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Boise State football: Vanquished in Vegas

The national aura (I hesitate to say brand) of Boise State football took a hit Saturday night. The team people once knew as the little train that could—couldn’t.

BOISE, Idaho — Editor's Note: The video above is the Broncos' post-game press conference following the Las Vegas Bowl.

(Tom Scott's column will return Friday.  Merry Christmas!)

Monday, December 23, 2019. 

Local fans generally want Chris Petersen to be happy, but not this happy.  Washington’s 38-7 rout of Boise State in Saturday night’s Las Vegas Bowl puts a powerful capper on Coach Pete’s career and effectively launches the Huskies’Jimmy Lake era.  For the Broncos, it is painful.  Despite a 12-2 season that should be rightfully celebrated, the national perception—that of an ABC audience who saw it—is that Boise State didn’t belong.  In a way, it feels like the 31-12 loss to Baylor in the 2016 Cactus Bowl, the Broncos’ previous worst loss in a bowl game, in that now they have to rebuild their national credibility again.  The difference is that the Huskies were a much better team than Baylor.  Nevertheless, Boise State has to live with this until next September. 

RELATED: Watch the Broncos' post-game press conference after the Huskies blow out Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl

RELATED: Huskies smash the Broncos 38-7 the in Las Vegas Bowl and Chris Petersen's finale


The question that will linger, as much as coach Bryan Harsin would like it to go away, is why Jaylon Henderson didn’t enter the game earlier at quarterback.  Starting Hank Bachmeier wasn’t a bad thing.  He began the season as the No. 1 guy and had gone 7-0 as a starter.  Bachmeier’s also the future of the program.  But he was clearly out of sorts, and his two interceptions took away any hopes of a Boise State comeback.  It’s amazing that Washington had no sacks in the game, because the Huskies were harassing Bachmeier, and they knew it. 

A telltale instruction by Huskies defensive coordinator (and now head coach) Jimmy Lake to his defense in the second quarter was picked up by ESPN’s Molly McGrath and shared on the telecast: “Keep the pressure on.  Their quarterback is panicking and taking bad shots.”  Right after that, Bachmeier overthrew a wide-open Robert Mahone in the flat on a third-and-three.  The score was 14-0 at the time, and the game may still have been salvageable.  The only good Broncos drive of the night was Henderson’s 11-play, 77-yarder in the middle of the third quarter that resulted in the only Boise State touchdown.  


There’s really no way around this.  Saturday night's Las Vegas Bowl, the last game of the decade, was one of Boise State's downers of the decade.  (We're going on margin of victory here, so the 2015 loss to New Mexico on the blue turf doesn't count.)  The 31-point loss to the Huskies in Vegas is second only this decade to the 38-6 loss to UW in Seattle in 2013, when—ironically—Chris Petersen was coaching the Broncos.  The rest of the list: 26 points in the 52-26 stunner at Utah State in 2015; 23 points in the 44-21 thumping at Oklahoma State last year; and 22 points in the 35-13 loss to Ole Miss in the 2014 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta in Harsin's first game as head coach.  But really, if this list is as bad as it gets over a 10-year period, you've got a pretty good program. 

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The basic team stats in this game didn't look too bad, but it doesn’t take much to read between the lines.  Boise State gained a season-low 266 yards on offense, averaging just 4.5 yards per play.  Washington didn't blow the doors off, though, with 341 yards of total offense and 5.0 yards per play.  If that’s all the farther you go, it kind of looks like a 24-17 game.  The Broncos defense didn't play horribly, but it didn't force any turnovers and allowed UW to convert 50 percent on third down. The Boise State offense committed three turnovers—the two Bachmeier picks were killers.  The Broncos converted only 27 percent of their third downs and were stuck in bad field position virtually all night.  The turnovers helped Washington to an average starting field position at its own 42-yard-line. 


What got into San Diego State Saturday?  The Aztecs walloped Central Michigan 48-11 Saturday in the New Mexico Bowl, improving on a season scoring average that had been 19 points per game coming in (do ya think?).  The win snapped a three-game bowl losing streak for SDSU.  Aztecs coach Rocky Long is now 4-9 in bowl games.  The Mountain West’s bowl season opened Friday night, and Utah State lost to Kent State 51-41 in the Frisco Bowl.  It was the Golden Flashes’ first bowl win in their history.  You can’t blame NFL-bound USU quarterback Jordan Love for this one.  Love was 30-of-39 for 317 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in his Aggies finale.  


It looked like the Boise State men were going to give Bronco Nation some yearned-for good news Sunday afternoon, as they led Georgia Tech by five points at halftime in their Diamond Head Classic opener in Honolulu.  It could have been a double-digit margin had the Broncos not missed a handful of point-blank shots in the paint.  But early in the second half, the Yellow Jackets went on a 24-4 run and cruised to a 74-60 win.  This one stings, because the game was there for the taking.  But Boise State shot just 33 percent from the field, and Georgia Tech dominated on the offensive glass in the second half.  Abu Kigab led the Broncos with 17 points in his program debut.  The Oregon transfer also added three rebounds, two steals and two assists in 29 minutes. 


The Boise State women rallied from a final-minute deficit to win for a third time this month, edging Pepperdine 76-74 Sunday in ExtraMile Arena.  With the Broncos trailing 74-72, Riley Lupfer nailed a three-pointer with 41 seconds left to put Boise State ahead for good.  That capped a fourth quarter that saw five ties and four lead changes.  Mallory McGwire led the Broncos with 20 points and seven rebounds, and Rachel Bowers had eight boards in the final non-conference game of the season.  The team is off until New Year’s Day. 


The streak is now five straight for the Idaho Steelheads after two more wins at Norfolk over the weekend.  There were two primary offensive catalysts for the Steelheads, as Marc-Olivier Roy scored two goals in a 4-1 win Saturday night after Max Coatta had tallied twice in a 3-2 victory Friday night.  Keegan Kanzig was the hero in that one, though, as he scored his first goal of the season with 17 seconds left in regulation for the game-winner.  Colton Point and Tomas Sholl each picked up victories between the pipes for Idaho.


Congratulations to College of Idaho seniors Josh Brown and Kyle Mitchell, honored Friday as first-team NAIA AP All-Americans.  Brown was a four-year starter at offensive tackle, starting a school-record 45 games.  He also has invites to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Hula Bowl next month.  Mitchell set single-season C of I records with 55 extra points and 15 field goals—and Yotes fans will never forget his walk-off 58-yard field goal against Montana Tech that saved an undefeated regular season.  Also on the Caldwell campus, the Coyotes men’s basketball team is home after taking down Oregon Tech 77-65 Friday night in Klamath Falls in a rematch of the NAIA Division II Tournament semifinals last March.  C of I then downed Southern Oregon 70-49 in Ashland Saturday night. 

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…December 23, 2008:

The final game of Ian Johnson’s storied Boise State career comes in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego.  The ninth-ranked Broncos were matched against 11th-ranked TCU in the most anticipated of that year’s non-BCS bowl games.  Johnson ran for a first quarter touchdown, the 58th rushing TD of his career to break Marshall Faulk’s WAC record.  Otherwise, though, the Horned Frogs bottled up Boise State and rallied from a 13-0 deficit for a 17-16 victory.  Johnson finished his career with 4,183 rushing yards, second on the Broncos’ all-time list behind Cedric Minter.

(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.)