BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, November 7, 2019.
There’s only one ball to go around. Boise State wishes there were at least two, because it has a pair of wide receivers who generally make something happen any time they touch it. And with Wyoming coming to the blue turf Saturday night with a reputation for stopping the run, this would be a good time for share-sies. John Hightower had five catches for 129 yards at San Jose State last week and added two rushes for 20 yards, including a game-sealing 15-yarder on a third-and-5 in the fourth quarter. Khalil Shakir didn’t see the ball much, making two receptions for 25 yards and rushing once for 14 after lining up in the backfield (that was a good idea). Imagine if both Hightower and Shakir were rolling at the same time. Only good things happen when they’re involved.
Neither Hightower nor Shakir is in the top 10 in the Mountain West in receptions, but Hightower is the conference leader in yards per catch at 18.8. Sure, opponents pay extra attention to him. The Spartans pooched all night on kickoffs, trying to play keep-away from Hightower. But he made one of the catches of the year at San Jose State while draped in double coverage. Shakir needs the ball. He had seven catches for 111 yards and a touchdown at UNLV but has only six catches combined in the three games since.
FLIP THE OFFENSIVE SCRIPT?
The Wyoming game should present a much different set of parameters this week for the Boise State offense, and that’s where Hightower and Shakir and friends come in. The Broncos ran for 253 yards at San Jose State against the Mountain West’s last-place rush defense. The Cowboys yield just 98 yards per game on the ground, giving up only 2.8 yards per carry. Harsin knows that won’t cut it for his team. “We don’t want 2.8 yards per carry,” he said. “That’s not our goal. We’re going to do everything we can to not let that happen.” Wyoming does allow 289 yards a game passing, though. File that away.
THE OPPONENTS ALWAYS PLAY UP
One of the themes surrounding Boise State football this week is how the Broncos get everybody’s best shot. It happened at San Jose State, and it’s going to happen again Saturday night against Wyoming. Coach Bryan Harsin has to impress that upon his team week after week. “This is our Super Bowl coming up,” said Harsin. “And if our guys don’t think of it that way, that’s the problem.” The 6-2 Cowboys have seen both sides of that coin this season. In their season opener against the SEC’s Missouri Tigers, they played with their hair on fire and pulled off a 37-31 upset. Then two weeks later, the Idaho Vandals gave Wyoming their best shot, and the Pokes escaped with a 21-16 victory.
TRAGEDY FORCES UNM-AFA POSTPONEMENT
The New Mexico football team is having a tough time dealing with the sudden and unexpected death Tuesday of popular starting nose tackle Nahje Flowers. As a result, Saturday’s game between the Lobos and Air Force has been postponed until November 23. Fortunately, both teams has a bye that week. “Our focus is on the family, friends and teammates who have been affected during this difficult time,” said Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson. A cause of death has not been identified. Flowers had been at practice Monday, and no foul play is expected.
SENIOR DAY SNEAKS UP ON ISU
Saturday is already Senior Day for Idaho State. What better day for the Bengals to reverse their stunning slide. ISU has lost three games in a row, clinching a losing season, and will be up against perennial power Eastern Washington in its home finale in Holt Arena. The Eagles, however, are 4-5 and are trying to avoid a losing season themselves. Three prominent Bengals seniors are from the Treasure Valley. Skyview’s Kody Graves is Idaho State’s leading tackler with 78 stops, including 5.5 for loss, plus an interception. Vallivue’s Dallen Collins and Capital’s Jake Molenaar play alongside each other on the offensive line at center and left guard, respectively.
HOW HIGH CAN THE BOUNCE-BACK BE?
Boise State coach Leon Rice was on Idaho SportsTalk Tuesday and reflected on last winter’s 20-loss season, the first in school history. Chemistry played a part, according to Rice. “It’s not about the X’s and O’s, you’ve got to half your culture right,” Rice said. “We’ve got everybody pulling the rope in the same direction.” And that was before the record-setting 126-49 win over Life Pacific later that evening. ESPN’s Jay Bilas, the “Bilastrator,” charted his top 68 college basketball for this season on Tuesday (representing the size of the field in the NCAA Tournament). He actually has Boise State at No. 66, the second-best ranking in the Mountain West behind Utah State. “Leon Rice has done a great job with this program, and the Broncos should be back this season,” writes Bilas.
FAMILIAR FOES IN DIFFERENT COLORS
You might do a double-take when you hear these guys’ names for Oregon against Boise State Saturday night. During the offseason, the Ducks picked up graduate transfers Shakur Juiston from UNLV and Anthony Mathis from New Mexico. Juiston played only eight games for the Rebels last year before his season was derailed by injury. Mathis’ departure from the Lobos came as a surprise in June, but he was anxious to reconnect with UO star Payton Pritchard; they won three Oregon 6A state titles together at West Linn High School. Juiston had games of 25 and 17 points against the Broncos two seasons ago. Both Juiston and Mathis started Tuesday night in Oregon’s 71-57 season-opening win over Fresno State.
The table is set for the Boise State women’s soccer team. The Broncos are home for the Mountain West Tournament, and they take on New Mexico today in the semifinals. San Diego State faces Fresno State in the other semi. For the first time this season, the wheels fell off for the Idaho Steelheads last night. The Steelies absorbed a 5-1 pounding in the first game of their three-game series at Rapid City. And catching up on Graham DeLaet: last week he played his third PGA Tour event since his layoff of nearly two years, missing the cut at the Bermuda Championship. A second-round 69 wasn’t enough for the Eagle resident and former Boise State star to recover from a first-round 76. The tour has this week off.
This Day In Sports…November 7, 1959, 60 years ago today:
Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain play against each other for the first time as the Celtics beat the Philadelphia Warriors, 115-106, at Boston Garden. The numbers? Chamberlain had 30 points and 30 rebounds—Russell scored 22 points and pulled down 35 boards. It’s still probably the greatest man-to-man rivalry in the history of pro basketball.
(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.)