Thursday, December 4, 2008

Here Come the Runnin' Utes

Second-year Utah Coach Jim Boylen has apparently put the "run" back in the Runnin' Utes. Utah put up 95 points on the Oregon Ducks last night in the Huntsman Center, and afterward Boylen felt so frisky he picked up the microphone, thanked the fans for attending, and said something along the lines of, "this schedule is for you." I wonder if Joe O'Brien will feel tempted to make the same comments after the Utes come to Holt Arena on Saturday night?

Remember how quickly BYU pushed the ball up the floor against the Bengals last weekend? Remember how well the Cougars shot the ball, in particular the three-pointer? Well, Utah may be as good in both of those departments. And, unlike BYU, which has a huge ? in the middle, the Utes feature 7-2 Aussie center Luke Nevill (above), who is averaging almost 18 points a game while hitting 67 percent of his shots.

Utah is shooting the ball better from the field than BYU was prior to the Cougars' arrival (Utah-52 percent, BYU 51), and the Utes are hitting 42 percent of their three-point attempts. Four Utes average in double figures, and five are hitting at least 42 percent of their three-point attempts. (Compare that to the cold-shooting Bengals, who have only Donnie Carson --3 for 5 for 60 percent and Matt Stucki, 7-17, 41 percent, shooting the three-ball with any accuracy.)

Boylen felt some heat when the Utes lost their season-opener to Southwest Baptist this year, but they quickly recovered with home wins over Wisconsin-Green Bay and Oregon, and road victories at Mississippi, Morgan State and Missouri State.

The Bengals, meanwhile, are still licking their wounds from their awful offensive performance at Washington State earlier this week, and looking forward to getting Stucki back after his wife Chelsey gave birth to their first child on Wednesday. (See Frank's entry below). That's kind of the way this season has gone for Idaho State so far -- Stucki played his best game of the year against BYU on Saturday, then had to miss the Wazzu contest while awaiting the blessed event.

We all knew this schedule the Bengals have signed up to is an absolute killer, and it has lived up to that and more. As difficult as it is for ISU fans not to lose heart, it is essential that the team members themselves continue to compete and bring some energy to the arena as they run this gauntlet. That's easier said than done, I know, but at least the large crowd and the antics of some of the BYU players kept the energy level high last weekend. Here's hoping the Utes inspire the same spunk on Saturday.

Cradle of Coaches

It may have been hard to believe back then, but Idaho State apparently had some pretty good assistant football coaches on staff from 1988 to 1993. The team was only 14-50-1 during that timeframe, but enjoyed the services of Kyle Whittingham (1988-1993), Dave Christensen (1990-1991) and Gary Anderson (1992-1994) as assistants to Garth Hall and Brian McNeeley. Whittingham, of course, is the highly successful head coach at Utah, where he is about to lead the Utes to the Sugar Bowl in the Bowl Championship Series. Christensen, the offensive coordinator of Missouri's high-octane spread offense, was named new head coach at Wyoming this week. And Anderson, who has been Whittingham's very successful defensive coordinator at Utah, will move up the road a ways to Logan to take over the struggling Utah State program, it was announced today.

Former ISU Coach Larry Lewis also had a number of assistants on his first staff that have gone on to higher profile jobs in the Division 1 ranks, landing jobs at Maryland, USC, Washington State, and Cal, among others. It may say something about the institutional barriers that exist at Idaho State that such coaching talent has come through Pocatello over the years with only sporadic success to show for it.
--Brad B.

And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.

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