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SCOTT SLANT: Experience settles down the Steelies’ troops

Presented by LOUIE’S PIZZA & ITALIAN RESTAURANT.
Friday, April 19, 2019.

Coach Neil Graham pointed out on KTIK Tuesday that nine Idaho Steelheads players were making their first professional postseason appearances last Friday when Idaho was turned inside-out by Utah in a 7-1 humiliation. But the boys have settled down, and they now have a two games-to-one lead in the ECHL Mountain Division semifinals going into Game 4 tonight in West Valley City. You could say odds are in favor of the Steelheads—or, that the law of averages favors the Grizzlies—because Utah has lost seven straight Kelly Cup Playoff games on its home ice. Furthermore, with Wednesday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Steelies, the Grizzlies have lost 13 straight postseason games that have gone to OT. If Idaho doesn’t sweep this weekend’s games, there will be a Game 6 at CenturyLink Arena Monday night.

MATTISON’S REASONING MAKES SENSE

Former Boise State standout Alexander Mattison was a guest on CBS SportsRadio’s DA Show yesterday on KTIK. Mattison said at the crux of his decision to leave early for the NFL Draft was his position. “Longevity for running backs is not that long,” said Mattison, who had a combined 77 carries in his final two games as a Bronco, back-to-back 200-yarders against Utah State and in the Mountain West championship game versus Fresno State. “It’s tough on my body, so I came down to the decision that I had to take the next step in my life.” But it didn’t come without heartfelt feelings for Boise State. “The environment, the coaching staff, the people, everything about it was amazing,” Mattison said. “The fans had a lot to do with making that experience good—the best fan base in the nation, in my opinion.”

NEW BLUE, WITHOUT MOORE AND DIXON

Boise State’s new blue turf installation is underway, slated to be completed May 30. The two most noticeable changes: yard-line fonts that match the Broncos’ familiar uniform numerals, and blue turf extending over what was once the track on the east and west sides of Albertsons Stadium. Two Boise State offensive linemen won’t be playing on it in 2019, as Isiah Moore and Austin Dixon have elected to end their football careers upon graduation in a few weeks. Moore would have been a senior in eligibility. He was a highly-rated JC transfer when he arrived from Mesa Community College in 2017 but didn’t end up in the O-line rotation. Dixon would have been a junior in eligibility this year. Neither Moore nor Dixon are still listed on Boise State’s official roster.

CATCHING AND THROWING IN THE KIBBIE DOME

Idaho wide receivers Cutrell Haywood and James Cotton will try to put the icing on solid spring performances when the Silver & Gold Game unfolds tonight in the Kibbie Dome. The duo has been making dazzling catches throughout spring football. Haywood, a sophomore, was Idaho’s second-leading receiver last season, making 51 catches for 489 yards and six touchdowns. Cotton, a senior, hauled in 49 passes for 656 yards and a team-best seven TDs last year. Now it’s up to Vandals quarterbacks to get the ball to them. The QB leaders in the clubhouse are the same as they were a year ago—Mason Petrino and Colton Richardson. That’s causing some consternation up north. While Petrino is undersized and is not a threat to throw deep, Richardson is not undersized. He’s 6-4, 277 pounds.

POSITIVE OUTLOOK FOR IDAHO’S ELLISS

Kaden Elliss stands an excellent chance of being the first Idaho Vandal to be picked in the NFL Draft in seven years. Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com reports that Elliss met with the Baltimore Ravens on Monday and was in Jacksonville Tuesday for a visit with the Jaguars. Elliss turned heads at Idaho’s Pro Day earlier this month, especially in the shuttle and three-cone drills. He’s listed as an edge linebacker, but he’d probably be capable of playing fullback or tight end, too. DraftAnalyst.com projects Elliss to go in the sixth round. The last Vandals to be drafted were Korey Toomer and Shiloh Keo, both fifth-rounders in 2012.

NO RIB—NO PROBLEM FOR MERRITT

Rust apparently wasn’t a factor as Troy Merritt returned to the PGA Tour Thursday. At least Merritt’s not missing the rib he had removed in January surgery after being diagnosed with “thoracic outlet syndrome” last year. The former Boise State star shot a two-under 69 in the first round of the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, SC, his first time on the tour since a post-surgery appearance in The Players Championship last month. Merritt is tied for 27th at the RBC, four shots off the lead.

ON THE CAMPUS CRUISE

The Boise State women’s softball team opens a three-game series at New Mexico today, hoping to end the weekend over .500 in Mountain West play (it’s currently 6-6). Chances of defending their conference championship may seem slim for the Broncos, but they were 7-5 in conference at this point last season and still got it done. It looks like a textbook day for beach volleyball, as Boise State hosts its first two and last two home dual matches of the season. The Broncos play Sacramento State and Arizona. And Boise State men’s tennis celebrates Senior Day Saturday morning against Utah State at the Appleton Center. Jack Heslin and Maximilien Blancaneaux will be honored.

GETTING OUT OF THE RUT AT ROBIE

There will not be a repeat champion Saturday in the 42nd Race To Robie Creek. Neither the men’s nor women’s champ is back this year, so runnersup Dan Button of Eagle and Jessie Noah of Cambridge will be thrust into favorites’ roles. One other runner to watch is Jackson Brill, a Boise High grad who finished in the top 10 at Robie in his mid-teens. Brill went to college at the University of Colorado but didn’t run cross country or track at CU. Brill has some big victories in “ultra” races, though. He won “The Rut” on Labor Day weekend last year at Big Sky, MT. Brill finished the punishing 50-kilometer course in just under five hours, 18 minutes, and his margin of victory was more than 15 minutes. Yes, Brill won “The Rut” in a rout.

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April 19, 2017: In what we thought would be the final at-bat of his career at his old home, Safeco Field, Miami’s Ichiro Suzuki hits a home run—his first on the road in four years—thrilling Seattle fans toward the end of a 10-5 Mariners win. The 43-year-old Ichiro had anchored rightfield and led off for the M’s for nearly 11 seasons before being traded to the New York Yankees in 2012. He would, however, return to Seattle in 2018 and end his career last month in the second game of the 2019 season with an emotional walk off the field in Tokyo.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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SCOTT SLANT: Rypien looks like a Day 3 lock

Presented by FRANZ WITTE NURSERY.
Thursday, April 18, 2019.

I’m trying to pace myself on Brett Rypien draft news, but here’s some more on the former Boise State star. Chris Trapasso of CBSSports.com has 10 sleepers who “will prove to be awesome value picks.” Trapasso touches on something that scouts really like about Rypien: “He rarely drops his head when facing pressure, has the ability to drift away from it, and is a deft pocket passer who throws accurately to his second and third reads at any level of the field.” Rypien also knows what his meal ticket will be, according to Trapasso: “Rypien is keenly aware of his arm-strength limitations and put many anticipation throws on film. He’s not afraid to stay aggressive downfield throughout the course of a game, and his deep-ball accuracy is arguably the best in the class.”

J.P. Scott of PatriotsWire at USA Today lists five quarterbacks New England should target in the draft. Scott prefaces his picks with this: “Playing quarterback in Josh McDaniels’ offense is not just about talent. Intelligence and franchise fit are huge factors as well. All of that must be taken into consideration once the NFL Draft gets going.” With that, you won’t be surprised that Rypien is on his list. “The offense he ran was predicated on getting the ball out quickly—often to a running back—while mixing in some deep balls,” writes Scott. Sounds like someone Pats fans know. One of the other four QBs tabbed by Scott is North Carolina State’s Ryan Finley, Rypien’s former teammate.

A CAN OF WORMS IN ALBUQUERQUE?

This could be a bad precedent. The NCAA has granted New Mexico guard Anthony Mathis an extra year of eligibility because of the lack of playing time he was given under former Lobos coach Craig Neal in 2016-17. Mathis led UNM in scoring the past two seasons under Paul Weir, but in Neal’s final season he appeared in only 10 games and played a total of 64 minutes. Are other players licking their chops? The key, of course, is that Mathis played that sophomore year for a different coach. Otherwise, Boise State’s Leon Rice could go before the NCAA and say, “Hey, I’m really sorry that I played Derrick Alston only 26 minutes in 2017-18 and only allowed him to score seven points. My bad. Could I get him another year?”

THE BENGALS’ NEW BOSS

Multiple sources say Point Loma Nazarene’s Ryan Looney is going to be the new head coach at Idaho State. Looney’s Sea Lions made the NCAA Division II championship game last month, falling to Northwest Missouri State. He was 69-28 in three years at Point Loma, including a 31-5 record this past season. Looney replaces Bill Evans, who had only one winning campaign in his seven seasons at ISU. Looney’s other stints include five seasons at Eastern Oregon in LaGrande from 2004-09. He also played for the Mountaineers. This looks like a solid hire for the Bengals.

OVERTIME DEJA VU

There are no shootouts in playoff hockey, so the Idaho Steelheads and Utah Grizzlies played deep into overtime last night. And just like last Saturday night in Boise, the Steelheads rallied for a 3-2 victory when Kyle Schempp scored 11½ minutes into the extra frame. Henrik Samuelsson had tied it up at 2-2 about six minutes into the third period before Schempp’s heroics. And this week’s return of Brad McClure from the AHL paid off early with a tally seven seconds before the first period ended. Of course, the Steelies couldn’t have done it without goalie Tomas Sholl, the same guy who gave up seven goals last Friday. Sholl made 38 saves in 40 attempts as Idaho secured a two games-to-one lead in the ECHL Mountain Division semifinals. Game 4 is tomorrow night on the Grizzlies’ home ice.

MERRITT BACK ON THE TEE BOX

Troy Merritt returns to the PGA Tour today at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, SC. It’s only the second event the former Boise State star has played since surgery in January to remove a rib (he entered The Players Championship in mid-March). Merritt has played only seven tournaments this season, four of them during the fall portion of the schedule. He made the cut in all four last fall and at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January but has missed the past two. Merritt also plans to play the Zurich Classic of New Orleans next week.

DISTANCE-RUNNING STARS IN THE NEWS

The cream of Boise State’s track and field crop divides itself among four prestigious Southern California meets this week: the Pacific Coast Invitational, the Mt. SAC Relays, the Bryan Clay Invitational and the Beach Invitational. As far as the Allie Ostrander Watch goes, the Bronco star will be at the Brian Clay in Azusa, running in the 5,000-meters tonight and the 1,500 on Friday. Boise State’s star distance runner broke Emma Bates’ school and Mountain West record in the 10,000 by almost seven seconds her last time out at the Stanford Invitational. Also on the running front, my Race To Robie Creek people tell me that Boise’s Erik Teig, who finished 82nd out of 30,000 runners in the Boston Marathon Monday, is entered in Saturday’s grueling half-marathon. That’s just five days of recovering time. Teig won Robie in 2017.

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April 18, 1966: A major professional regular season sporting event is played on an artificial surface for the first time ever, as the Houston Astrodome celebrates its grand opening. The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Houston Astros 6-3 to win the inaugural game. It was also a milestone day for Don Sutton, as the Dodger rookie notched his first major league victory—the start of a Hall of Fame career that would see him win 324 games.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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SCOTT SLANT: The right frame of reference for Boise State’s run

Presented by LOUIE’S PIZZA & ITALIAN RESTAURANT.
Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

There are lots of Twitter accounts out there that like to post top 10 lists. One is @SportsPac12, which naturally draws from college football and basketball. Yesterday it was “Best College Football Winning Percentage over the Past 20 Years (1999-2018).” Boise State’s commonly at the top of lists like this, but they’re usually “this decade” or “since 2000.” What I like about this one is that it truly nails the start of the Broncos’ amazing run. The 1999 season is typically left out, because it was a year before the new century. But when you use this actual 20-year time period, it’s Boise State in a rout at 83.1 percent, followed by Ohio State at 80.6 percent and Oklahoma at 80.4 percent. Since 1999, the Broncos are 227-44.

WEBSITE UPDATE NEEDED?

It’s as official as can be now after being, well, reiterated Tuesday on Marshall’s website. BroncoSports.com still says Boise State’s game against the Thundering Herd will be played on Saturday, September 7. But it will, in fact be contested on Friday. FBSchedules.com first reported the change in late February after a public records request. I said at the time the site “must have really, really, really wanted to know.” Marshall then confirmed the switch. Still no kickoff time mentioned (bet on 8:15 p.m.) nor TV network (hope for ESPN or ESPN2).

PLENTY OF REPS TO GO AROUND AT IDAHO

Idaho coach Paul Petrino sure likes to get the work in, and so it will be Friday night when the Vandals play their annual Silver & Gold Spring Game in the Kibbie Dome. The Vandals will break into two teams and line up against each other for four 15-minute quarters with traditional football scoring. In other Vandals news, former Idaho standout Benson Mayowa has signed with the Oakland Raiders. The unrestricted free agent defensive end played for the Arizona Cardinals last year and turned in his best NFL season, with 38 tackles (13 for loss), four sacks and a fumble recovery. Mayowa played previously for the Raiders in 2014-15. Sandwiched around that were stints with the Seahawks and Cowboys.

PRIMED FOR OPPONENTS’ POWER PLAYS

To say the Idaho Steelheads got mixed results in the first two games of their Kelly Cup Playoff series last weekend would be an understatement. After the Steelheads were pelted 7-1 by Utah in Game 1, they rallied for a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 2. The one constant was the Steelies’ penalty kill unit, which went 7-for-9 in the two games against the Grizzlies. That included the wipeout of two five-minute power plays and one 5-on-3 power play. Idaho was ranked ninth in the ECHL on the penalty kill during the regular season. If the Steelheads can square away other facets of their game to match, they can regain control of this series. Game 3 is tonight in West Valley City.

NEVADA AND THE SHINY NEW OBJECT

Nevada has landed a hoops matchup that’ll generate plenty of buzz among its fan base. Through a public records request (speaking of public record requests), Nevada Sports Net has learned that the Wolf Pack is set to face Saint Mary’s on December 21 at the $1.3 billion Chase Center, the new home of the Golden State Warriors on the San Francisco waterfront. The game is part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Series, which the Pack played in the past two seasons at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Boise State doesn’t have any games officially listed yet for 2019-20, but we know the Broncos will play at Oregon again to wrap up their 2-for-1 arrangement with the Ducks.

WINTHROP IS ARMED WITH FORMER NNU STAR

Adonis Arms certainly built up his resume this past season at Northwest Nazarene, garnering Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors after leading the conference with 20.6 points and 1.9 steals per game. Four weeks ago Arms elected to transfer, saying he wanted to pursue his dream of playing Division I basketball. And he tweeted Tuesday that he has landed at Winthrop University in South Carolina. The Eagles, a member of the Big South, finished 18-12 last month, but they have 10 NCAA Tournament appearances in the past 20 years.

CLEAR SAILING FOR CAPED CRUSADERS

Organizers for the Race To Robie Creek say there’ll be no problem with course conditions for the 42nd running of the iconic event on Saturday. The upper reaches of Shaw Mountain Road about a mile from Aldape Summit took a beating during heavy rain a week ago. There’s a slight chance of showers predicted Saturday with a high of 62. If the showers are slight, that’ll actually be perfect running weather. The Robie field this year numbers 2,515 entrants, representing 30 different states and British Columbia. And most are asking, “What to wear?” The 2019 theme is superheroes, as in, “The Birth of Wonder Toad.” Will they be running Robie in capes?

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April 17, 1969, 50 years ago today: In only his fourth major league start, former Idaho Vandal Bill Stoneman throws a no-hitter as the Montreal Expos beat the Philadelphia Phils, 7-0. Stoneman would go 54-85 in eight big league seasons, but he threw two no-hitters. As general manager of the then-Anaheim Angels in 2000, he would play a role in the separation of the Angels from the Boise Hawks organization in what the new Hawks owners termed a dispute over guaranteeing long-time manager Tom Kotchman’s return to the club.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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SCOTT SLANT: Boise Sports Park reinforcements on the way?

Presented by FRANZ WITTE NURSERY.
Tuesday, April 16, 2019.

The twists and turns in the Boise stadium saga have been epic. Last week, the Idaho Legislature threw a monkey wrench into Agon Sports & Entertainment’s and the city’s hopes of getting a stadium project done when it passed the law requiring public votes on the use of urban renewal money. This may not exactly be “Boise State to the rescue,” but the university released a statement Monday acknowledging that Greenstone Properties had asked it “to reconsider joining the effort.” Boise State said it has outlined a series of requirements that “could provide the financial and logistical incentive to consider joining” the project. Until then, the university is still working on its on-campus option as a home for the Broncos baseball program that begins play less than a year from now.

It was almost a year and a half ago that Boise State pulled out of the Boise Sports Park originally planned for the old Kmart land on Americana Boulevard. But many have asked why the Boise Hawks and the Broncos couldn’t share a stadium since their seasons don’t overlap. The United Soccer League would be an issue, though, as its season began this year the second weekend of March. A USL franchise is conditionally set for Boise if the stadium project works out. Meanwhile, talking points listed by Boise State include “partial ownership, priority use, artificial playing surface and shared revenues.” There are masses of torches and pitchforks out there opposing this project. Whether Boise State’s possible involvement in it will help change the dynamic remains to be seen.

BYU’S GRADUATE TRANSFER BACKFIELD

Boise State plays BYU on October 19. So the Broncos have six months to figure out who these new Cougars running backs are. South Carolina’s Ty’Son Williams announced over the weekend he’s headed for Provo as a grad transfer. The 6-0, 219-pounder was limited by injuries last season and rushed for only 328 yards in eight games. Williams joins Rice transfer Emmanuel Esukpa, who also played in eight games in 2018 and rushed for 461 yards. BYU is counting on Williams and Esukpa. The Cougars lost Squally Canada and Matt Hadley to graduation, and Riley Burr transferred, and their run game was inconsistent last season to begin with. BYU rushed for only 96 yards in its loss to Boise State on the blue turf last November, although that number was skewed by seven Bronco sacks of quarterback Zach Wilson.

STEELIES PLAYMAKER RETURNS FROM TEXAS

This can only help as the Idaho Steelheads try to recapture home ice advantage in the opening round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Steelheads will have Brad McClure back in uniform more than two months after he was called up by the Texas Stars of the AHL. McClure was hot when the Steelies were their hottest this winter, scoring 19 goals with 20 assists in 42 games and notching five game-winning tallies. Despite his long AHL stint, McClure was still named Idaho’s Rookie of the Year this season. The Steelheads, tied with the Utah Grizzlies at a game apiece, play Game 3 Wednesday night in West Valley City.

AN IMPRESSIVE PERCENTILE IN BOSTON

Boise’s Erik Teig finished 82nd overall Monday in the Boston Marathon. There were 30,000 runners in the 123rd edition of America’s most famous distance event. So Teig was in the top 99.7 percent. That’s pretty good. Teig completed the grueling course in 2:28.37. He’s a 35-year-old financial planner. I haven’t found Teig’s complete running portfolio, but he was the Race To Robie Creek champion in 2017 and has won the past two Redfish Lake Lodge Memorial half marathons.

THE SAND IS LIKELY TO BE DRY

The Boise State beach volleyball team’s entire 2019 home schedule is compressed into two action-packed days this week on the Broncos’ sand courts at Belmont Street and Oakland Avenue. One of them is today—the Broncos Exhibition Pairs Tournament. It’s an all Treasure Valley-Magic Valley affair, featuring 22 pairs from Boise State, College of Idaho, Northwest Nazarene, Treasure Valley Community College and College of Southern Idaho. The sun is supposed to be out this afternoon. Speaking of which, you may have noticed the high Friday is forecasted to be 76 when the Broncos host Sacramento State and Arizona.

THE SHOCKING REALITY OF REBECCA TWIGG

It’s been 35 years since the first Ore-Ida Women’s Challenge cycling race, and 17 years since the last one. For a long spell, it was the most prestigious women’s event in North America. The winner of the first three Women’s Challenge overall titles was Rebecca Twigg, who went on to a silver medal in the road race at the 1984 Summer Olympics just after the initial Idaho race. It was a shock to read a story in Monday’s Seattle Times about what Twigg is doing today. She is in her hometown of Seattle, and she has been homeless for almost five years. Twigg agreed to tell her story to the Times’ Scott Greenstone “to convince the public that not all homeless people are addicted to drugs or alcohol; that there are many like her, who have struggled with employment and are ‘confused’ about what to do next with their lives.”

Twigg was essentially the Kristin Armstrong of her day, enormously popular in the cycling world in the 1980’s and 90’s. She loved the Women’s Challenge and was engaging to fans and media. I was the announcer for all the stages during the first race in 1984, and I think I still have a shirt Twigg autographed calling me “The Mouth.” I’m going to look for it. Anyone who remembers her is inclined to reach out and help her. But, as Greenstone writes, “She still won’t accept housing for herself, even when help is offered by people who’ve found out about her state.” Twigg doesn’t want “unfair advantages,” something that always made her feel guilty. “Help should be provided for everybody, not just a few,” she said.

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April 16, 1999, 20 years ago today: After a landmark 20-year career in the NHL, Wayne Gretzky announces his retirement. Gretzky’s pro career started at the age of 17 and peaked during his years with the Edmonton Oilers and L.A. Kings, as he won 10 NHL scoring titles. The Great One is hockey’s all-time scoring leader—by almost 1,000 points. Gretzky’s No. 99 is the only uniform number to be retired across the entire NHL.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!

I didn’t have real high expectations for the 2019 Masters. I was lucky to be invited by an old friend Tyler Frizell who may be fulfilling his own Bucket List by giving people he knows a chance to experience the Masters. All I had to do was find my way to Atlanta, share in one meal expense for 13 people and tip appropriately. He would take care of the rest.

Pinch me.

I stayed in a fully catered, maid serviced, and concierge state the entire time. That is unexplainable really. I once received a free ticket and pre party invite to the Pittsburgh-Arizona Super Bowl but nothing like this. NOTHING. Our official local host was Kent Maggert, the father of pro golfer Jeff. He arranged for our Saturday and Sunday passes, the 4 bedroom brick home and all transportation. He also stocked the bar and fridge. The stories and background he provided were dropped to us like cherries on top of the best sundae we ever ate. How I ended up in this Masters travel party is still a bigger mystery than why Koepka seemed to give up on his putt at 18. I was with Troy the Quail Hollow golf pro, a radio market manager from Alaska, 3 neurosurgeons ( 1 of which is friends with George W Bush and was on the NFL Head and Neck committee ) and the rest of Tylers family.

Pick me!

I had never attended a big golf tourney and never dreamed I would have a chance at attending The Masters. I knew all about the traditions of Augusta National. Being a patron at Augusta National was interesting. Here’s what I noticed the most:

-It’s Disneyland clean

– They have guys to wipe down the toilet seat for you between ‘patrons’.

– The concession lines were 8 minutes at most, they held up a sign to tell you that.

– The food is good. I sampled egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches. I lived on bananas, apples and trail mix. I picked grilled chicken out of wraps. They don’t believe in veggies.

-They allow potato chip branded bags or worse, they only label the beer import or domestic. It’s none of your business what kind it is. I didn’t try one.

-Cigarette and cigar smoking is everywhere. Tobacco Road is alive and well.

-No corporate tents blocking fans views. No corporate tents period.

-You can bring backpacks in.

-Fans can leave an unattended chair at 18 or any other hole and use it whenever you want.

-If they catch you with a cell phone you lose your phone and your ticket. The person who sold you the rights to that badge loses it and the approximate $8-10,000 of annual income that comes with it.

Watching Tiger Woods was a surreal experience. We all watched Ali, Tyson, and Michael Jordan. When you see them in person it is just different. When you see them perform it’s miraculous. When you see them at their peak performance in the one of the most memorable days in sports history it’s mind numbing. Here’s what I noticed about Tiger:

-He’s had a huge impact on how a golfer looks physically. Rory, Stenson, and many others are built like track and field athletes. Long and lean.

-Tigers focus is laser like. I watched his threesome walk by to the 15th tee box  Sunday. Molinari looked happy to be there. Finau looked relaxed. Tiger looked like he wanted to kill somebody. I am serious.

-He stole a good long look at the 17th scoreboard to see how Koepka was holding up. I then knew exactly what he was thinking.

-The celebration he had on 18 was only partially visible to me. I could see his fists pumping was about all. I did chant Tiger, Tiger Tiger. I don’t regret that.

 

I decided it was more important to watch Tiger hit into the green at the par 3 16th and tee off the 17th. I never saw a single shot on 18. I couldn’t get close enough. It didnt matter, I could feel the crowd and mass humanity I was with. And grown men cry and women scream. And a Tiger roaring at the world.

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SCOTT SLANT: The Aggies have the ‘known’ in 2019

Presented by LOUIE’S PIZZA & ITALIAN RESTAURANT.
Monday, April 15, 2019.

Utah State spring football wrapped up Saturday with the Aggies’ spring game. Nothing to see here. Move along. And that’s the good news for USU. It was so uneventful that no stats were kept, but junior Jordan Love did throw two touchdown passes while he was in. It was Love who led the Mountain West in pass efficiency last season at 158.3, topping Fresno State’s Marcus McMaryion and Boise State’s Brett Rypien, as he threw for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns against six interceptions. And that came during an 11-2 season that saw the Aggies in the thick of the Mountain West race until the final game of the regular season, when they lost to the Broncos 33-24 on the blue turf on Thanksgiving weekend.

Where will Boise State and Utah State shake out in preseason predictions this summer? Could be it’s the Aggies who are picked to win the Mountain West’s Mountain Division. Jordan Love is the proven quantity under center that the Broncos don’t have, and everybody starts at quarterback when evaluating a team’s dynamic. The wild card: coach Gary Andersen, who has returned to Logan to replace the guy who replaced him, Matt Wells. Andersen is the unknown factor in this 2019 puzzle. But we can’t forget new USU offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, who once held the same position with the Broncos. With Love at his disposal, Sanford is intent on sustaining the Aggies as a points-scoring machine.

LOOK FOR LAWRENCE IN SEPTEMBER?

DeMarcus Lawrence’s shoulder surgery last Wednesday has been declared a success. They rolled the former Boise State star right into the operating room the day after he signed his monumental five-year, $105 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Recovery time? Depends on who you talk to. Lawrence’s agent, David Canter, cautions it could be up to six months. The Cowboys say closer to four months. Lawrence splits the difference and says he’ll be ready for the start of the season.

A PARTIAL RECOVERY FOR THE STEELIES

The Kelly Cup Playoffs could not have started worse for the Idaho Steelheads Friday night in CenturyLink Arena. Utah embarrassed the hapless Steelheads in a stunning 7-1 rout. Tomas Sholl, runnerup for ECHL Goaltender of the Year, was uncharacteristically Swiss cheese-like while allowing all seven goals. Could the Steelies flush that for Game 2 Saturday night? They almost didn’t, but in the end they did. Idaho rallied from a 2-1 third period deficit to tie the game on a Henrik Samuelsson goal midway through the final frame—then Kale Kessy netted his second tally of the night almost eight minutes deep into the overtime period to secure a crucial 3-2 victory over the Grizzlies. The series now moves to Utah Wednesday night.

QUETA’S TRIAL RUN WITH THE NBA

Utah State spring football has already been a subject today. Now, USU basketball, where true freshman center Neemias Queta has announced that he’ll declare for the NBA draft but will leave the option open on returning to the Aggies. Queta was essentially the difference as Utah State shocked the Mountain West by rolling to the conference tournament title last month after being picked ninth. The 6-11 Portuguese center was the league’s Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year after blocking 84 shots. Queta averaged 11.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game for first-year coach Craig Smith. Prediction: he’ll test the waters, get some expert NBA tutelage, and return to Logan to make the Aggies the 2019-20 MW preseason favorite.

ALFORD GETS ONE ROSTER BREAK IN RENO

Steve Alford didn’t want to break out his roster during his introductory press conference at Nevada Friday. After seven seniors departed and seven more entered the NCAA transfer portal, there were only three players back. But Alford’s hiring saved one of the potential transfers, as the Wolf Pack’s leading returning scorer, guard Jazz Johnson, announced he is staying for his senior season. Johnson, the Mountain West’s Sixth Man of the Year, averaged 11.0 points per game this past season. He was the Pack’s top three-point shooter and went 9-for-16 from deep in three games against Boise State.

FORMER MUSTANG IS A DOMINATING BRONCO

The Boise State women’s softball program knew how fortunate it was when former Eagle High star Bradie Fillmore decided to transfer home after one season at Cal. Over the weekend, the Broncos counted the ways. How about four home runs and nine RBI as Boise State swept Utah State in a three-game series at Dona Larsen Park? In Sunday’s finale, Fillmore hit a three-run homer to add to a solo shot during the Broncos’ 12-8 win. Boise State scored 32 runs in the series while evening its Mountain West record at 6-6.

TIGER

For those having trouble balancing Tiger Woods’ baggage with his incredible comeback performance in winning his first major title in 11 years Sunday at the Masters (and there are lots of you), here’s a Facebook post I saw that nicely sums it up. “I’m not forgetting the imperfections, the transgressions or the warts. But what we learned from Tiger today is ‘never say never.’ Give him his due. He is a gritty competitor and a five-time Masters champion.”

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April 15, 1947: More than 25,000 fans witness history as Jackie Robinson bats second and plays first for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking major league baseball’s color barrier. It was Opening Day at Ebbets Field, and the 28-year-old Robinson, signed by Branch Rickey, went 0-for-3 against Boston Braves starter Johnny Sain but scored the deciding run in the Dodgers’ 5-3 win. Robinson retired after the 1957 season, and his No. 42 was retired throughout the majors in 1997. The last player grandfathered in to wear it was the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera in 2013.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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Steelheads’ Streak Is Historic, Typical For Boise

BY MIKE PRATER
THE IDAHO PRESS

Eric Trapp, the most important member of the Idaho Steelheads’ hockey team that you probably don’t know, was working in the bowels of CenturyLink Arena on Friday night when trouble broke out.

The opening game of the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs was happening on the other side of the concrete wall, and Trapp’s phone got real busy, real fast. When bad things happen, you call the boss, or in this case, the president.

Technology behind the instant replay system had failed — shocking! — and without proper evidence, the Steelheads were denied a potential goal. Trapp, who delegated like a boss, knew he’d hear about it from the coach. And the league. And probably a few others.

Here’s the weird part: It’s playoff season, and the Steelheads know a thing or 22 about postseason hockey.

Idaho’s only professional hockey team has reached the playoffs 22 consecutive seasons — every year of its existence. The streak is tied with the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA for the longest in North American professional sports.

The streak started April 7, 1998, with a victory over the Anchorage Aces.

Six days later, in Kolin, Czech Republic, Ondrej Vala was born. Today, the promising defenseman is the youngest player on the Steelheads’ roster.

And through all those years of Vala’s young life, playoff hockey has been a constant in Boise, a city that didn’t even have ice until the Steelheads built a fancy downtown arena — attached to a fancy downtown hotel.

Trapp, an Idaho native who’s been with the organization since Day 1, said the streak is about people. Like the scrambling employees on those phones Friday night. Like Vala, his teammates, coaches, support staff and fans.

You know those lists that constantly declare Boise and the Treasure Valley as one of the best places to live? That all starts with people. The way we thrive here. The way we work, and the way we play. The pressure we put on ourselves to provide a standard and a quality of life. The way we work toward a common goal and a bright future.

That’s why so many top players come here.

And that’s why so many stick around after their playing days.

“Boise is a great city, it helps us obviously to get players,’’ Trapp said. “It’s Boise and the culture we have … doing things the right way. That’s what it really comes down to.’’

There have been close calls when the Steelheads almost didn’t make the playoffs. They’ve had four losing seasons in 22 years, and a few times, based on league rules, Idaho only made it because, well, everybody made it. The franchise’s overall postseason record is a lukewarm 93-100.

But Idaho also has two ECHL championships, has put more than 20 players in the National Hockey League, and puts a lot of butts in the seats on Friday and Saturday nights.

An additional piece of this culture equation is the Steelheads’ mysterious local ownership group, mostly the same since the beginning. Their message to Trapp and his coaches has remained the same, and in separate interviews, they listed their directives from ownership.

Trapp: Put good people in the community (captains, leaders, etc.), be smart and do the right things, work hard, be competitive.

Head coach Neil Graham: Recruit good people, stay positive in the public eye, lend a hand in the community, be competitive.

This organization, from top to bottom, is definitely on the same page.

That’s why the Steelheads are successful — on and off the ice.

Players on this year’s roster don’t obsess about past success — it’s minor-league sports and they come and go — but Graham made a rare point to recognize the streak after Idaho clinched a playoff spot by winning in Florida last month.

“The streak has become important to us, and when you know the history of the program, you feel that much more dedicated to the process,’’ Graham said.

A.J. White, this season’s captain who scored the Steelheads’ only goal Friday night, grew up in Michigan and watched closely as the Detroit Red Wings reached the NHL playoffs 25 straight seasons. That streak ended in 2017.

White also keeps an eye on the Spurs, and what they continue to do in the NBA playoffs. He throws out names such as Popovich, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker.

“They’re all great people on and off the (court), within the community, and I think that’s the reason they are able to keep having success,’’ White said. “The Spurs have good people, they appear to have a strong culture, and they’re always working and striving to win.’’

Sounds like a winning formula.

For life — and hockey playoffs.

Mike Prater is the Idaho Press sports columnist and co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket every Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. He can be found on Twitter @MikeFPrater and can be reached at mikefprater@gmail.com. Prater’s opinions are his own.

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SCOTT SLANT: Rypien’s pluses and perceived minuses

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Friday, April 12, 2019.

Boise State’s Brett Rypien is the trendy pick for “Most Overlooked Quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft.” Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton is in that camp and looks at him this way: “Rypien isn’t going to wow anyone with his arm strength or mobility, but he checks multiple boxes with his intangibles.” Moton adds that Rypien has the “three P’s” in his favor—preparation, pedigree and pro-system success. PFF Draft has some nitty gritty: “Brett Rypien was MONEY on crucial downs this season: he had 15 big-time throws, a 12-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio, and a 113.9 passer rating on 80 3rd and 4th down completions!” Bottom line: it indeed appears he’ll be the first Bronco QB ever to be drafted in the NFL’s seven-round era.

For a counterpoint of sorts, we go back to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com: “Light on measurables, but high on intangibles, Rypien’s lack of size, mobility and NFL arm talent makes it unlikely that he’ll ever become a serviceable starter. What has a chance to save him is his football intelligence, accuracy and consistency. He stepped right in as a freshman and proved he could not only survive, but thrive and grow. A troubling number of interceptions were due to lack of arm strength so he needs to find a timing-based passing game in order to find a home as a back-end backup.” My counterpoint to that last claim: Rypien’s arm strength was impressive at the NFL Combine, and the 10 pounds of muscle he has added in training for the draft cannot be underestimated.

STEELIES HOPE TO PLAY DEEP INTO MAY

Everybody in Boise hockeyland is hungry for postseason success as the Idaho Steelheads open the Kelly Cup Playoffs tonight against the Utah Grizzlies in CenturyLink Arena. There was a modicum of that a year ago, as the Steelheads advanced past the first round for the first time since 2014. They did it in dramatic fashion, rallying from a three games-to-none deficit to beat Allen in seven games. Still, the Steelies haven’t been to the Kelly Cup Finals in nine years and haven’t won it all since 2007. One advantage for Idaho in this series is knowing who will be between the pipes. It’ll primarily be Tomas Sholl, who finished second behind Michael Houser of the Cincinnati Cyclones on Thursday for ECHL Goaltender of the Year honors. Sholl was 26-12-1 in the regular season.

TRANSFERS MAKE FOR A TOUGH TRANSITION

Steve Alford landed in Reno Thursday and is set to be introduced as Nevada’s new coach at a press conference today. Alford is getting a 10-year contract (financial details not yet disclosed, but he’ll do just fine). His first concern will be the Wolf Pack’s roster, not only depleted by the loss of seven seniors, but also another seven players who have opted for the transfer portal, including former five-star recruit Jordan Brown and top returning scorer Jazz Johnson. The portal guys could still return—Alford now has to “re-recruit” them. There’s hardly anyone left.

How are they feeling about former Nevada coach Eric Musselman in Reno? Well, this didn’t help. Musselman, the new Arkansas coach, was a guest on the Jim Rome Show on KTIK Thursday. Musselman said that at a welcome event Wednesday night in Fayetteville, he was asked which college basketball programs he admired while he was growing up. He replied that he’d have to go with the T-shirts he used to wear as a kid: “UCLA, UNLV and Arkansas.” UNLV? Ouch.

GATES AND HIS UNIQUE STORY LOOK FOR NEXT CHAPTER

Former Idaho Stampede coach Bryan Gates, an NBA assistant in Sacramento the past three seasons, is in the job market now with Dave Joerger having been fired by the Kings Thursday. Gates has a great story. He attended Boise State and was a basketball junkie, but he didn’t play hoops there. When the Stampede were born in 1997, Gates begged the team’s first coach, Bobby Dye, for a job—any kind of a job—and he ended up as an intern. He was promoted to the staff and was with the team through 2001 before bouncing around basketball’s minor leagues. He returned to the Stamps in 2006 as head coach and won the franchise’s only D-League championship in 2008. Gates has been on various NBA staffs the past 10 years.

ON THE DIAMOND

The Boise State women’s softball team went 20-2 in non-conference games this season and had a brief stay in the Top 25. But the Broncos are 3-6 in Mountain West play, so this weekend is critical in righting the ship. If Boise State is going to defend its conference championship, it has to kick it in gear now. The Broncos are already 6½ games behind first-place Colorado State. They host Utah State at Dona Larsen Park today, Saturday and Sunday.

Another nugget on former Boise Hawk Daniel Vogelbach. The Seattle Mariners are rolling, having won their sixth game in a row with a 7-6 win at Kansas City Thursday. Vogelbach led off the 10th inning with a solo home run to win it as Seattle became the first major league team in history to homer in each of the first 15 games of a season.. Vogelbach hit four home runs in all of 2018 with the Mariners. He hit five homers on the M’s just-completed eight-game road trip.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!

April 12, 2004, 15 years ago today: San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds catches his godfather, Willie Mays, for the number three spot on baseball’s career home run list. The suspiciously bulked-up Bonds deposited a pitch out of what is now Oracle Park and into McCovey Cove on Opening Day in San Francisco, the 660th homer of his career. He would pass Mays the following day and set his tainted sights on Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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SCOTT SLANT: Hoping Evans patches up and catches passes

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Thursday, April 11, 2019.

Raise your hand if you’re rooting for Octavius Evans to get back on the field for Boise State. It has to be maddening for him as he tries to get healthy. Evans didn’t suit up for the Broncos’ spring game last Saturday, almost a year after he was awarded jersey No. 1 before the 2018 event. That day he proceeded to make five catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and fans anointed him as Cedrick Wilson’s heir-apparent at wide receiver. There was hope all the way through last season that Evans would get back into the lineup, so Boise State kept him active, and he appeared in five games. It turned out to cost him a year of eligibility—if it had been four games, Evans would have been able to use a redshirt year.

Evans looked like a feature receiver candidate coming out of spring ball last year, but he had just two catches for 12 yards during the 2018 season and didn’t play again after the Colorado State game in October. That after a promising true freshman season in 2017 that produced 15 grabs for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Now—hopefully in fall camp—Evans will try to pry his way back into a wide receiver rotation that will include John Hightower, Khalil Shakir, CT Thomas, Akilian Butler and promising redshirt freshman Stefan Cobbs, among others.

STOCK APPEARS TO BE BACK UP FOR MATTISON

We’re now just two weeks away from the NFL Draft. Pins-and-needles time, perhaps, for former Boise State star Alexander Mattison. But his improvement in the 40-yard dash at the Broncos’ Pro Day has cast him in a more favorable light. The latest projection by NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein has Mattison going in the fourth round. Writes Zierlein: “While he has the ability to create yards for himself with adequate elusiveness and power, he’s not a slasher or banger by NFL standards and he lacks burst to produce chunk plays on a regular basis. Mattison is a jack-of-all-trades backup with the ability to step into a heavy-duty role if called upon. His talent as a pass-catcher could move him up the running back food-chain.”

STEELHEADS SHORING UP THE PLAYOFF ROSTER

A day after Colton Saucerman and his big red beard reappeared, there’s another key addition for the Idaho Steelheads as they gear up for the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Forward Reid Petryk has returned from his AHL callup with the Chicago Wolves to resume his role as a Steelheads mainstay. In 52 games with Idaho this season, Petryk has scored 19 goals with 25 assists. He’s put up nine power play goals and five game-winning shots. Despite almost three weeks away, Petryk still leads the Steelies with nine power play tallies. He was ECHL Player of the Week the first week of January. Game 1 against the Utah Grizzlies in the ECHL Mountain Division semifinals is set for Friday night.

NEVADA GETS THE ‘NAME’ IT WANTS

Former Boise State Bronco Trent Johnson did accept an assistant coach’s position with Cal, but for awhile Wednesday it looked like it didn’t mean much. Chris Murray of NevadaSportsNet.com reported that Johnson and former UCLA and New Mexico coach Steve Alford both met with Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth. But by late in the evening, news broke that Alford had agreed to terms with the Wolf Pack. Alford was fired by the Bruins 13 games into this past season, but he’ll be seen as a big-name hire in Reno. Alford was a force during his years with the Lobos. He was 155-52 in Albuquerque and won six Mountain West titles (four regular season and two tournament). New Mexico was a Top 25 team when Alford left for UCLA. He should be very comfortable in his old conference.

DELAET WILL BE WATCHING AND WISHING

Former Boise State star Graham DeLaet was on Idaho SportsTalk Wednesday and confirmed that his targeted return to the PGA Tour is when the 2019-20 season begins at the end of September. “I was hoping to get back sometime this summer, but everything’s been moving along slower than I thought,” DeLaet told Caves & Prater. “But I’m feeling better every month.” DeLaet is still rehabbing his back after surgery last July. By this fall, it will have been almost two full years since he played a tour event.

DeLaet waxed eloquent about the Masters, which tees off today. When you hear him talk about it, you realize it truly is “a tradition like no other.” DeLaet played the Masters in 2014. “It’s the hardest golf tournament in the world to get into,” he said. And the best. “I don’t watch a ton of golf, but in a perfect world, I’ll watch every minute Thursday through Sunday.” And Augusta National is immaculate. “There’s not a course in the world I’ve played that’s in better shape,” said DeLaet. “It’s the one place that guys are really willing to share the secrets (of the course). It’s something that’s really driving me to get back out there and play.”

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April 11, 2014, five years ago today: The Los Angeles Lakers set a team record for futility, losing their 54th game of the season in a 112-95 loss to the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers would finish the season 27-55. Then they’d break that sorry mark in each of the following two seasons, going 21-61 and 17-65, respectively. This game was symbolic of the power shift in the NBA, as the Warriors’ Stephen Curry scored 30 points with 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Golden State would win its first NBA championship in 40 years the next season.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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HOW DID BOISE STATE FIND, DEVELOP DEMARCUS LAWRENCE

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GRAHAM DELAET ON THE MASTERS

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SCOTT SLANT: Another Bronco walk-on on the rise?

Presented by FRANZ WITTE NURSERY.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019.

Two years ago, a walk-on named Avery Williams was tabbed as a defensive captain for the Boise State spring game. That was enlightening at the time. Then Williams promptly made the only interception of the day to end the spring. And when Labor Day weekend rolled around, with a scholarship secured, Williams scored on an electrifying 81-yard punt return against Troy the first time the Broncos touched the ball in the 2017 season. He was starting at cornerback by early October. There may not be a redshirt story like that on this year’s squad, but Timberline High grad Dylan Herberg did his best imitation of Williams last Saturday. Herberg, a STUD linebacker, turned in three tackles, including a sack. He added a quarterback hurry and two pass breakups, the second one coming on the final play of the game.

APPRECIATE WEAVER WHILE YOU CAN

Did last Saturday mark the final Boise State spring game in the career of Curtis Weaver, who effortlessly logged two sacks on the blue turf? Draftniks would have you think so. From the way-too-early lists of 2020 mock drafts comes one from Charlie Campbell, the Senior Draft Analyst for WalterFootball.com, predicting that Weaver will forego his senior year and be a first-round selection next year—No. 20 overall to the Atlanta Falcons. Campbell projects him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, which is basically what he is now for the Broncos. Weaver, of course, is a two-time All-Mountain West honoree who has amassed 20.5 sacks in his first two seasons as a Bronco.

The first two games of the 2017 season told you all you need to know about what kind of trajectory Weaver was on. In Boise State’s opener against Troy, Weaver recorded the first two sacks of his career, the second one a pivotal takedown in the third quarter of a close game that ended up a 24-13 Broncos win. A week later, he scooped up a fumble by Washington State quarterback Luke Falk and ran 55 yards for a touchdown. Now he already ranks second on Boise State’s career sack list. If Weaver opts for the NFL Draft next winter, it would mark the sixth straight season a Bronco has declared early.

THE WEST DIVISION’S ‘OTHER GUYS’

Boise State’s Mountain West football rotation switches the next two seasons, with UNLV, Hawaii and San Jose State replacing San Diego State, Fresno State and Nevada. The change is only a positive if the Rebels, Rainbow Warriors and Spartans are good—and they haven’t been lately. UNLV wrapped up spring football last Saturday. The Rebels return 19 of 22 on offense from last season’s final two-deep and 17 on defense. UNLV features one of the Mountain West’s most electric players, junior quarterback Armani Rogers. The Broncos visit Sam Boyd Stadium on October 5.

As a recent column by Ed Grainey in the Las Vegas Review-Journal headlined, “Hope springs eternal for deeper, confident UNLV football team.” This is the season of truth for coach Tony Sanchez. “He is 16-32 overall with the Rebels, and pivotal doesn’t begin to describe the 2019 season as it relates to his future leading the program,” writes Grainey. But the team is better and deeper and more prepared than any other Sanchez has offered.” Said Sanchez, “The talent level is up. If we can stay away from critical injuries, we will have every chance to contend in the (Mountain West).”

ALSTON WAITS ‘TIL THE TIME IS RIGHT

Boise State coach Leon Rice told the media Monday that Derrick Alston won’t throw his hat into the NBA ring this spring. Alston wants to be at the top of his game before he goes out auditioning. Total agreement here. Alston was raw but occasionally spectacular as a sophomore this past season, averaging 13.4 points per game with eight 20-point games and two 30-point efforts. All that after scoring just seven points total as a redshirt freshman. The cart would have been ahead of the horse had he entertained NBA hopes this year. But after his junior year, Alston could—at the very least—get input from NBA coaches and still return to Boise State before the draft declaration deadline.

STEELIES GET A BOOST FROM A BEARD

Colton Saucerman—and his famously massive red beard—bring some moxie to the Idaho Steelheads in time for Friday night’s puck drop against Utah to open the Kelly Cup Playoffs at CenturyLink Arena. Saucerman played 10 games for the Steelheads earlier this season before being called up by Utica of the AHL on December 12. He scored three goals and added five assists with 15 penalty minutes in his stint as a Steelie. More importantly, the veteran defenseman has played in 44 ECHL playoff games the last three seasons, posting six goals and 16 assists. Saucerman’s beard went viral once he landed in Utica. It’s definitely a calling card.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!

April 10, 1962: It’s the grand opening of Dodger Stadium in the hills above downtown Los Angeles, but the home team loses 6-3 to the Cincinnati Reds. The Dodgers had played their first four seasons in California at the L.A. Coliseum. Now, Dodger Stadium has stood the test of time. Chavez Ravine worked some magic most of that summer for the Dodgers, who would go into September with a healthy lead over rival San Francisco. But the Giants would catch them on the final day of the season—then beat them in a three-game playoff for the National League pennant.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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BOISE STATE FOOTBALL: STOCK UP/STOCK DOWN

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SCOTT SLANT: From the “do-not-count-out” list

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019.

There were several players at Boise State’s spring game Saturday who proved they’re worth a look—if not for a starting spot—at least for a meaningful role with the Broncos in 2019. The first would be quarterback Jaylon Henderson. It’s still hard to imagine Henderson being the starter, considering his limited portfolio. But he’s come so far, there could be some change-of-pace packages installed for him. Also on offense there’s tight end Tyneil Hopper. Outside of a five-yard catch by returning starter John Bates, Hopper had all the receiving numbers Saturday among tight ends, with three grabs for 20 yards. His first reception was thrown by Hank Bachmeier. You can visualize those two connecting a lot in future years. And Stefan Cobbs, who has been much discussed, is certain to be a factor at wide receiver.

On defense, Tyreque Jones was a very visible guy in the spring game. The sophomore safety was all over the field, making five tackles, including a sack. Jones was credited with a forced fumble on his strip sack of Henderson, almost creating the lone turnover of the game. He also recorded a pass breakup. Jones appeared in all 13 games last season and quietly piled up 33 tackles with two breakups and a fumble recovery. The Broncos are set at the top of the depth chart with Kekoa Nawahine and DeAndre Pierce. But add Jones’ name in with proven commodities Kekaula Kaniho, Evan Tyler and Jordan Happle, and they are quite deep at safety.

BO KNOWS BRONCOS

This was not on anyone’s radar—not even Bryan Harsin’s. But there was this surprise Harsin tweet late in the day: “Thank you @BoJackson for visiting the Broncos today! We’re extremely grateful and inspired!” Yes, that Bo Jackson. The only player ever to be named an All-Star in both Major League Baseball and the NFL, and the star of one of Nike’s most famous ad campaigns. Jackson spoke to the Bronco football team on Monday. According to Boise State, Jackson was in town for a meeting with Albertsons executives for his line of food products, Bo Jackson Signature Foods. I wondered if guys born at the end of the 20th century would even know who Bo Jackson was. Well, here’s a tweet from Bronco cornerback Marques Evans: “Just met The Greatest athlete of all time.” Alrightee then.

RESTORING ORDER TO THE YOTES’ RUN GAME

Quarterback Darius-James Peterson was College of Idaho’s leading rusher last year with 822 yards and 13 touchdowns. Which is fine, because DJP helped key six straight victories to end the season to give the Coyotes a second straight winning campaign. But it was a bit unnatural. Running back Nick Calzaretta was a distant second with 509 yards and just two TDs. The annual Purple & Gold Spring Game on Saturday showed a better prescription for a championship run in 2019, as Calzaretta gained 101 yards on only 11 carries. The junior from Larkspur, CA, appears poised to be the true definition of a feature back. And Peterson can spend his senior year being his ol’ dual-threat self.

FORMER BRONCO TRENT JOHNSON IS A BEAR

Nevada won’t be bringing back former coach Trent Johnson to replace Eric Musselman, newly-arrived at Arkansas. That’s because Johnson has been hired by another former Wolf Pack coach, one that used to work for him, Mark Fox at Cal. Are you following this? Fox was on Johnson’s Pack staff from 2000-04 before becoming head coach when Johnson left for Stanford. Which creates another tangled web now that Johnson is with the Bears, the Cardinal’s bitter rival. Johnson, who was born in Berkeley, played for Boise State from 1974-78. He was a bear as a player—pun intended. He was a 6-5 forward, yet he is still the fifth-leading rebounder in Bronco history.

FORMER HAWK’S FIRST MULTI-HOMER GAME

Not that we’ll do this every week, but our Former Boise Hawk of the Week has to be Seattle’s Daniel Vogelbach. Vogelbach had the best game of what has been a sporadic big league career when he went 3-for-4 with a three-run double, a two-run home run and a solo homer while driving in a career-high six runs in the Mariners’ 12-5 win over the White Sox Sunday in Chicago. Vogelbach was back at designated hitter Monday night in Kansas City. The Royals walked him three times in Seattle’s 13-5 win, but one of his other at-bats produced another homer. Vogelbach played for Boise in 2012, batting .322 with 10 home runs in 37 games.

BRONCO SOFTBALL WAITS IT OUT

Rain is expected in Pocatello today—enough that Boise State and Idaho State have postponed their scheduled women’s softball game. The Broncos and Bengals will try again next Tuesday. Boise State is itching to get back on the field. Due to a bye weekend, the Broncos have been living with the three-game sweep they suffered at San Jose State for a week and a half. They return to Dona Larsen Park for a three-game set versus Utah State beginning Friday.

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April 9, 2006: Phil Mickelson wins his third major in three years—and his second Green Jacket—with a championship in the 70th edition of the Masters. That propelled him to No. 2 in the World Golf Rankings behind Tiger Woods. Mickelson has never made it to No. 1. Lefty would win the Masters a third time in 2010. He’s also been victorious in one British Open and one PGA Championship, but he has yet to win the U.S. Open.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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BOISE STATE COACH LEON RICE: COLLEGE BASKETBALL

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THE FIRING LINE: BOISE STATE SPRING GAME

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SCOTT SLANT: The spring game’s star attractions

Presented by MAZ-TECH AUTOMOTIVE.
Monday, April 8, 2019.

Boise State’s quarterback battle took a back seat in the spring game Saturday to what might be the Broncos’ strongest position group. Man, this team has wide receivers. John Hightower made a couple of his classic catches on deep balls. The second, from Kaiden Bennett, looked like it was overthrown, but Hightower flat-out ran under it and dived to get it. Khalil Shakir showed his shakes on a beautiful 53-yard catch-and-run touchdown from Jaylon Henderson. Hightower and Shakir had three catches each, for 92 and 96 yards, respectively. Makes you wonder what it would have been like with both players healthy in late November—and on the first of December. Among the new faces, Stefan Cobbs put an exclamation point on a great spring, with three grabs for 69 yards. Cobbs also got in on the long-ball launches with a 35-yard reception.

The only conclusion to be drawn in the QB competition after Boise State’s spring game: let’s wait ‘til Chase Cord is healthy before any assumptions are made. Four-star recruit Hank Bachmeier didn’t have a terrible day—he was 3-for-3 for 33 yards before misfiring on his final four attempts (with the help of one drop). But the other four quarterbacks who played all had better numbers, especially Henderson, who appears to have come miles from where he was a year ago. The senior was 9-for-13 for 187 yards and the game’s lone TD pass. Bennett’s running ability was evident in the game. Bennett, the other true freshman in the race, scrambled three times for 29 yards on his first possession.

Some things to keep in mind coming out of Saturday’s session: 1) rushing numbers in this game are traditionally underwhelming, and 2) the sample size for Robert Mahone was really small. While Andrew Van Buren led the Broncos with 47 yards on 12 carries, including a nifty 20-yard dash, it was Mahone who was in on the first possession of the day. Mahone carried four time for 22 yards on that drive and was running hard, pushing the pile. He had just one more attempt on the day, a three-yard touchdown. Maybe that gave the coaching staff enough intel on Mahone for the afternoon. Van Buren ran well, too, and he snagged a 23-yard swing pass from Jaylon Henderson. Van Buren also had a couple drops late in the scrimmage, though.

DEMARCUS ABOUT TO MAKE A BIG DEPOSIT

DeMarcus Lawrence is now the richest former Boise State Bronco in history, in NFL terms. In fact, his new contract with Dallas would make him the richest former player in the NFL at most schools. Patience paid off for both Lawrence and the Cowboys Friday, as they settled on a five-year, $105 million deal, with $65 million guaranteed. He gets more cash in the first year of a contract—$31.1 million, including his signing bonus and roster bonus—than any non-quarterback in NFL history. That’s $31.1 million. Lawrence had been putting off his shoulder surgery during negotiations with the Cowboys. Now he can get it done. The operation will keep him out until training camp this summer. Lawrence played last season with a torn labrum.

The college playing careers of Broncos often begin innocently. This is from the Scott Slant column on December 19, 2011: “Boise State rarely dips into the junior college ranks, but with Shea McClellin, Tyrone Crawford and Jarrell Root finishing their careers at defensive end Thursday (in the Las Vegas Bowl), now is as good a time as any. Scout.com reports the Broncos got a verbal yesterday from D-end Demarcus Lawrence out of Butler County Community College in Kansas. Lawrence is a 6-4, 250-pounder who, according to Scout.com, also had offers from Clemson, Kansas State, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Tennessee. Lawrence is the 15th commit of Boise State’s 2012 recruiting class.” Maybe those offers should have been a hint.

MUSS JUMPS INTO ‘PIG SOOIE’

With seven seniors departing the program and big money knocking, it was a good time for Eric Musselman to head out. And now it’s official: Musselman has left Nevada to become the head men’s basketball coach at Arkansas. He’s agreed to a five-year deal with the Razorbacks at $2.5 million per year and is set to be introduced in Fayetteville today. Musselman made just over $1 million this season with the Wolf Pack. In four seasons in Reno he went 110-34 and got the Pack has high as No. 6 in the polls earlier this season. He took Nevada to three NCAA Tournaments, including last year’s Sweet 16 run. Sustaining his success will be a massive challenge for the Wolf Pack.

REGULAR SEASON ENDS WITH A THUD

A division title just wasn’t in the cards for the Idaho Steelheads. They still had hope Saturday night with a 2-0 lead over Utah early in the third period at West Valley City, but the Grizzlies scratched out two goals, the second one with just 2:21 left in regulation to send the game into overtime. Utah made quick work of the OT, scoring just over a minute in to end it. At the same time, the Tulsa Oilers were clinching the ECHL Mountain Division with a 6-1 rout of Kalamazoo. The regular season wrapped up Sunday with the Steelies absorbing a 7-4 loss to the Grizzlies. At least Idaho has something to avenge as the Kelly Cup Playoffs begin this Friday in CenturyLink Arena—it’s Utah that serves as the Steelheads’ first round opponent.

GYMNASTS’ WAIT EXTENDS ANOTHER YEAR

The path to a first-ever berth at nationals was going to be harder than ever this year for the Boise State women’s gymnastics team. First, the Broncos would have to get through an NCAA West Regional semifinal meet Friday night, and they did that, beating Washington and Southern Utah to join Denver in advancing to the regional final against Oregon State and Florida. Boise State was solid Saturday night, but the other finalists were “solider,” and the Broncos ended their season in fourth place with a 196.075. They’re guaranteed a top 16 finish in the final rankings for the fourth straight season. By the way, sorry about the screwup on Boise State women’s softball on Friday. The Broncos’ bye week threw me off. They play at Idaho State tomorrow.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by COMMERCIAL TIRE…keeping you and your family on the road.

April 8, 2013: Rick Pitino becomes the first head coach ever to win a national championship at two different schools, leading Louisville to an 82-76 victory over Michigan in an entertaining NCAA title game. The Cardinals, who were the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, won their first national crown since 1986 on the same day Pitino was named as an inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The word “shame” came into play when Pitino was implicated in a federal investigation involving bribes to recruits, which resulted in Louisville firing him for cause in October of 2017.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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Henderson Would Start Now; Still Time To Judge

 

BY MIKE PRATER
THE IDAHO PRESS

Brett Rypien, the old man on campus these days, made an appearance in the press box during Boise State’s spring game, and the quarterback quickly confirmed what he probably already knew.

There’s a lot of judging going on as the curious press sits in its mighty box.

“I’d love to be able to judge,’’ Rypien said with a smile, or something like that.

Indeed, there was judgment galore flying around Albertsons Stadium on Saturday as Boise State’s football team wrapped up its business for the spring.

There was judging from the press box.

From the stands.

From the field.

And from the sidelines.

And all of it was directed at the six quarterbacks, or at least three or four, who are attempting to replace Rypien, who’s now being judged by pro personnel leading up to this month’s NFL Draft.

Here’s the evidence so you can judge yourself, based on what happened Saturday (with spring game stats):

-Senior Jaylon Henderson (9-of-13, 187 yards, 1 TD, long of 53): Started with the No. 1 offense, played against a reserve defense, and smoothly turned both drives into points.

-Redshirt sophomore Chase Cord: No stats, but his pre-game throws on the sideline looked brilliant — and his ailing knee/ACL is on target for the fall.

-Redshirt freshman Riley Smith (4-8, 57, long of 35): Played some first-team reps, after a nice spring camp, but his passing was inconsistent and his No. 1 reps will disappear in the fall.

-True freshman Hank Bachmeier (3-7, 33, long of 19): Recruiting star played three series, mostly against sackmaster Curtis Weaver and the No. 1 defense, and failed to score. Threw some nice passes against no live tackling, but he doesn’t have command of the offense yet.

-True freshman Kaiden Bennett (3-4, 41, long of 36, gained 32 yards rushing): Good passer, but right now, a better runner.

-Redshirt freshman Zach Matlock (2-4, 49, long of 37): Impressive — for a walk-on.

So what did the real judges think?

Head coach Bryan Harsin: “I feel like Jaylon’s had a really good spring. … He’s elevated his game through spring, he’s played better each scrimmage and the other guys who have been competing have brought their level up as well.’’

Offensive coordinator Zak Hill: “Quarterbackswise, there were too many sacks (eight) and that’s what showed up as a negative, but I thought overall those guys came and they prepared pretty well and executed.’’

New defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding, and his fresh perspective: “Well, I’ll tell you, you’ve got a lot of different types (of quarterbacks) and I think that’s going to be a challenge. I’m not going to get too far into it, but I’ll tell you, there’s some guys who can chew up some yardage with their legs, and there’s some other guys who are very pure passers.’’

Left tackle Ezra Cleveland, on how the QBs have improved as a group this spring: “I would say communication. We switched into a on-the-ball offense. We’re not huddling, so a big key factor is getting the play to the offensive line because we don’t look at the signals and that’s been improving a lot.’’

Junior cornerback Avery Williams: “There’s a lot of dual threats out there. … It’s good that we have quarterbacks who can do that, expose us, so we can work on that.’’

Even former Boise State quarterback and Fiesta Bowl star Jared Zabransky had something to say after meeting privately with the quarterbacks on the blue: “They all threw the ball really well, there were some really good-sized throws today,’’ he said.

We are 146 days away from the opener against Florida State, and this is what Harsin & Co. will deem important when deciding on a starting quarterback in August: Knowledge of the system, decision-making, accuracy and consistency.

Bottom line, based on what we know right now: Smith and Bennett, despite doing some nice things this spring/Saturday, are backup/transfer material.

Bachmeier, the promising freshman, is third on the depth chart and not prepared to beat Florida State.

The uber-competitive Cord will push Henderson hard in fall camp, and is expected to win the starting job, if healthy. If all goes right in his world, Cord could get a medical hardship after last season’s injury and become a four-year starter at Boise State.

The veteran Henderson is Boise State’s best and most prepared quarterback. Don’t count him out. Even as a starter against the Seminoles.

Not that anyone is judging.

Mike Prater is the Idaho Press sports columnist and co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket every Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. He can be found on Twitter @MikeFPrater and can be reached at mikefprater@gmail.com. Prater’s opinions are his own.

jeffblog

Offense Always Wins At Boise State

By Jeff Caves

Coach Pete was known as a very fair guy. Open minded and, while not seemingly interested in the field goal unit at times, appreciated the three phases of the game.

The run game, pass game and trick plays.

I have been told by former players that the team put in extra work as an offense in any drill, scrimmage or meeting. For example, they would do a botched play over again and again until the offensive squad executed properly. Scrimmages were not live, defensive schemes were vanilla and the offense was always put in a scoring situation without earning it.

Okay, I am being a bit bitter as a former defensive player, but it’s all happening again with Harsin.

And that’s fine cause it pays the bills.

All FBS era Head Coaches at Boise State have been guys with offensive backgrounds. The insiders know Boise State will only be as good as its defense allows it to be but even I will admit, it takes way more communication and total team execution to play at the level the Boise State offense does. Let’s say I believe Harsin has this team, especially the offense, constantly striving for perfection and settling for excellence.

I saw some of that at the Spring Game. The offense ran 73 plays in only 32 minutes of game clock. That’s breakneck speed. Last years team averaged 75 plays per game in 60 minutes.  

Advantage offense. The fact 24 points were scored is a miracle. How many times has Boise State went no-huddle on offense the entire game and used 5 different quarterbacks?

I came away impressed with the following:

 

-Jaylon Henderson has won the backup job. THANK GOD. If he didn’t perform as well as he did this spring, I believe Boise State would have been pressed into making Hank Bachmier ready to be #2. He isn’t ready. Neither are the rest of the quarterbacks. And, they know it, so I don’t think Bachmeier or Bennett transfers anytime soon.

 

-Bachmeier isn’t seeing the field just yet when he drops back. He is confused and that’s why he took so many coverage sacks. If he is as smart as they say he is, it is a non-issue. Dude ripped a 40 yard throw to the opposite side of the field on a rope. But, he still floats his touch passes and that’s an interception or collision waiting to happen.

 

-Curtis Weaver should be preseason defensive player of the year in the Mountain West. He is unblockable in pass rush. I have seen him totally dominate twice this spring. He has had 20 sacks the last 2 seasons. Enjoy his last year at Boise State. If he trains properly this summer, he will work his way into being a first or 2nd round NFL guy.

 

-Khalil Shakir is the most exciting player Boise State has had since Titus Young. WATCH OUT.

 

-The wide receiver group is well stocked. Shakir and Hightower are headaches for opposing defensive coaches. Thomas, Cobbs, and Butler are reliable and can move the chains. Octavius Evans can only make the position group more explosive if he can stay healthy and should change his #1 jersey number until he puts some up.

-Andrew Van Buren is a work in progress but needs the work to improve. He got better as the scrimmage went on. Showed great vision on a 20-yard run, some open field escapability and inside toughness. BUT, dropped two passes. #1 to me or #1a

 

-Ezekiel Noa is ready to be a highlight hit machine at LB. Once he trusts his reads, he is a heat-seeking missile type of LB ala Korey Hall.  

 

Seemed like a successful Spring Game enjoyed by almost 7,000 fans. Who came to see offense. I think they did. 24 points in 32 minutes with 5 different Qb’s. Imagine what they could put up in 60.

chrisblog

Reckless Fall Predictions From BSU’s Spring Game

By Chris Lewis

Now that the spring game is done, we’re without Boise State football until fall camp begins. With this season’s depth chart as mysterious as ever, here are my reckless predictions on how it’ll shake out on offense.

QBs:

On Saturday, August 31, when Boise State takes its first offense snap in Jacksonville against Florida State, Hank Bachmeier will be the starting quarterback. That goes against what I saw in the spring game, where he was third on the list on who stood out to me. However, the more I envision the season, the more I realize that this is the most realistic and logical outcome.

First of all, I can’t count on Chase Cord being healthy. It’s the second time tearing his ACL, which is concerning for a QB that relies on mobility and usually means a more careful rehab. It happened in early October, which would mean week 1 is less than 11 months since the injury. Plus, even at the NFL level, quarterbacks who rush back from injury usually struggle early in their return.

That leaves Jaylon Henderson, Kaiden Bennett and Bachmeier as the main contenders. Henderson is the only one of that group with college experience, but nothing about his profile says bonafide starting QB. Boise State is his third collegiate stop, and his numbers weren’t impressive at his previous two stops. Also, he wasn’t a high-pedigree HS QB entering college. Henderson playing mop-up duty last year in a few games didn’t showcase much either. While he has the experience edge (which showed in the spring game), he doesn’t seem like the highly-talented QB that Boise State would ideally like to trot out there.

Bachmeier does meet the high-pedigree and talent criteria. He’s a four-star recruit that had offers to big programs. Plus, his game is more “pro-style” than the other true freshman option Bennett, who is also significantly smaller. Boise State has shown that they aren’t afraid to start a true freshman QB if that quarterback is mature enough to handle it. If the coaches determine that Bachmeier won’t be scarred by the situation in Jacksonville, he’ll be the guy.

RBs:

This group is harder to project than the quarterbacks. Coach Bryan Harsin’s history as a head coach tells us that he likes to ride one running back. The way he’s used Ajayi, McNichols, and Mattison makes it clear he loves a workhorse. The part I’m most confident in predicting is that Robert Mahone will be the No. 2 back. It’s a role he’s had before, and it’s a role he’s handled well. However, the fact that he never really had the opportunity to be a lead back, even when Mattison was banged up last season, tells me that the coaches don’t see him as a No. 1.

The question is, who will be the No. 1 if it isn’t Mahone? Andrew Van Buren is my pick to be the lead guy over true freshmen George Holani and Keegan Duncan. Holani and Duncan not being with the team in the spring is a slight disadvantage. Boise State RBs need to be able to pass protect, and those guys missed out on reps doing that in the spring. Plus, it’s hard for me to imagine that someone a few months removed from high school can physically handle the workload that Harsin wants to give his main back.

The previous Boise State workhorses all had at least a season on-campus to build their body up before they became a feature back. Van Buren has had that luxury. One of either Holani or Duncan will get reps as a No. 3 back, and my reckless guess would be Holani. That means, I think Duncan redshirts.

WRs:

The wide receivers were the standouts of the spring game. Even though AJ Richardson and Sean Modster are gone, no one seems to think this group will miss a beat. Khalil Shakir was the standout of the spring game. He found ways to get open, and make people miss once he caught the ball. It got me to rethinking where he’ll be in the receiver rotation. Before the game, I thought John Hightower and CT Thomas were poised to be the top two options. I’ve put Shakir in that tier moving forward. He’ll finish second on the team in catches and yards. Thomas will be the dependable third down option and team catch leader. Hightower will be the big play threat, and yardage leader. Shakir seems to give a little of both, with also the ability to run. The wildcard of the position didn’t play in the spring game. Octavious Evans had a season ruined by injury last year. At this point a year ago, he seemed to be a threat to be the top WR. At this point, I’ll put him fourth on the list of impactful 2019 receivers. It’s a strong group, and may have to carry the offense early.

Chris Lewis, the play-by-play voice of Boise State women’s basketball and Olympic Sports, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Bob & Chris weekdays from 1-3 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket. He can be found @ChrisLewisTweet (Twitter).

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BOISE STATE FOOTBALL SPRING GAME PREVIEW

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SCOTT SLANT: A wide selection at wideout

Presented by PEASLEY TRANSFER & STORAGE.
Friday, April 5, 2019.

At first glance, it’s “Wow, Boise State lost a lot at wide receiver.” And that’s true when you consider Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson took career totals of 210 catches, 2,961 yards and 22 touchdowns with them. But everyone else is returning, including a bevy of underclassmen, and those guys will be on display Saturday in the Blue & Orange Game at Albertsons Stadium. The leaders of the pack are CT Thomas, Akilian Butler and John Hightower, who seems to be back in the good graces after his academics-related bowl game suspension. Among last year’s redshirts, Stefan Cobbs has had a solid spring. One of the most important aspects of spring ball for the wideouts: how much they have helped new quarterbacks Hank Bachmeier and Kaiden Bennett become comfortable in the Bronco offense.

With the youth movement at wide receiver, this group will have some longevity. Heck, let’s shorten that to just “long.” All but CT Thomas and Akilian Butler are six feet tall or more. The Broncos appear to have made a concentrated effort to get bigger at that position. Boise State’s 2019 signees read this way: Shea Whiting 6-2, Khyreem Waleed 6-3, and DK Blaylock 6-5. All three are taller than junior Octavius Evans, who sure looked large as a true freshman in 2017 at 6-1. We’re not expecting to see the injury-plagued Evans on the field tomorrow, but there’ll be plenty of audition time for players like Billy Bowens and Cobbs. Bowens got into three games last season, one under the redshirt limit, and had one touch, an 11-yard reverse at New Mexico.

ROOKIE STAFF’S REPORT CARD WILL BE DELAYED

Defense usually dominates in spring games, so tomorrow’s event may not tell us much about how well all the new faces on the Boise State coaching staff are working together. Jeff Schmedding is the defensive coordinator now; he was at Eastern Washington a year ago. Zac Alley has taken over the linebackers after a long, rewarding apprenticeship at Clemson. Jalil Brown is handling cornerbacks, coming up from Northern Arizona, although he was on the Broncos’ strength and conditioning staff two years ago. (Brown played at Colorado from 2007-10 while many Boise State guys were staffers with the Buffaloes, including Andy Avalos, Kent Riddle, Lee Marks and strength coach Jeff Pitman.) Player favorite Spencer Danielson is a holdover, but he’s in uncharted territory as defensive line coach.

REVITALIZING A DEFLATED DEFENSE

One of the goals of Idaho spring football is improvement on defense. Despite a return to the Big Sky last year, there was significant slippage on the defensive side of the ball. The Vandals allowed 37.5 points and 455 yards per game, way up from the 25.8-point and 390-yard averages during their final year in the FBS. So Idaho coach Paul Petrino is looking for catalysts to emerge this spring, and he found one Monday. “Tre Walker I would say won the day,” said coach Paul Petrino after this week’s first practice. That’s the guy who stuck out the most to me. He really got after it.” The 6-1, 226-pound sophomore linebacker from Fresno played as a true freshman last season and earned three starts. Walker made 41 tackles, three for loss.

YOTES RIDE THEIR 2018 WAVE INTO SPRING FINALE

College of Idaho’s Purple & Gold Spring Game will also be played Saturday at Simplot Stadium. The Coyotes return all 11 starters on offense and 10 starters on defense from a 6-5 team that won its final six games in 2018, so this could be the year in the Cascade Conference. C of I knows who its starting quarterback will be this year, senior Darius-James Peterson. So expect to see plenty of action from the Yotes’ three back-ups, Nathaniel Holcomb, Gage Ferguson and A.J. Bernhardt. The team is the deepest it’s been since the program began play again in 2014.

ALL UTAH ALL THE TIME

It’s a weird way to end the regular season, but that’s what the schedule says. The Idaho Steelheads and Utah Grizzlies will play three times, tonight in CenturyLink Arena and Saturday and Sunday in West Valley City. Still at stake is the ECHL Mountain Division title and home-ice advantage in each of the first two rounds of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Steelheads are one point behind the Tulsa Oilers—each team has three games to play. The Steelies go into the final weekend sporting the league’s All-Rookie goaltender and second-team All-ECHL goalie, Tomas Sholl, who is 25-12-0 with three shutouts and leads the ECHL in save percentage at .928.

GYMNASTICS LITMUS TEST, SOFTBALL BACK HOME

The 12th-ranked Boise State women’s gymnastics team has never been to the NCAA Championships. This year’s Broncos are arguably the program’s best team ever, but the new format at NCAA Regionals will make it harder than ever to achieve that breakthrough. Boise State is in Corvallis for round one of regionals tonight, competing against No. 5 Denver, Washington and Southern Utah. The top two teams from that session will face the top two from the group that includes No. 4 Florida, No. 15 Oregon State, Stanford and Iowa on Saturday. Then the final two survivors get berths in nationals. Meanwhile, the Boise State women’s softball team, coming off a three-game road sweep at the hands of San Jose State last weekend, returns to Dona Larsen Park for a three-game set versus Utah State beginning today.

THE GENERAL IN THE HALL

Greg Patton may be gone from his head coaching post with Boise State men’s tennis, but he’s hard to forget. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association can’t forget Patton and has named him for induction into the ITA Men’s Hall of Fame. The press release from Boise State had all the perfect Patton-isms. “Saint Peter has just welcomed me through the Pearly Gates of Tennis,” he said. Patton stepped down as the Broncos coach last May following an incredibly successful 22-season run. He took Boise State to 16 NCAA Tournaments and won 808 career matches over 37 years with the Broncos, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and CSU Bakersfield. And Patton has touched countless lives on and off the court.

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April 5, 2014, five years ago today: Quarterback Brett Rypien of Shadle Park High in Spokane gives his verbal commitment to Boise State. Rypien, the 2013 Offensive Player of the Year in the state of Washington, chose the Broncos over Washington State, where his uncle Mark starred before going on to become MVP of Super Bowl XXVI. The younger Rypien would burn his redshirt year in the third game of his true freshman season and would start for the rest of his career, throwing for 13,581 yards and 90 touchdowns. He was a three-time first-team All-Mountain West pick and was Offensive Player of the Year in the conference as a senior.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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