Friday, November 9, 2018.

You can count Boise State’s losses on the blue turf since 1999 on two hands. The Broncos are 119-8 at home in that time. But they’re the underdog tonight in Albertsons Stadium in their quest to grab the Milk Can back from Fresno State. It seems odd to be talking about Boise State needing to pull an upset at home, but that’s the hand that’s been dealt. The Broncos will need Brett Rypien’s most efficient game of the season against the Bulldogs, and the defense will need Zeke Noa or Tony Lashley or Blake Whitlock to carry the flag for the injured Riley Whimpey at linebacker. Boise State will have to figure out a way to score, like, 30 points. And to keep Fresno State from doing the same. Neither task will be easy.

Fresno State takes care of the ball, having turned it over only three times in the past six games. Boise State has been lacking in interceptions this season, but not in forcing fumbles. The Bronco defense has only five picks, tied for 95th in the country. And it hasn’t had an interception the past two games. Avery Williams is the leader with two. Conversely, Tyler Horton (Fresno native that he is) leads the nation in fumble recoveries with four, and the Broncos are second in the country behind Ohio State as a team with 12. The Broncos will see a focused opponent tonight, though. The Bulldogs have not lost a regular season Mountain West road game in seven tries under Jeff Tedford.

About that Milk Can. It’s the only regular season trophy Boise State plays for. The Milk Can was created by dairymen in the Treasure Valley and San Joaquin Valley, who have always had a friendly rivalry. And there are lots of Fresno area dairymen in town for tonight’s game. It was introduced to the series in 2005, but was not ready in time for that year’s Broncos-Bulldogs game, which was won by Fresno State in Bulldog Stadium. So the Milk Can made its first appearance in 2006, when the Broncos carried it off the blue turf after a key win on the way to their first Fiesta Bowl. The Milk Can is only awarded for regular-season games, so the Bulldogs have it now based on their 28-17 victory on Thanksgiving weekend last year—and whoever takes it home tonight will have it until 2021, when these teams are next scheduled to meet.

Quarterback Marcus Maryion has improved steadily over his time at Fresno State, and it’s been a natural progression. He didn’t arrive in Fresno until August of 2017 after leaving a sour situation at Oregon State. He had to learn the system, and didn’t take over as the Bulldogs’ starter until the end of September. What McMariyon has done with a full year under Jeff Tedford’s tutelage is on display now. He gets rid of the ball quickly, and he tucks and runs when appropriate. That’s one of the reasons he’s been sacked only five times all season. That turns the spotlight to Curtis Weaver and Jabril Frazier, Boise State’s sackmasters. Can they possibly get to McMaryion? You know how badly they want to. “When those two guys are playing well—Jabril and Curtis—good things will usually happen for us,” said coach Bryan Harsin.

How can you not credit Tedford massively for what’s happened in Fresno? To go from 1-11 before he arrived to 10-4 last year to 8-1 now with a shot at a New Year’s Six bowl? That just tells me Cal should have been careful what it wished for when it fired Tedford after the 2013 season. He remains the winningest coach in Bears football history with 82 victories. It was also during Tedford’s tenure that Berkeley’s aging Memorial Stadium was totally renovated and modernized. (Wouldn’t Fresno State like to see creaky Bulldog Stadium follow the same path?) Tedford had 40 players drafted into the NFL while he was at Cal. There were eight first-round picks, including one named Aaron Rodgers.

A SENIOR DAY, A MAJOR AWARD CANDIDATE AND A DEEP FREEZE

Idaho will honor 11 players tomorrow on Senior Day, many of whom have seen just about everything as Vandals. Some were sophomores when Idaho defeated Colorado State 61-50 in that thrilling Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in 2016. Now they wrap up their Kibbie Dome days playing for the Little Brown Stein against Montana. The two highest-profile seniors are linebacker Kaden Elliss and running back Isaiah Saunders. Elsewhere, Idaho State goes to Cal Poly tomorrow as a solid favorite against the Mustangs. The Bengals will again turn loose quarterback Tanner Gueller, newly-named to the Walter Payton Award watch list. And if you think it’s chilly here, how would you like to be College of Idaho? The Coyotes wrap up the season against MSU Northern in Havre, MT, where the high’s going to be 30 with 20 mile-per-hour winds.

RICE KEEPS ROLLIN'

It gets earlier every year. The Boise State men’s basketball season tips off tomorrow night against Idaho State in Taco Bell Arena. The Bengals are already underway, having been thumped 120-79 by Gonzaga Tuesday night in Spokane. It was the most points allowed by ISU in 53 years. Just by non-Chandler Hutchison osmosis, this one should be a lot closer. On the other hand, the Broncos have won 24 straight non-conference home games. Leon Rice, the dean of Mountain West coaches, begins his ninth season with Boise State, working on a streak of six consecutive 20-win seasons. The Broncos are the only team in the conference to finish no worse than third in the regular season the past four years.

BRONCO WOMEN ARE UNDERWAY

The Boise State women built a 15-point lead after three quarters last night in Taco Bell Arena and cruised to a 74-63 win over Cal State Northridge, the defending Big West champion. Marta Hermida led the Broncos with 16 points, including four three-pointers. Inside it was Joyce Harrell and A’Shanti Coleman doing the work, combining for 17 rebounds and six blocked shots. BSU hosts Southern Oregon tomorrow afternoon. Also, Boise State’s nationally-ranked cross country teams seek berths at nationals when they run in the NCAA West Regional today in Sacramento. The top two teams get automatic bids—after that, there’ll be 13 at-large spots divvied up across the country. The Bronco women are currently No. 3 in the nation, and the men are No. 9.

THE STEELIES AND THEIR GOALIE GLUT

The Idaho Steelheads are still carrying three goalies going into the final two games of their three-game series against Tulsa in CenturyLink Arena. Coltin Point got the start Wednesday night and got the win in the 3-2 decision over the Oilers. The Steelheads are more or less obligated to the Dallas Stars organization to give Point some work between the pipes. But the Steelies also have two other capable guys in Tomas Sholl and Ryan Faragher. At the other end, Steve McParland continues to lead Idaho five goals and 11 points on the season.

This Day In Sports…November 9, 2010:

Dan Hawkins, the coach whose relentless forward-thinking had turned Boise State into a top 25 team, is fired as the head man at Colorado. The move came with three games remaining in the season—three days after the Buffaloes had blown a 28-point fourth quarter lead and lost at Kansas, 52-45. What worked in building the Broncos’ program never took root in Boulder, where the culture and, surprisingly, the support were entirely different. After a 53-11 record in five years at Boise State, Hawk went 19-39 with the Buffs.

(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.)