Sep 29, 2018; Laramie, WY, USA; A general view of the Boise State Broncos helmet against the Wyoming Cowboys at Jonah Field War Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State backs out of Arizona Bowl

Boise State announced Monday it was backing out of this week’s Arizona Bowl at Tucson after COVID-19 issues within the program.

The Broncos were set to face Central Michigan in Friday’s game, which was still scheduled to be played Monday when Boise State withdrew.

Arizona Bowl options to replace the Broncos include finding another opponent to face Central Michigan or to have the Chippewas face Washington State, who are in limbo after Miami backed out of the Sun Bowl.

Tucson and El Paso, Texas — site of the Sun Bowl — are about 300 miles apart, making it feasible for one team to travel by bus to face the other.

Boise State began COVID-19 testing procedures Sunday, according to the Arizona Daily Star, with some positive cases. Testing continued into Monday before the team announced it would not make its scheduled Tuesday trip to the desert.

Central Michigan arrived at Tucson on Sunday.

Three bowl games already have been canceled: Fenway Bowl, Military Bowl, Hawaii Bowl. The Gator Bowl was in limbo after Texas A&M backed out, with Rutgers added as a replacement to face Wake Forest.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Central Michigan Chippewas running back Lew Nichols III (7) runs the ball against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State hopes to slow CMU’s Lew Nichols III in Arizona Bowl

The Arizona Bowl won’t be found on ESPN or any other networks that typically air college football bowl games.

Instead, the Dec. 31 Boise State-Central Michigan matchup at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, home the Pac-12’s Arizona Wildcats, will be seen on the controversial Barstool Sports, the title sponsor of the game this year.

According to USA Today, it will be the first major college football bowl game in at least 40 years that will not be shown on traditional television, cable or satellite TV channels.

People with ties to both schools have expressed concern over the website’s involvement, but at this point, the only thing that could stop the game from being played is an abundance of the positive COVID-19 tests that are all over sports at present.

Central Michigan (8-4) won four straight games to end the regular season, but the Chippewas are only 3-9 all-time in bowl games. They are led by running back Lew Nichols III, who was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year after leading the nation in rushing yards (1,710), carries (311) and yards per-game average (142.5). Nichols also leads the nation in all-purpose yards with 2,010.

The Chippewas leaned hard on Nichols down the stretch of their season. He rushed 43 times for 215 yards and four touchdowns against Kent State, then had 32 carries for 219 yards and three touchdowns at Ball State before ending the year with 194 yards and a score on 44 attempts against Eastern Michigan.

“I kind of just pulled him aside and said, ‘Look, here we go, let’s jump on your back and ride,’” Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain said, according to the Detroit News. “I’ve been at some pretty good places, had a Heisman Trophy winner (Mark Ingram Jr. in 2009, when he was an assistant at Alabama), and had some other things.

“But to lead the nation in rushing, that’s a heck of a feat.”

Boise State (7-5) is a perennial contender in the Mountain West with a fan base that typically travels well, especially to games in the western United States. First-year head coach Andy Avalos, a former star linebacker for the Broncos, guided them to a bowl game despite a tough schedule.

Boise State defeated eventual Mountain West champion Utah State and Top 25 teams BYU and Fresno State this season.

The Broncos are making their 19th appearance in a bowl game in the past 20 years, after players voted not to play in a bowl game last season.

“I think that was a learning experience for a lot of the people that were here,” Avalos said, according to the Idaho Statesman. “That goes back to living in grace and being thankful for the opportunity to continue to be around each other.”

Boise State hopes to get back quarterback Hank Bachmeier from an injury sustained in the final game of the regular season. Bachmeier threw for 3,079 yards and 20 touchdowns with eight interceptions in 12 games this season, averaging 256.6 passing yards per game.

–Field Level Media

Jun 3, 2021; Miami Beach, Florida, USA; Bar Stool Sports founder Dave Portnoy stands in the ring at World Famous 5th St. Gym. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Barstool to broadcast Arizona Bowl online as new sponsor

Barstool Sports is not only the new title sponsor of the Arizona Bowl in Tucson, but also its exclusive broadcast partner.

Barstool president Dave Portnoy said that as part of the sponsorship arrangement, his media company agreed to stream the Arizona Bowl on its website, app and social media.

“We control everything,” Portnoy said in a video on Twitter. “The bowl, the broadcast, the halftime show, the national anthem. We are getting into the live sports broadcast game.”

The Barstool Arizona Bowl is scheduled for Dec. 31. In the past, the game has pitted a Mountain West team against a Mid-American Conference team.

Portnoy said it was a multi-year agreement. Further financial details have not been disclosed.

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2020; Tucson, AZ, USA; San Jose State Spartans tight end Derrick Deese Jr. (87) is upended against the Ball State Cardinals in the first half of the Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ball State captures first bowl win in history vs. No. 22 San Jose State

No. 22 San Jose State was in a bind before Thursday’s Arizona Bowl started with eight coaches and players not available for undisclosed reasons, which contributed to the Spartans’ 34-13 loss to Ball State in Tucson.

Behind Drew Plitt’s 217 yards on 12-of-19 passing, the Cardinals (7-1) achieved their first bowl victory in program history and are now 1-8-1.

A few minutes before kickoff, San Jose State (7-1) announced offensive and defensive coordinators — Kevin McGiven and Derrick Odum, respectively — and Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Cade Hall, a defensive end, were unavailable for the game.

Also not in Arizona Stadium were receiver Bailey Gaither, running back/kickoff returner Shamar Garrett, safety Tre Jenkins and offensive linemen Kyle Hoppe and Tyler Stevens.

Hall led San Jose State this season with 10 sacks and 12 tackles for loss and was named a first-team All-America this week by the Sporting News.

The Spartans also lost tight end Derrick Deese, who had a team-high five touchdown receptions entering the game, after he hurt his neck early in the first quarter while making a reception.

Ball State stunned San Jose State with a 27-0 lead in the first quarter, and it maintained that advantage at halftime.

Antonio Phillips started the scoring returning an interception 53 yards to the end zone with 12:47 left in the first quarter.

Nick Starkel, the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, threw the pick. He completed 25 of 42 passes for 268 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He sat out a possession in the second quarter because of a knee injury.

Will Jones and Tye Evans each scored on 3-yard runs in Ball State’s first two offensive possessions and then Plitt rushed in from a yard on a quarterback sneak to put the Cardinals ahead 27-0 with 1:04 left in the first quarter.

His score occurred six plays after Ball State’s Nic Jones blocked a punt, giving the Cardinals the ball at the San Jose State 35.

Plitt’s 48-yard touchdown pass to Yo’Heinz Tyler with 9:42 left in the third quarter increased the lead to 34-0.

Charlie Bostic followed with a 99-yard kickoff return to put San Jose State on the board. A 2-point conversion pass failed.

Starkel’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Jermai Braddock with 1 second left in the third quarter completed the scoring.

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2020; San Jose, California, USA;  San Jose State Spartans quarterback Nick Starkel (17) passes the football during the first quarter against the UNLV Rebels at CEFCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

No. 22 San Jose State, Ball State embrace trip to Arizona Bowl

San Jose State coach Brent Brennan and Ball State coach Mike Neu have never coached against each other because they have primarily operated in two different regions of the country throughout their coaching careers.

They have achieved similar success, however, with programs that will take part in the Arizona Bowl on New Year’s Eve at Tucson.

“I’ve been following him since he took over there,” Brennan said of Neu, who was hired by Ball State, his alma mater, in 2016. “And there’s a really similar path to ours. I think this is a really fascinating matchup, if you look to where he was in 2017 and ’18. There’s some real similarities there. What they’ve been able to do this year has been awesome.”

The 22nd-ranked Spartans (7-0) were 3-22 in Brennan’s first two seasons in 2017 and 2018. After going 5-7 last season, his team is unbeaten and Mountain West champions for the first time in program history.

Brennan is becoming a noted coaching candidate, specifically at Arizona, where he was a graduate assistant in 2000. He is also a finalist for the Eddie Robinson national coach of the year award.

Neu did not have more than four wins his first three seasons, but last year, the Cardinals went 5-7 and they are 6-1 this season with a Mid-American Conference title for the first time since 1996.

“(Playing in the Arizona Bowl) is a tremendous opportunity for our program,” Neu said. “A lot of hard work has to be done between now and then facing a great opponent in San Jose State. We’re really looking forward to it. A lot a lot of good preparation lies ahead here for the next several days before we get a chance to leave.”

Neu said that preparation includes becoming hydrated to better handle Tucson’s warmer weather than Muncie, Ind., this time of year. The last time Boise State has traveled this far west was in 1993 to play in the Las Vegas Bowl — when Neu was the starting quarterback.

“The first thing when we found out (when the bowl matchup was announced) we saw that it was 76 degrees in Tucson,” Neu said from Muncie, where the high was 44 with precipitation. “The first thing we have to communicate with our young men is hydration. That starts now.”

San Jose State features quarterback Nick Starkel, who completed 32 of 52 passes for 453 yards and three touchdowns in the Mountain West title win over Boise State. He broke former Fresno State star Derek Carr’s championship record of 404 yards passing set in 2013 in win against Utah State.

“Nick has put up a huge year,” said Neu, who was a quarterback coach with the New Orleans Saints before his hire at Ball State. “We’ll have a lot of tape here to study and put a great game plan together and go take on that challenge.”

Ball State quarterback Drew Plitt has also had a productive season passing for 1,937 yards while completing 152 out of 232 pass attempts in only seven games. He has 16 touchdown passes and six interceptions.

–Field Level Media