Scott Slant Wednesday Weekly: Shades of last season’s Shaver

There were times during Boise State’s championship season a year ago that Marcus Shaver Jr. had his struggles. At Utah State, for example, when Shaver’s only basket of the night was…a game-winning three-pointer. It wasn’t quite that bad last night, as Shaver scored six first-half points. But he had endured an 0-for-4 second half, and the Broncos were in a dogfight with San Jose State. The game was tied 64-64, but Boise State put the ball in Shaver’s hands anyway on its final possession. He worked the clock down and coolly hit a step-back three with 2.4 seconds left to give the Broncos a 67-64 win over the vastly improved Spartans. “I saw what I wanted,” Shaver told the Mountain West Network after the game. “That was my time. Everybody knows that’s my time.” It Shaver doing Shaver-esque things.

We need to dig a little deeper on this one, though. Things were going swimmingly in ExtraMile Arena midway through the game. Boise State led San Jose State by 12 points at halftime, shooting 50 percent from the field. The Broncos then got the lead to 14 several times in the second half. The last time, though, was with 14 minutes left. Then came a scoring drought that saw just one basket in almost nine minutes, as Boise State shot just 32 percent after the break. The Spartans whittled it down—and took the lead with three minutes remaining. They also wore the Broncos down. Boise State is not getting the bench support it needs—all five of its starters logged 32 minutes or more on the night.


The Mountain West is worth the price of admission this season, and one of the many reasons is Utah State. The Aggies, who are headed for ExtraMile Arena Saturday afternoon, are now 13-2 overall and 2-0 in the Mountain West after a 77-65 victory Tuesday night at Air Force. There’s no more Justin Bean or Brandon Horvath or Brock Miller at USU. No matter. Get used to names like Taylor Funk and Dan Akin and Max Shulga, all averaging more than 12 points per game. But veteran Steven Ashworth is the biggest threat for a team that was hitting a torrid 43 percent from three-point range going into last night’s game. Ashworth began the week as not only the Mountain West leader in that category, but also the nation’s No.1 at 53.5 percent.


With George Holani confirming he’ll return to Boise State this year, Bronco Nation is salivating over the team’s running backs room. Alongside Holani, there’ll be Ashton Jeanty, the breakout back as a true freshman, and new signee Breezy Dubar, the speedster from Anna, TX (with a nod to Elelyon Noa, Tyler Crowe and Kaden Dudley). Could this be better than Boise State’s stable of running backs in 2009? Who knows? After all, Dubar hasn’t played a down yet. In ’09, the year after Ian Johnson’s graduation, the Broncos went into the season with Jeremy Avery, Doug Martin and D.J. Harper. Hoo boy. And still only one ball.

Unfortunately, Harper was lost for the season in Game 3 at Fresno State (just after a 60-yard touchdown run). Avery and Martin shared it the rest of the way, combining for more than 1,900 yards and 21 touchdowns. It was Avery who started Boise State’s streak of 11 consecutive seasons with 1,000-yard rushers in 2009, and it was Holani who finished it as a true freshman in 2019. Holani started what Boise State hopes is another streak with his 1,157 yards on the ground this past season. And as KTVB’s Jay Tust points out, he’s one Jay Ajayi-type monster season away from the Broncos’ career rushing record. With 1,628 yards this year, Holani would break Cedric Minter’s 43-year-old career mark of 4,475 yards.


With bowl season now over and just the CFP national championship game remaining next Monday, here are your team rushing leaders in 2022 bowls. Arkansas racked up 394 yards on the ground in its 55-53 triple-overtime win over Kansas in the Liberty Bowl. Frank Gore Jr. of Southern Miss rolled up 329 yards all by himself in the Lending Tree Bowl (the Eagles had 361 overall). And Boise State, with its 318 yards in the Frisco Bowl win over North Texas, was third, as Jeanty rushed for 178 yards and Taylen Green for 119. Fourth was Tulane, which ran for 305 yards in its dramatic Group of 5 flag-bearing win over USC in the Cotton Bowl.


Bit by bit, the smoke clears on Boise State players opting in on their extra COVID eligibility. As far as Riley Smith’s story goes, well, we look forward to the final chapter as he becomes a sixth-year senior. Smith’s Bronco journey began on National Letter of Intent Day in 2018, when he signed as a quarterback out of St. Augustine, FL, essentially the replacement for Zach Wilson after he reneged just before early signing day and committed to BYU. It has sure evolved from there. Smith switched to tight end for the 2019 season, and it wasn’t just a place to put him. He has since made 48 catches for 455 yards and three touchdowns and has become the leader of the tight ends room. Just one thing new offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan might want to file away: despite his background, Smith has not thrown a pass yet.


No one questioned Kekani Holomalia-Gonzalez’s ability to be a signal-caller on the Boise State offensive line, but his body apparently won’t let him continue. Holomalia-Gonzalez announced via Twitter Tuesday that he is retiring from football. The senior center played his first game for the Broncos back in 2018 and became the full-time starter during the COVID year in 2020. But Holomalia-Gonzalez was not able to play at all in 2021 due to an undisclosed injury that was never reconciled. He was able to play in 11 of 14 games this past season. By the way, defensive tackle Divine Obichere announced Tuesday he will not be back either. Obichere’s a long shot for an NFL camp, but he sure would have come in handy as a Bronco next fall.


There was immediate debate in the Twitterverse on New Year’s Eve: Was TCU’s 51-45 win over Michigan the best Fiesta Bowl ever? Bronco Nation’s position was clear: No, of course. Well, and this was before Tulane’s Cotton Bowl win over USC, The Athletic revised its 2021 list of the 50 best Bowl games ever based on the drama of the two CFP Playoff semifinals (Georgia’s 42-41 Peach Bowl win has to be up there somewhere, right?) The Horned Frogs’ rousing victory over the Wolverines is No. 21 on the reworked list, and is, in fact, only the fourth best Fiesta Bowl. The Bulldogs’ win over the Buckeyes is No. 17. Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl upset of Oklahoma—16 years ago now—remains No. 3 all-time behind the 2006 Rose Bowl and the 1984 Orange Bowl.


First, it was Jake Kupsky. He was ECHL Goaltender of the Month in November for the Idaho Steelheads. Then it was Remi Poirier, who was named Goaltender of the Week in mid-December. Now it’s Adam Scheel, the new ECHL Goaltender of the Week after going 2-0 with his first pro shutout, a 1.00 goals-against average and a save percentage of .963 in two starts at Utah last week. Scheel is 10-1 with the Steelheads this season and is tied for the ECHL lead with a .934 save percentage (he’s second in the league with a 1.92 goals-against average). Goaltending has been at the core of one of the best starts in all of pro hockey, as the Steelies are 25-3-1 going into a three-game series at Wichita beginning tonight. Idaho has held its opponents to two or fewer goals in 20 of 29 games this year.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by POOL SCOUTS…perfect pools, scout’s honor!

January 4, 2005: The final college football rankings are released for the 2004 season, and Boise State has its highest combined finish ever—12th in the AP Poll and 13th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. The 11-1 Broncos had been ranked 10th on both lists after their unbeaten regular season—and as high as 7th at one point in the BCS standings. They fell only nominally in the final polls after the respect they earned in a hard-fought 44-41 loss to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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