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, January 9, 2020.
When Boise State’s Justinian Jessup finally hit a three-pointer in the final minute of the first half Wednesday night, you wondered if that would be it, considering how much UNLV was blanketing him. That one three was nice, as it was Jessup’s 276th of his career to break Anthony Drmic’s all-time Bronco record for most makes from beyond the arc. But Jessup was classic in the second half, and he was key in Boise State’s crucial 73-66 win over the Rebels. He made four more from distance, the last with 43 seconds left to effectively put the game away, and finished with 18 points after going 5-for-6 from distance. Jessup is now 16 three-pointers away from the Mountain West career record set by BYU’s Jimmer Fredette.
The Broncos needed lots of pieces-parts to put away a UNLV team that had won four games in a row and had put the defensive hurt on Utah State and Air Force in its previous two outings. One of them was Derrick Alston, who snapped a string of three straight games under 20 points by putting up 26 and adding 10 rebounds. R.J. Williams’ craftiness around the hoop produced his sixth double-double of the season (11 points, 10 boards), and Abu Kigab contributed 12 points. So the table is set for Boise State’s biggest game of the season: a date with undefeated San Diego State, the No. 7 team in the land, Saturday in sold-out Viejas Arena. The Aztecs shrugged off Elevation 7,220 in Laramie Wednesday night and routed Wyoming 72-52.
KELLEN’S GETTING CLOSER
We can take a break from Kellen Moore stories when his job status is settled, but it isn’t quite yet. At least he’s making the bottom-line scrolls on the sports networks, as in, “Kellen Moore expected to remain OC of the Cowboys.” Mike Fisher of SI.com writes, “It was always clear that the Jones family wished for Moore to remain, but it’s become increasingly clear that the decision would be Mike McCarthy’s.” Kellen role in Dallas? In Fisher’s opinion, a best-case scenario “would have Moore learning his trade from McCarthy, the best and most-seasoned play-caller in the building.”
IT’S FOR REAL – ROCKY IS GONE
Rocky Long surprised most San Diego State followers Wednesday by “retiring” as head coach of the Aztecs. The quotation marks are on purpose. Long reportedly clashed with the SDSU administration over changes the higher-ups wanted him to make on his staff. San Diego State’s offense struggled for the second straight season, averaging just 21.2 points per game. But Wednesday’s harmonious press conference calls that rumor into question. For all his crustiness (at least as far as a lot of Boise State fans are concerned), Long was one of the Aztecs’ all-time great coaches, going 81-38 in nine seasons and making a bowl game every year. The Mountain West will miss him. Brady Hoke, who preceded Long as head coach, will take over the program.
LOVE AHEAD OF HERBERT?
Followup on Dane Brugler’s Top 100 NFL prospects at The Athletic. Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland, John Hightower and Curtis Weaver are the three highest-ranked Mountain West prospects—outside of Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. Brugler has Love at No. 16, one spot ahead of Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. Writes Brugler: “Although his 2019 season didn’t go as planned (20-17 touchdown-interception ratio), Love’s raw traits give evaluators hope that he can develop into an impact NFL player. He is a loose, athletic passer with natural downfield touch, but does he have the mental makeup to take the necessary steps in his development? Scouts are hopeful the Senior Bowl will help answer that question.”
A SURPRISE EARLY ENTRY ON THE ISLANDS
Cole McDonald is a guy who could have really benefitted from one more season of college football. But the Hawaii quarterback announced Wednesday he is forgoing his senior year to enter the NFL Draft. McDonald threw for 4,135 yards and 33 touchdowns with 14 interceptions this season. He was held to 241 yards and an interception in the Rainbow Warriors’ Mountain West championship game loss at Boise State. But he passed for 493 with four touchdowns and no picks while being named MVP of the Hawaii Bowl victory over BYU. Still, McDonald was often pulled in favor of backup Chevan Cordeiro by UH coach Nick Rolovich. Cordeiro becomes the presumed starter next season.
SPEAKING OF HAWAII
There’s golf over there, y’know. Former Boise State stars Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt get their New Year tee-offs today at the Sony Open in Hawaii. DeLaet returned to the PGA Tour during the fall portion of the 2019-20 season after an agonizing two-year absence due to his ongoing back problems. He made two cuts in four starts and has earned $31,359. Merritt played five tournaments during the fall and made four cuts, finishing in a tie for 30th in each of his last two events. He has $139,025 in earnings this season.
WHEELS FALL OFF FOR BRONCO WOMEN
When the Boise State women took an 11-point lead with 8½ minutes left in their game at UNLV Wednesday, all appeared to be well. Even though the Broncos had cooled considerably from their 59 percent shooting in the first half, they were poised to notch their fourth Mountain West win. But the defending conference champions scored just three points the rest of the way while going 1-for-10 from the field, allowing the Rebels to catch them—and pass them at the end—in a stunning 66-65 loss.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS…January 9, 2013:
College of Idaho introduces Mike Moroski as its first head football coach since the program was disbanded in 1977. Moroski had been on the UC Davis staff for the previous 26 seasons after spending eight years as a backup quarterback in the NFL. C of I athletic director Marty Holly was steered to Moroski by Boise State coach Chris Petersen, a fellow UC Davis alum. Moroski would go to work putting together the Coyotes team, which was set to make its debut on September 6, 2014. Five years later the Yotes would go undefeated in the regular season and make the quarterfinals of the NAIA Playoffs.
(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.)