Mountain West Championship Football

San Jose State quarterback Nick Starkel (17) plays against Boise State in an NCAA college football game for the Mountain West championship, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

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LAS VEGAS - San Jose State quarterback Nick Starkel told The Idaho Press Thursday at Mountain West Media Days in Las Vegas that  Boise State canceling last year’s regular season game due to COVID-19 issues gave them extra motivation when the two teams met in the Mountain West title game.

He also made a strong claim about why the game was canceled.

The Nov. 28 game was canceled just five hours prior to kickoff after the Spartans had already flown to Boise the previous day. The two teams ultimately played on Dec. 19 in the Mountain West Championship, with San Jose State winning 34-20.

“Getting word that maybe Boise knew before we flew out there that they were going to have to cancel the game and then they ended up making us fly out there, maybe that was a little more motivation for the championship game,” Starkel said.

Asked about the claim that Boise knew in advance the game wouldn’t be played, Starkel went a step further.

“We heard some grumblings that maybe Boise had known a couple days ago they were going to cancel the game because they let their players go home for Thanksgiving, which is against protocols,” Starkel said. “That’s all we heard. … We heard that the reason they had a bunch of players test positive is because they had Thanksgiving dinner.

“We didn’t get to go home and have Thanksgiving with our families and stuff, but we heard Boise had let their players go home and see their families and stuff and when they came back that’s why they had a lot of positives.”

Thanksgiving was two days prior to the game, which would make it unlikely an outbreak would show up in testing barely 24 hours later.

A Boise State official called the claim “inaccurate” and denied Starkel’s account.

Boise State said at the time they were unable to play due to not having enough offensive and defensive linemen after positive tests and contact tracing. The game was canceled just hours before kickoff because the Broncos were hoping to find a way to play.

Starkel did say he enjoyed the short trip to Boise.

“Boise is beautiful,” Starkel said. “I had never been there. I have family in Montana and a few of them had gone to Boise and Boise State and they always told me it was beautiful but I had never been there. So seeing it in person with the sno-capped mountains, it was beautiful.

“And it was a perfect sunny day, it was going to be a bit warmer, so I was excited for it. I was upset it didn’t happen but we ended up getting to see Boise in the end.”

B.J. Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013 and is a three-time winner of the NSMA Idaho Sportswriter of the Year Award. He appears on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket every Friday at 4 p.m. for the Blue Turf Sports report.

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