BOISE, Idaho — Friday, December 18, 2020.
Boise State has never seen a season quite like this for turnovers, no matter how many games have been played. Six games in, the Broncos have just three takeaways and zero fumble recoveries. And only one of three picks came in the heat of battle: JL Skinner’s interception versus Colorado State. The other two were picks on desperation throws on the final play of the Utah State and Wyoming games. Boise State is second-to-last in the Mountain West in turnover margin, and that’s only because the Broncos have turned it over only seven times themselves.
So that begs the question: how is San Jose State doing in that category? The Spartans are first in turnover margin and have nine takeaways. Six of them are fumble recoveries. They’ve proven to be really good at ripping the ball out, sometimes even punching at it (that part is weird). Boise State needs to win that battle Saturday in Las Vegas. How do you capture a conference championship without being on the plus-side in turnovers? Maybe you don’t.
A CHANCE FOR BACHMEIER TO RE-BOOT
You know what’s at stake for Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier in the Mountain West championship game: proving that he can shine on the big stage. Bachmeier did just that in his debut at Florida State last year. He did not against Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl last December. He’ll be back on that same Sam Boyd Stadium field Saturday to take on San Jose State. Bachmeier, having missed two games, doesn’t qualify for Mountain West statistical leader lists. If he did, he’d be fourth in pass efficiency with a 147.7 rating, having thrown for six touchdowns against two interceptions. San Jose State’s Nick Starkel is the leader at 164.3, with 13 TDs versus four picks.
JUST TWO COMMON OPPONENTS
It’s hard to compare Boise State and San Jose State going into the Mountain West championship game. Hawaii and Air Force are the only two teams both of them have played. Results against the Rainbow Warriors were similar—the Broncos won 42-32, and the Spartans triumphed 35-24, with each game played in Aloha Stadium. Both teams also defeated the Falcons, but those games were all over the board. San Jose State opened the season with a 17-6 home victory over Air Force, with its defense holding the triple-option to 206 yards on the ground. A week later, the Boise State offense went off at Air Force behind quarterback Jack Sears, winning 49-30 in Colorado Springs. But the Broncos defense, as you recall, yielded 415 yards rushing, the fifth-most in school history. You be the judge.
HARSIN IN THE RUMOR MILL
There’s a lot out there right now about Arizona and Bryan Harsin having “mutual interest.” There are even odds on who might the get the head coaching job vacated when the Wildcats fired Kevin Sumlin last weekend. BetOnline has Joe Salave’a, co-defensive coordinator with Andy Avalos at Oregon and a former Arizona player and assistant coach, as a 4-1 favorite, with Harsin following at 6-1. It’s an interesting time for this to come up, and not just because of tomorrow’s championship game. Harsin’s email account shows that there are some things bugging him right now. But the Wildcats would have to show an all-out commitment to get its program up off the carpet. Chris Petersen got that at Washington seven years ago. But Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins never really did at Arizona State and Colorado, respectively.
MORE HARDWARE ON SATURDAY
The conference championship isn’t the only trophy up for grabs in the Mountain West on Saturday, as an Air Force victory over Army Saturday would secure the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy. Both the Falcons and the Cadets have beaten Navy, so it’s winner-take-all at West Point. This game was originally scheduled for November 7, but Air Force couldn’t play due to coronavirus problems. At the time, Army coach Jeff Monken said, "Apparently they just didn't want to play it this weekend and I'm not sure it all had to do with COVID and those kinds of things." Do you think that’s on the Falcons’ bulletin board? Air Force leads the all-time C-I-C sweepstakes with 21 titles, followed by Navy with 15 and Army with seven.
CREATING SECOND (AND THIRD) CHANCES
Another product of the length Boise State men’s basketball is putting on the court this year: offensive rebounds. The Broncos are pounding the offensive glass, pulling down 11.6 rebounds per game at that end. Mladen Armus leads Boise State with 11 total, and Marcus Shaver Jr. has seven in only three games. But the thread spreads throughout the team. New Mexico, which is slated to be in ExtraMile Arena Monday night, leads the Mountain West in offensive boards at a whopping 21 per game. But the Lobos have played only three games—against Rice, Our Lady of the Lake and Le Tourneau. UNM outrebounded the Le Tourneau Yellow Jackets 73-29 overall Thursday in a 90-58 victory.
NNU WILL SALVAGE WHAT IT CAN
Northwest Nazarene will never forget the 2020-21 basketball season—for all the wrong reasons. NNU is now forced to play as an independent as the Great Northwest Athletic Conference has scrapped plans for an abbreviated schedule with four teams this winter. Six GNAC teams had already opted out of the season, and two more joined them in the past week, leaving just the Nighthawks and Saint Martin’s. NNU will now try to piece something together. The earliest start date would be January 7. (Maybe the Mayors’ Cup game(s) against College of Idaho can still be played now?) Meanwhile the vagabond C of I men continued their pieced-together Division I tour last night, falling 78-54 at Seattle University. The Coyotes are now 1-5, but look out when they play teams their own size again.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS…December 18, 2010, 10 years ago today:
The Humanitarian Bowl moves to the opening day of bowl season for the first time, and Northern Illinois removes the drama early with a 40-17 drubbing of Fresno State. The Huskies had lost coach Jerry Kill to Minnesota and were coming off a stunning last-minute loss to Miami (Ohio) in the MAC Championship Game two weeks earlier. But interim coach Tom Matukewicz glued the team together with his enthusiasm and wit, and Northern Illinois passionately outplayed Pat Hill’s Bulldogs at every turn to finish 11-3.
(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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