Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin said Sunday morning that junior wide receiver John Hightower and sophomore running back Robert Mahone did not make the trip to Dallas because they are academically ineligible to play in the First Responder Bowl.
“You’ve got to take care of your business ... it’s unfortunate,” Harsin said. “Very disappointing — we take a lot of pride in what we do academically.
“Everybody’s got the same opportunities, we have really good resources there, so you don’t make it into a bowl game because of that, yeah, I’m disappointed.”
Hightower has 31 catches for 504 yards and six touchdowns, plus eight rushes for 163 yards and two more scores. He missed three games in November with an injury. Mahone has 32 carries for 128 yards and 12 catches for 86 yards.
Both are still expected to return to the team in the spring, but obviously must improve their academic standing.
Also on Sunday, Harsin said freshman receiver Khalil Shakir won’t play Wednesday against Boston College because of an injury. He has not played since Nov. 9 against Fresno State when he caught a game-winning 49-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
BRONCOS WATCHING COWBOYS
The Broncos attended Sunday’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium.
Both teams have Boise State ties — the Cowboys have Leighton Vander Esch, Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Darian Thompson and Cedrick Wilson on their roster, along with Kellen Moore coaching quarterbacks. Ex-Boise State coach Dirk Koetter is in his third season leading the Buccaneers.
It was the first NFL game for some, including senior linebacker Joe Provenzano, who ironically has been to the stadium before, when he attended April’s draft and saw his roommate, Vander Esch, be selected in the first round. Vander Esch had 15 tackles Sunday and recovered an onside kick attempt with 2:04 to play.
“It’s pretty surreal watching him out there,” Provenzano said. “It’s crazy how many people are wearing 55 jerseys. It’s blown up so fast.”
A Dallas native, sophomore wide receiver CT Thomas said seeing Vander Esch play for his favorite NFL team “is just inspiration” — even if he had a painful tale to tell about seeing Vander Esch last year.
“My first practice with the vets, Leighton comes and just knocks me out,” Thomas said, adding that he “flew” despite not getting hit completely square. “He said ‘welcome to college’ and I was like ‘who is this guy?’ Going on in the season I was like ‘OK, this guy is really the dude.’ ”
NO MATTISON DECISION YET
Junior running back Alexander Mattison went into the bowl season No. 1 in the nation with 302 carries and No. 7 with 1,415 yards rushing. That sort of production has prompted predecessors Jeremy McNichols and Jay Ajayi to leave early for the NFL, but Mattison has yet to make a decision.
“After the game,” Harsin said. “We want to go through the week of practice, play in the game, hopefully play well and (he’ll) decide after that. ... That’s the thing about Alex, he’s a team player.”
NEWS AND NOTES
Former Boise State linebacker Desmond Williams, who announced earlier this month his intent to transfer, is headed to Weber State, the school announced Saturday night. ... The team practiced Sunday morning at Highland Park High, a school that has produced athletes like 1948 Heisman Trophy winner Doak Walker, Lions quarterback Matt Stafford and Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. ... Harsin and two players will hold a news conference Monday with Boston College coach Steve Addazio and players.