BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, October 31, 2019.
Happy Halloween. Which brings up a place that has been a house of horrors (or close to it) for Boise State in autumns past. Three times the Broncos have taken undefeated teams to Spartan Stadium and San Jose State, and two of them were gut-wrenching adventures. The first was during the 2004 season, when the undefeated Broncos were becoming ESPN darlings. The kickoff of their game in San Jose was moved up to 9 a.m. Pacific time to accommodate a hurriedly-scheduled ESPN2 telecast, and it went two overtimes before Boise State survived, 56-49. The star of the day was sophomore safety Gerald Alexander, who blocked a San Jose State field goal attempt with 1:11 left in regulation that would have won the game for the Spartans and ruined the Broncos’ undefeated regular season.
Two years later, Spartan Stadium produced the closest call of Boise State’s unbeaten 2006 regular season, as Anthony Montgomery had to boot a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the game to ensure a 23-20 victory over San Jose State. The Broncos had trailed 20-12 midway through the fourth quarter before mounting their rally, helped by Ian Johnson. The sophomore sensation had suffered a partially collapsed lung earlier in the game but played through it to the tune of 149 yards rushing. Johnson ended up spending five days in a San Jose hospital and missed the following week’s game after returning to Boise. Do not sleep on the Spartans. Their 2019 team has some of the same characteristics of those in 2004 and 2006.
PLENTY TO PLAY FOR
San Jose State has never beaten Boise State, going 0-for-13. But New Mexico, with its best team of the decade in 2015, and Wyoming, with its best team of the decade in 2016, proved that there’s always a first time. This year’s Spartans have four wins, one more than the past two years combined, and it’s only two-thirds of the way through the season. The last time the Spartans won five games in a regular season was in 2015, when they were one of the first 5-7 teams ever to make a bowl game. They’ve got a shot to do it the conventional way this year. Another target on Saturday: San Jose State hasn’t won two games in a row in five years.
While Boise State is deep at wide receiver, the Broncos do lose John Hightower and Akilian Butler after this season. And they keep adding to the wideout stable on the recruiting trail. Chance Luper, a three-star prospect from Fort Worth, TX, has given Boise State a verbal. Luper is the Broncos’ 11th commitment in the 2020 recruiting class and the second wide receiver, joining fellow Texan LaTrell Caples. Luper chose Boise State over Cal, Boston College, Indiana, Louisville and Kansas, among others. His dad, Curtis Luper, is the co-offensive coordinator at TCU, but Chance doesn’t have an offer from the Horned Frogs.
SOME KUMBAYA AT COLORADO STATE?
The most intriguing team in the Mountain West right now might be Colorado State. With coach Mike Bobo fighting to save his job, CSU goes for its third win in a row when it hosts UNLV Saturday. Last week Bobo suspended his leading rusher, Marvin Kinsey Jr., indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Then the Rams went out and surprised Fresno State 41-31 at Bulldog Stadium. Bobo dismissed Kinsey from the team on Monday. This is a guy who was averaging a Mountain West-best 100.4 rushing yards per game. But it makes you wonder if that hasn’t corrected some chemistry problems in the locker room. Colorado State looked unusually together in Fresno—and the new starter at running back, Marcus McElroy, represented with 117 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
BRONCOS’ DRESS REHEARSAL
Boise State men’s basketball goes into experimental exhibition mode against West Coast Baptist College tonight in ExtraMile Arena. One thing that will bear watching is how coach Leon Rice rotates players inside with Zach Haney graduated, Mikey Frazier out of the program, and Robin Jorch coming off a redshirt year. Jorch hopefully benefitted from the extra time on the practice floor. Is redshirt freshman Riley Abercrombie capable of mixing it up under the hoop? The Australian forward by way of Houston is 6-9, 215 pounds. Does RJ Williams play a part on the block? Stay tuned. West Coast Baptist College, by the way, is a small, private institution in Lancaster, CA.
Rice told the media Wednesday that the initial waiver for Arizona transfer Emmanuel Akot to play immediately has been denied by the NCAA. The Broncos recently filed an official appeal, though, and they still harbor hopes that Akot can be eligible this season due to Arizona’s alleged tie-ins to the Adidas recruiting scandal. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed—you hear coaches say ‘trust the process’—and hopefully it’ll turn out the right way,” said Rice. Akot will have to sit out tonight’s game. It’s a curious process. A Wildcats teammate of Akot’s, Alex Barcello, had his waiver approved by the NCAA late last week, and he’s immediately eligible to play for BYU.
AROUND THE HOOPS HORN
Any college coach is thankful for an exhibition game that helps prepare a team for the rigors of the upcoming season. College of Idaho provided Utah State with some teachable moments in the first nine minutes Wednesday night in Logan, when the Coyotes trailed by just three points. Then the Aggies put their collective foot down, and they beat the Yotes 103-66. Northwest Nazarene gave Wyoming plenty to work on, falling just 62-56 in Laramie. Meanwhile, Boise State women’s basketball garnered 15 points in the preseason AP Poll released Wednesday. B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press notes that it’s believed to be the most votes the Broncos have received in the AP Poll since they were ranked No. 21 in the final poll in 1994.
BASEBALL: ENDINGS & BEGINNINGS
The 2019 baseball season ended Thursday night with the Washington Nationals’ first-ever World Series title. (Just so you know, former Boise Hawk Robinson Chirinos batted .211 with two home runs and three RBIs for Houston in the Series.) That brings Boise State’s baseball revival even closer. The Broncos announced their 2020 road schedule Thursday, and the originally-announced debut game at Washington is no longer on the slate. Instead, Boise State will play its first games in 40 years when it opens the series with a three-game series at perennial baseball power Texas February 21-23. Another highlight is a series at Creighton March 27-29, to be played in Omaha at the site of the College World Series.
This Day In Sports…October 31, 1997:
Six-foot-ten Tim Duncan, the NBA’s top draft pick out of Wake Forest, scores 15 points in his pro debut. His mentor, veteran 7-1 center David Robinson, added 21 as San Antonio opened the season with a 107-96 win over Denver. Duncan would go on to be NBA Rookie of the Year—and the following season would help the Spurs to their first NBA title. The two-time NBA MVP played all 19 seasons of his pro career with San Antonio and is considered basketball’s greatest power forward of all-time.
(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.)