BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday, February 20, 2019. 

No game of tag Tuesday—so Demarcus Lawrence isn’t “it” yet.  “It” would be the Dallas Cowboys’ franchise tag, something the former Boise State star played under last season (for a cool $17 million).  The tag this year would earn him $20 mill, but Lawrence doesn’t want to do it for a second season.  He wants a long-term deal that would top $20 million per year, which would be fitting for an elite NFL defensive end.  The Cowboys will try to reach a deal with Lawrence between now and March 5, the deadline to apply the franchise tag to a player.  If an agreement’s not done by then, Dallas would go the franchise route, giving the team until July 15, the NFL's deadline to sign a franchised player to a new contract. 

If he does get franchised, the expectation is that Lawrence would stay away from the team at least until training camp.  Now, that may be a moot point, as a shoulder injury will keep the 26-year-old out of the Cowboys’ offseason program anyway.  Lawrence has put off surgery while the two sides try to work out a deal (and he definitely would prefer to stay in Dallas).  He has a torn left labrum, and the typical recovery period is three to four months, making even the Cowboys’ June minicamp doubtful.  Training camp could also be impacted if negotiations drag and Lawrence keeps delaying the operation.

RUNNING THE TABLE NOW REQUIRED

From the “Reality Bites” department comes the likelihood of Boise State’s first losing season in seven years.  It’s almost assured, as the Broncos’ current 11-15 record would require them to win all five of their remaining conference games to guarantee a .500 finish, and then they’d need a victory in the Mountain West Tournament to achieve a winning season.  Will all that said, Boise State has an excellent chance at a bounce-back next year.  This team lacks a dominant player as it essentially saves up for the future, but it has been routed only once—93-73 at Nevada 2½ weeks ago.  The Broncos next-worst loss has been by 14 points at Air Force.  They’ve lost by 12 points three times, 11 and 10 once and single-digits eight times.  Six of those, as has been so well-chronicled, have been by a single possession.

I’D PAY TO SEE ‘EM

I don’t know how many Boise State fans will travel to Salt Lake City in July to see it, but the proposed Boise State dream team B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press wrote about Tuesday would be worth it.  Rains projected four former Bronco stars—Derrick Marks, Anthony Drmic, James Webb III and Ryan Watkins—as anchors of a Boise State alumni team that would play in “The Basketball Tournament,” a 64-team summer event made up predominantly of Division I alumni squads and televised by ESPN.  The grand prize is $2 million.  Rains reported that Rob Heyer, Christian Sengfelder, Lexus Williams and Reggie Larry have also indicated interest, along with current Bronco Zach Haney.  Former Bronco staffer and current Vallivue head coach Ryan Lundgren would coach the crew.  The championship round is the first week of August in Chicago.

CAN THE NEVADA ARMADA BE STOPPED?

The next “Game of the Year” in the Mountain West is tonight—Nevada and San Diego State in Viejas Arena.  The Aztecs are 6-0 at home in league play and have a 12-game streak overall against conference foes.  Will that mean anything against the No. 6 team in the country?  Although SDSU has won six of its last seven games, it didn’t look like a world-beater against Boise State last Saturday.  But Viejas is the only Mountain West building in which Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman has yet to win, and his 2-5 record overall against the Aztecs is the only losing mark he has in the conference.  San Diego State busted up the Pack 90-73 in the MW Tournament semifinals last year.  And the Aztecs’ crowd will revert to its old rabid self—likely to fill up the 12,414-seat arena. 

HOME IS WHERE THE WINS ARE

History favors College of Idaho when the Cascade Conference quarterfinals tip off against Warner Pacific tonight in Caldwell.  The Coyotes have played 54 all-time postseason games at home (between Kirkpatrick Gym, O’Connor Fieldhouse and the J.A. Albertson Activities Center), posting a 45-9 all-time record.  The Yotes are 21-7 in their current arena.  The other thing in C of I’s corner: it’s the No. 2 seed in the tournament, and Warner Pacific is No. 7.  The Yotes swept the Knights during the regular season, but they won by only 10 points at home 11 days ago.

ONE PATH TO THE NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT

The Mountain West is poised to place only one women’s team in the NCAA Tournament this year.  If it’s Boise State, currently in first place at 12-1 in conference and 21-3 overall, the new ESPNW bracketology projections have the Broncos as a No. 12 seed.  That would surely be an improvement over last year, when Boise State was saddled with a No. 16 seed and had to play on Louisville’s home floor.  As a 12, the Broncos would at least have a shot on a neutral court.  They’ll have to win the MW tournament, though.  The NCAA women’s RPI this week places Boise State down one spot to No. 53—and, with automatic bids filling so much of the 64-team field, that’s too far down the line to expect an at-large bid.

AN EVEN MATCHUP ON STEELIES HOME ICE

The Idaho Steelheads’ homestand continues tonight as they begin a three-game series against Tulsa.  They’re tied with the Oilers for second place in the ECHL Mountain Division, one point behind the Utah Grizzlies.  Fittingly, this has been a very competitive series all season as the two teams prepare for their final meetings of the regular season.  The Steelies are 3-3-1 against Tulsa, who took two of three games in Boise in November.  Variety has been the spice for Idaho offensively this season, as seven different players have now recorded 10 goals and 20 points.  The latest to join the club is Elgin Pearce, who had game-tying and game-winning goals last week. 

This Day In Sports…February 20, 1963:

Centerfielder Willie Mays signs a contract with the San Francisco Giants that will pay him $100,000 for the 1963 season, making him baseball’s highest-salaried player.  The Giants were rewarding Mays for leading the team to their first pennant since moving to San Francisco in 1958 (it would be 27 years before they’d get another).  Mays led the National League in 1962 with 49 homers and drove in 141 runs.

(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.)