Guaranteeing a win in a big game can become part of one’s mystique, like Joe Namath before Super Bowl III. Or it can blow up in one’s face, like in every case when said guarantee is followed by a loss.
Matt Rhule, hired by Baylor last week to take over as head coach next season, said junior wide receiver KD Cannon promised him the Bears would beat Boise State in the Cactus Bowl on Dec. 27 in Phoenix.
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin heard about it, and now he has a little extra motivation for his own team to win.
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“I can certainly tell you it doesn’t hurt,” Harsin said Tuesday.
When bowl season rolls around every year, often the team that is more motivated to be there is the one that winds up on top.
Of the 80 teams playing in bowl games this year, perhaps none seems less motivated than Baylor, which won its first six games, but has since lost six in a row.
Interim coach Jim Grobe is on the way out, quarterback Seth Russell is out with an injury and the scandal-ridden program should be more eager than anyone to turn the calendar to 2017.
But that’s not necessarily a given.
“A lot of young kids, a lot of injuries to key guys like Seth, it’s a good thing our guys have an opportunity to play in a bowl game,” Grobe said. “Especially for our seniors, give them a great send-off.”
That senior class helped the Bears win 32 games their first three seasons before this year’s 6-6 campaign. It also provides extra practices for the teams. Harsin said the Broncos will practice 13 times for bowl preparation.
Boise State used its most recent bowl game, last year’s 55-7 drubbing of Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia, as a springboard into this season. Again, that is the hope in two weeks. Harsin said the team would like some hardware after not getting a shot to win the Mountain West championship trophy.
“We’ve been back to work, very focused, understanding we get one more shot and we want to finish with a win. We want to correct all the things from the season that we needed to work on,” Harsin said. “Energy’s been great; focus has been great.
“We’re really creating the direction we’re headed for ’17.”
Whether trying to impress a new coach, like Rhule in Baylor’s case; or some youngsters trying to show they’re worthy of bigger roles in Boise State’s case, both teams might have more to play for beyond offseason motivation.
“They certainly will have a sense of urgency, so we expect to get Baylor’s very best, and we’ll have to bring ours as well,” Harsin said.
NO DEPARTURES, YET
Harsin said distractions have mostly been kept to a minimum, though not without noteworthy topics like his reported interest in the Oregon opening or junior running back Jeremy McNichols’ possible NFL career.
A Friday report stated McNichols would leave school early for the NFL Draft, but his mother told the Statesman that no decision has been made.
“That conversation, we’ve had very little conversation over it right now,” Harsin said. “Certainly, if you look at the history of our tailbacks, they’ve had a lot of success, and they’ve done well in the NFL. He’s done a great job. We’ll sit down, and we’ll crunch some more numbers.”
GET A BEAD ON THAT SPEED
Baylor is No. 5 in FBS in total offense (523.3 yards per game), and has finished No. 1 or 2 in that category every year since 2011.
Harsin said a prime reason for the consistency is speed. Since speed is difficult to replicate, Harsin joked Tuesday about how the Broncos are getting ready to defend the Bears.
“I brought my dad’s Alcohol Funny Car down, and we tried to cover it,” Harsin said about his drag-racing father.
▪ The Broncos are expected to sign Mesa (Ariz.) Community College quarterback Rathen Ricedorff on Wednesday, giving them five scholarship quarterbacks for next year with another one planning to sign in February.
Junior Tommy Stuart is set to graduate this weekend and could be a transfer possibility, but Harsin said nothing has happened yet. “We have a plan if something does (happen),’’ he said.
▪ Boise State picked up a commitment Tuesday from Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) linebacker/safety Roman Kafentzis. According to MaxPreps, he had 49 tackles, two sacks and an interception for its No. 4-ranked team in the nation. Kafentzis also had offers from Air Force, Colorado State, Nevada, New Mexico and Navy, among others.
His father, Kurt, who played in the NFL from 1985-88, was a high school football teammate of Boise State basketball coach Leon Rice in Richland, Wash.
SELLING A BIT OF A STRUGGLE
Ticket sales to the Cactus Bowl have not come easily for Boise State.
The school reported about 2,000 were out as of Tuesday morning. Boise State has a budget of $685,200 from the Mountain West for the bowl trip, with the expectation that $125,000 of that would come from the Broncos selling part of their allotment of 8,000 tickets. Anything less and the school owes the difference. Anything more is split between the school and the Mountain West.
The bowl’s last installment, played Jan. 2, 2016, drew 39,321 fans for Arizona State against West Virginia. The prior year, the game drew 35,409 when Washington played Oklahoma State.
BOISE STATE 2017 VERBAL COMMITMENTS
▪ OT Mike Young, 6-6, 335, Queen Creek (Ariz.) HS
▪ QB Chase Cord, 6-3, 185, Sunrise Mountain High (Peoria, Ariz.)
▪ S Mike Young, 6-0, 205, Dodge City CC (Raytown, Mo.)
▪ LB Breydon Boyd, 6-4, 215, Katy (Texas) HS
▪ OL Isiah Moore, 6-5, 315, Mesa CC (Tiffin, Ohio)
▪ DL Zeke Birch, 6-5, 270, Madison HS
▪ DB Marques Evans, 6-1, 180, Newbury Park (Calif.) HS
▪ CB Jermani Brown, 5-11, 175, Midlothian (Va.) HS
▪ DB Tyreque Jones, 6-3, 190, San Gorgonio High (San Bernardino, Calif.)
▪ DB Quentin Brown, 6-2, 190, Conroe (Texas) High
▪ OL John Ojukwu, 6-6, 285, Boise HS
▪ WR Cartrell Thomas, 5-9, 160, Lancaster (Texas) High
▪ WR Bryan Thompson, 6-3, 185, Rancho Verde High (Moreno Valley, Calif.)
▪ QB Rathen Ricedorff, 6-1, 200, Mesa CC (Show Low, Ariz.)
▪ LB/S Roman Kafentzis, 6-2, 200, Mater Dei HS (Santa Ana, Calif.)
▪ Teams: Boise State (10-2, 6-2 Mountain West) vs. Baylor (6-6, 3-6 Big 12)
▪ Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 27
▪ Where: Chase Field, (48,159 capacity, grass, home of MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks), Phoenix
▪ TV: ESPN (Rece Davis, Joey Galloway, David Pollack, Molly McGrath)
▪ Radio: KBOI 670 AM and KTIK 93.1 FM
▪ Tickets: $40-$115, available at BroncoSports.com/tickets, by phone at 208-426-4737 or the Boise State ticket office.
▪ Vegas line: Boise State by 7