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Boise State football: Celebrating a winning season

It was a footnote I brought up every season in this column. When Boise State won its seventh game, it turned the page on another winning season.

BOISE, Idaho — Monday, November 22, 2021.

These things were underappreciated around here for a long time. But not this year. Boise State has clinched a winning season for the 24th consecutive year, the longest streak in the country. Five weeks ago, when the Broncos record was 3-4, there were many who wondered where those four wins they needed were going to come from. But here they are, all in a row after Saturday night’s 37-0 shutout of New Mexico. Here’s something to appreciate. This is Boise State’s 54th season as a four-year program, and there have been winning seasons in 48 of them. Now, can the Broncos get to another Mountain West championship game? Even with Wyoming’s 44-17 walloping of Utah State, it’s bleak. In addition to Boise State having to beat San Diego State this Friday, Air Force would need to lose at home to UNLV.

DEFENSE KEEPS AMPING UP

Yes, it was New Mexico, the lowest-scoring team in the country. But the Boise State defense took it up another notch in logging its first shutout in six years. At times the Lobos couldn’t get out of their own way, but the Broncos had a lot to do with that, as they limited UNM to 102 total yards, the fewest since the epic 33-yard performance against Northern Illinois in the 2015 Poinsettia Bowl. New Mexico managed just 18 yards passing, the fewest against Boise State since 1979, and two pass completions, the fewest versus the Broncos since 1976. And Boise State allowed just 84 yards rushing—and rushing is all the Lobos can do. The improvement in the Broncos defensive line has been palpable. The last five opponents not named Air Force have rushed for just 102 yards per game on Boise State.

QUICKSAND INSIDE THE 20

The elephant in the room is Boise State’s red zone woes going into the showdown at San Diego State on Black Friday morning. Sure, Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 defense at New Mexico can give anybody problems, but for the Broncos to get just one touchdown from their first-team offense is concerning. The only TD on a red zone trip came in mop-up time in the fourth quarter on Jack Sears’ one-yard run. And then there were all the times Boise State didn’t even get there—two of Jonah Dalmas’ three field goals were from outside the red zone. Hank Bachmeier was just 11-of-22 through the air (although to be fair, the 56-yard touchdown throw to Khalil Shakir was about the prettiest of his career). George Holani saved the day with his 114 yards rushing, between the 20s at least.

SENIOR OF THE NIGHT ON SENIOR NIGHT

His aim was to shine on Senior Night, and he did. Skakir had seven catches for 116 yards to go over the 1,000-yard mark for the season and 200 receptions for his career. He’s the first 1,000-yard receiver at Boise State since Cedrick Wilson four years ago, and he joins Matt Miller, Shane Williams-Rhodes, Austin Pettis, Thomas Sperbeck and Titus Young in the 200-catch club (he now has 202). Shakir actually had a drop, of all things, on the Broncos’ first play from scrimmage, but you knew that was just a hangover from the ceremony that had just finished. Shakir also had a 33-yard run out of the wildcat and a 23-yard kickoff return. Think the Broncos will miss that guy?

CHARLESTON TRIP PAYS OFF

The Charleston Classic was worth Boise State’s while. After following the Thursday loss to No 22 St. Bonaventure with an 82-62 rout of Temple Friday, the Broncos rallied for a 60-50 win over Ole Miss Sunday to wrap it up. Boise State trailed 46-39 midway through the second half—then the Broncos flipped the switch and went on a 21-4 run over the final nine minutes to blow past the Rebels. Boise State endured a subpar day from three-point range at 29 percent and were an icy 10-for-21 from the free-throw line, but they got it done with defense. Ole Miss, which came into the game averaging 80.5 points per game, were held to 1-for-9 shooting and saw the Broncos force five turnovers after they got the lead. Marcus Shaver Jr. led the team with 13 points, and Mladen Armus had an impactuful double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

STEELIES GO LOCAL

The Idaho Steelheads came close to their first series sweep of the season, but a Saturday night rally against Adirondack fell short in a 2-1 loss. The milestone of the weekend came when Steelheads forward Zach Walker became the first Boise native to score a goal in franchise history, tallying in the third period of Idaho’s 5-1 win. It was the fifth career professional goal for the former Chuck-A-Puck salesman, who signed with the Steelheads two months ago after opting out last season. Walker played for Pensacola of the SPHL two years ago after finishing his collegiate career at Boston College. As for the Steelies, they’re now 8-6 after taking two of three games against the Thunder.

MERRITT IN THE MONEY AGAIN

Troy Merritt padded his paycheck Sunday with a five-under 65 on the final day of the RSM Classic in Sea Island, GA. Merritt’s bogey-free round included an eagle on the par-five 15th, and he finished in a tie for 22nd to earn $72,360. The former Boise State star also picked up 38 more FedEx Cup points, moving him up six spots in the Cup standings going into Thanksgiving break.

BATTLE OF THE EXITS

Not only was Saturday’s Battle of the Domes Paul Petrino’s finale as coach at Idaho, it turns out that Idaho State had also decided to cut ties with Rob Phenecie, creating a weird atmosphere in Holt Arena. Petrino leaves with a better taste in his mouth, as two short rushing touchdowns in the first quarter held up in a 14-0 Idaho victory. The Bengals managed just 246 total yards and stubbed their toes on their only two trips into the red zone, once on a lost fumble and the other on a missed field goal. The Vandals mustered only 218 yards. Idaho finishes 4-7, and Idaho State ends up 1-11 as both programs search for a new direction.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…November 22, 2003:

Utah ends BYU's NCAA-record streak of 361 consecutive games without being shut out when the Utes, under first-year coach Urban Meyer, edge the Cougars 3-0 in Provo. Blustery winds and bouts of snow limited both offenses as a 41-yard Bryan Borreson field goal was enough for Utah to clinch the Mountain West title, its first outright conference championship since 1957. The Cougars, who had scored in every game dating back to October, 1975, ended with their first back-to-back losing seasons in 32 years. By the way, Boise State has scored in 310 consecutive games, the sixth-longest active streak in the country.

(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.) 

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