BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday Weekly: February 8, 2023.
Boise State is pushing hard to top the 12,000-mark for the third time in Saturday night’s game against Wyoming. It’s only happened once before: in 1987-88, when what is now ExtraMile Arena was rockin’ like no other time in its history. Fans don’t seem to be fazed by the loss at San Diego State — there is some buzz for this one; we’ll see what happens. The Cowboys have had an unimaginable run of bad luck this season, beginning with the absence of star forward Graham Ike due to a lower leg injury suffered before the season. Wyoming announced last Friday that Ike will use this season as a redshirt year and will not return. The Preseason Mountain West Player of the Year averaged 19.5 points and 9.6 rebounds last season and was a beast in two games against Boise State.
Now the Pokes’ leading scorer in Ike’s absence, sophomore guard Noah Reynolds, is out for the rest of the season after suffering his third concussion of the campaign. The latest one came at San Jose State. Hunter Maldonado, another preseason first-team All-Mountain West pick, will have to carry Wyoming now. The Cowboys are 7-15 overall and 2-8 in conference play going into tonight’s home game against UNLV.
SDSU GAME GOES IN THE CIRCULAR FILE
It was one of those flushable games, and that’s what Boise State will try to do with the 72-52 loss at San Diego State last Friday night. It’s the first time in more than two years the Broncos have lost a game by 20 points. In fact, it’s the first time in that span they’ve lost by 15. The best way to describe it: everything that could go wrong…did. Marcus Shaver Jr. out with his ankle injury. Naje Smith at less than 100 percent. Tyson Degenhart picking up his third foul with almost eight minutes left in the first half. An Aztecs team that was loaded for bear after three losses to Boise State last year. They were steely-focused, going on a 27-4 run over more than 11 minutes in the first half to essentially put the game away. It was a credit to the Broncos that it didn’t get worse in the second half.
RAZOR-THIN ON THE BENCH
The worry over Boise State’s depth has become a real thing. Now it’s the focus of the Broncos’ immediate future with Shaver out. If it’s indeed a high ankle sprain, it’s going to be a while. Jace Whiting has to try to hold down the fort. The freshman from Burley was overwhelmed at San Diego State — things shouldn’t be as frantic Saturday night against Wyoming. Whiting could use some help from Sada NgaNga, the highest-rated recruit in Boise State history. But if NgaNga was ready for the fray, he would have played long before the 2½-minute mark in Viejas Arena, when the game was over. The 6-10 guard has played a total of seven minutes in Mountain West play and hasn’t scored yet. Forget about Quad this and Quad that right now. The Broncos have to figure out what to do against the Cowboys.
1-0 MENTALITY: NEVER MORE IMPORTANT
Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic gave us a rundown yesterday of locks for the NCAA Tournament — and the teams with work to do. Brennan counts Boise State among the latter, with an asterisk next to Marcus Shaver Jr.’s name. Writes Brennan: "Boise State games without Shaver, who has battled nagging injuries all season, kind of shouldn’t count; he’s obviously a very important player for the Broncos, particularly in the kind of cauldron atmosphere you get for big games in San Diego. The good news is that the committee takes into account injuries, so Boise’s off night at SDSU won’t be the thing that keeps them out of the tournament." As good as that is to hear, a toe-stubbing against Wyoming in ExtraMile Arena would be a major setback. Going 1-0 has never been more important.
CREATE AN AWARD FOR MAX SHULGA
Belated props to Utah State junior guard Max Shulga, who’s from Kyiv, Ukraine, after an ugly night in the Aggies’ 88-79 win at Colorado State Saturday night. Shulga took the high road after the Rams student chanted “Russia, Russia” while he was on the free throw line in the game. The incident went viral — with CSU deservedly scorned, a real blight on the CSU program. But Shulga? He released a statement. And while he talked about the dangerous daily life his family faces during the war and how the chant was “extremely upsetting,” he said he knows “how emotions can run high during competition and people can do and say things they don’t really mean.” Shulga accepted Colorado State’s apology. CSU, meanwhile, claims it’s trying to identify the culprits. Max Shulga for Mountain West Sportsman of the Year.
SKINNER STILL SOLID AFTER MOBILE
JL Skinner’s Senior Bowl week didn’t end with an appearance in the game last Saturday. The former Boise State star’s aunt, who he was very close to, passed away last week, and Skinner passed on the game after finding out. “Some things bigger than ball,” he tweeted. But it was a productive stay in Mobile, AL. Skinner was named the National team’s Defensive Specialist Practice Player-of-Week. Tellingly, it was voted on by his peers in the squad’s tight ends and wide receivers group. Luke Easterling of DraftWire at Yahoo! Sports has him as the fifth-ranked safety coming out of the Senior Bowl. It’s looking like the second or third round in the NFL Draft for Skinner. He — and we — will find out at the end of April.
JASON ECK RAISES HIS HAND
Boise State has an opening on its 2026 football schedule, and it has a volunteer. Idaho coach Jason Eck, in town last week for the Vandals’ Boise gala, said, “2026 we’ve still got an opening — we’d love to play ‘em on their next opening. They’re playing North Dakota this year; they’re playing Eastern Washington in the coming years,” a smiling Eck told KTVB. “I’m going to mention it to the governor tonight — he’s sitting at my table at the dinner.” Eck pointed out that in Iowa, FCS Northern Iowa plays Iowa and Iowa State every other year. He suggests that the Broncos alternate between the Vandals and Idaho State every other year. Interesting. It would have to be on the blue turf, but I think everybody understands that. What a homecoming it would be for new Bengals head coach Cody Hawkins.
TWO IDAHO TIES IN THE SUPER BOWL
There is a local tie on the Kansas City side in Super Bowl 57, just like there was in the Chiefs’ last two appearances in the game. Bishop Kelly grad Joe Bleymaier is in his seventh season on the Chiefs staff and his second as wide receivers coach after three years as assistant quarterbacks coach and pass game analyst. 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. On the Philly side, linebacker Christian Elliss is poised to become the first Idaho Vandal in seven years to play in a Super Bowl (since Shiloh Keo earned a ring with Denver following the 2015 season). Elliss did play in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco, registering one special teams tackle.
ADVERSITY FOR THE STEELIES, SUCH AS IT IS
The Idaho Steelheads are carrying some firsts — ones they’re not enamored with — going into a three-game series against Tulsa starting tonight in Idaho Central Arena. The Steelheads have a two-game losing streak for the first time this season. One was a shootout loss to those same Oilers in Tulsa last Saturday, and the second saw Idaho allow the most goals in a game this season in a 6-3 loss Sunday. There’s no doubt the Steelheads will be focused this evening, especially goalie Remi Poirier. Poirier won his 12th straight game last Friday versus the Oilers, equaling the fourth-longest streak in ECHL history. Then he had the run ended in the shocker on Sunday.
CAN NO. 16 AT PHOENIX CALM NERVES?
Next up for Troy Merritt is the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the tournament’s world famous 16th hole. Maybe the loose, chaotic scene will help Merritt get back on track after he missed the cut last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. A first-round 78 did him in. The former Boise State star tied for 38th last year at Phoenix, and he came out even in front of the party throngs on No. 16: two pars, a birdie and a bogey. Typically there are 15,000 fans crammed into the stadium seating in one of the most unique atmospheres in all of golf. Last year there was a hole-in-one there, and the place came unglued.
ANOTHER CCC CROWN FOR COLLEGE OF IDAHO
The Yotes didn’t win by 50 points this time. They won by 18, and that was just fine. College of Idaho has captured its 11th Cascade Conference regular season championship with a 74-56 victory over rival Eastern Oregon Tuesday night in Caldwell. With it comes an automatic berth in the NAIA Championships. It’ll be C of I’s eighth trip to nationals in the last 10 years. EOU gave the Yotes a go, trailing by five at halftime, but was held to 26.7 percent shooting in the second half. College of Idaho, No. 1 in the NAIA Coaches Poll, is now 23-1, with all 23 wins coming in a row following a loss in their season opener.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS…February 8, 1936:
The first NFL Draft is held among the league’s nine franchises. The Philadelphia Eagles chose first, selecting Jay Berwanger. The halfback from the University of Chicago had just won the first Heisman Trophy. But Berwanger decided he could make more money outside of athletics and would never play in an NFL game. Imagine that happening today. Forget it — it would never happen today. Last year’s first overall pick Georgia’s Travon Walker (by the Jacksonville Jaguars), was set to make around $41.5 million on a four-year rookie contract, including a signing bonus of more than $24 million.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)
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