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Harsin Goes Deep

by Jeff Caves



By naming Hank Bachmeier the starting QB at Boise State, Head Coach Bryan Harsin is going deep. He sees a 1 on 1 match up and he’s launching a deep throw on first down early in the game. Sure, he could have literally limped into Jacksonville behind Chase Cord and played it safe. But, he saw the hitch in Cord’s giddy up, and maybe the look in his eye, and decided to go for broke. Harsin is gambling on a true freshman.

From up in the stands, I could see Cord favoring his repaired knee during the Fan Fest practice. From on the field, coaches can see his facial expressions and movements even better.  I bet Cord is still learning how to trust his knee.  Dropping or cutting back in traffic is a whole different thing when the game is live. And, the game is much faster vs Florida Freaking State. One wrong move there and Cord is looking at a lifetime of knee problems. Maybe you risk Cord vs Portland State, not Florida Freaking State.

But, Bachmeier won this job fair and square Harsin reminded us. I like the gamble. Bachmeier is a longer-term investment in recruiting the best talent for Boise.  Harsin can go into the recruiting battlefield and go look for the best QB he can find every 3or 4 years and tell him he can play right away, like Rypien and Bachmeier. If this works out, this could be a game-changer in recruiting.

If it doesn’t?

Well, you may lose to Florida State, tear down some of Bachmeier and the teams’ confidence and have an up and down year. Losses to Florida State, an Air Force or Wyoming, BYU or Utah State could easily happen at home or on the road with a freshman QB finding his consistency. Harsin is all in on Bachmeier and going deep. I think he has the playmakers around him at WR and a veteran offensive line to lighten the load.  If Boise State can run the ball and get Bachmeier to 3rd and 5 or less consistently, life will much easier for Bachmeier. Then, Harsin can play it safe.


SCOTT SLANT: Different comfort zones at the Boise Open

Presented by WESTERN SIDING.
Friday, August 23, 2019.

Grayson Murray and Charlie Saxon have some peace of mind going into today’s second round of the Albertsons Boise Open. Both golfers handled Hillcrest Country Club Thursday, carding seven-under 64’s to share the first-round lead. Ironically, Murray finished with back-to-back 64’s the last time he played the Boise Open In 2016. He likes it here. Murray, a former Arizona State standout, was exempt on the PGA Tour in 2018-19 until a back injury cut his season short this spring. He took a medical exemption and will have 12 starts on the PGA Tour, but he’s trying to earn a full tour schedule by finishing in the top 25 in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.

Despite missing three of his last four cuts, including the first event of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals last week, Saxon is playing pressure-free golf right now. It showed yesterday, as Saxon one-putted his final 10 holes. You have to like his approach to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. “I’d love to play on the PGA Tour next year; it’s been a lifelong dream that I have a chance to achieve, but at the same time, I know that another year out here wouldn’t be the worst thing with some more time to get better,” said Saxon, a 26-year-old former Oklahoma Sooner. “So I’m just treating it as an opportunity, and if I play well the next three days then I will get my Tour card, and if not, then the world isn’t going to end.”


John Molchon and Kekoa Nawahine were Boise State’s two representatives at Mountain West Media Days a month ago—a good indication that they’d be Bronco captains this season. And they are. The third captain has seen his journey come full-circle, as it’ll be David Moa joining Molchon and Nawahine every week for the coin toss. The role in the locker room is much bigger, though. In September of 2017, few would have imagined Moa being the unquestioned leader he is today after a 2 a.m. disturbing the peace arrest arrest in Downtown Boise. “I’m disappointed,” said coach Bryan Harsin at the time. Harsin could not be a bigger booster of Moa now. “Captain Moa Constrictor.”


Moa is ready to re-anchor the Boise State defensive line this season. I say “re” because Moa—and his coaches—expect a 2016-type season out of him. He’s been getting the hype, as has been STUD Curtis Weaver, of course. Just Thursday on ESPN’s College Football Live, Weaver was ballyhooed as one of the Group of 5’s best players this year. But those not named Moa or Weaver on the D-line will have a lot to say about Boise State’s fate this season (I still classify Weaver as a defensive lineman). The Broncos are awfully deep there. Chase Hatada and Sonatane Lui are proven commodities flanking Noa. Backups Matt Locher, Jabari Watson, Scale Igiehon and Emmanuel Fesili are experienced and could start at most Mountain West schools. And the staff is anxious to see what Homedale’s Scott Matlock can do.


Maybe it’ll be Boise State’s Fan Fest Saturday that brings the announcement of the Broncos’ new starting quarterback. Chase Cord and Hank Bachmeier have been tooth-and-nail for three weeks now. Coach Bryan Harsin and the staff probably already know who it’ll be with the opener at Florida State now eight days away. Cord’s and Bachmeier’s families are certainly trying to be ready for anything. Said June Cord on Twitter Tuesday: “Whoever may be chosen as Bronco QB, please be supportive and kind.” Boy howdy. She is Chase’s grandmother, and that family surely heard some vitriol last fall after Cord threw an interception while taking a hit against San Diego State. It was a few days later that he tore his ACL in practice. Some fans were bluntly reminded that they needed to chill. You go, Grandma June.


Did you blink? The college football season begins tomorrow. A team from the Mountain West has been a participant in the first day of the season for the past three years, and that will again be the case in 2019 as Hawai‘i hosts Arizona tomorrow on CBS Sports Network. This time the Rainbow Warriors will help kick off the 150th anniversary of college football, and they have a chance to make it memorable with a win over the Pac-12’s Wildcats. Hawai’I returns 20 starters, tied for most in the country with Ball State, Indiana, Michigan State and Oregon. Did you know? The Mountain West has won four straight games over Pac-12 opponents: Nevada over Oregon State, Fresno State over UCLA, San Diego State over Arizona State and Fresno State over Arizona State.


Because of its run-heavy offense, Air Force is never particularly deep at wide receiver. Now, the Falcons are razor-thin. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, a pair of Air Force receivers expected to vie for starting jobs will not be available to the team because of academy issues. “Cadets Brandon Lewis and David Cormier are not in good standing,” the academy said in response to an inquiry from The Gazette. “Cadets who have received a loss in status are not able to represent the U.S. Air Force Academy in any official capacity.” Elsewhere, College of Idaho wraps up fall camp tomorrow morning with its annual Purple & Gold Scrimmage Saturday morning at Simplot Stadium. The Yotes, the Frontier Conference favorites, open the season on the same field a week later versus Eastern Oregon.


Boise State’s 2019-20 athletic season officially begins today, as women’s soccer heads north to face Idaho (it’s rare that the Broncos and Vandals face each other in any sport anymore). Boise State, led by the nation’s top returning goal-scorer, Raimee Sherle, then hosts Eastern Washington in the home opener on Sunday at the Boas Soccer Complex. And the Mountain West Preseason Cross Country Coaches Poll makes Boise State the favorite to win the men’s conference championship this fall, while the Broncos (now minus Allie Ostrander) are picked second on the women’s side.

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

August 23, 1999, 20 years ago today: The South-Central Boise All-Stars begin play at the Little League World Series with a 4-0 loss to Tom’s River, NJ. The Boise kids would go 1-2 in pool play, falling to Phenix City, AL, 12-0 before finishing on a high note with a 2-0 victory over Brownsburg, IN. Much of the South-Central team would form the nucleus of Borah High’s state championship team in 2005. The roster included Stephen Fife, who went on to the University of Utah and made the big leagues in 2012 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

(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: Is Denver really ‘hiding’ Rypien?

Thursday, August 22, 2019.

It seems weird, but Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post was asked in his Broncos Mailbag if Denver isn’t playing Brett Rypien in order to keep him under the radar and stash him on the practice squad. O’Halloran’s reply: “Bingo. Now that (Drew) Lock is going to miss extended time, the current pecking order is (Joe) Flacco QB1, Kevin Hogan QB2 and Lock QB3. Carrying three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster should not impact Rypien’s status. The Broncos like what they have in him and want to use 2019 to develop him on the practice squad. To that end, that’s why he didn’t play at all against Seattle or San Francisco. The less tape on a guy, the less likely a team will claim him to be on their 53-man roster.” And to that end, O’Halloran says Rypien may not play Saturday against the L.A. Rams, either.


USA Today has a list of the 10 best games in Week 1 of college football. As you might guess, Boise State-Florida State is on it at No. 7. Writes Paul Myerberg: “This neutral-site affair played in Florida State’s backyard is the first chance for the Seminoles to put a new stamp on the Willie Taggart era after an awful opening campaign that saw its run of 36 consecutive bowl games end. While Boise State will be better in November than August — there are several new pieces at key spots on offense — this would be a meaningful win for FSU and a sign that things may not be as bad as they seem. On the other hand, a loss would make things even more miserable in Tallahassee.”

But Fresno State at USC places higher, at No. 3. “Two programs headed in opposite directions,” writes Myerberg. “As Fresno State has won 22 games in two seasons under Jeff Tedford, USC has undergone a troubling slide under Clay Helton. Talent favors the Trojans; execution favors the Bulldogs. A loss for USC would be a disaster for Helton, who will hope JT Daniels is ready to emerge at quarterback in his sophomore season.” This one will indeed be interesting. Fresno State is breaking in a new quarterback, Jorge Reyna, to replace Marcus McMaryion. And although Ronnie Rivers, who scored the winning touchdown in the Mountain West championship game last December, has successfully rehabbed a hamstring injury, the Bulldogs have lost three other running backs for the season.


By all accounts out of Boise State fall camp, STUD end/linebacker Curtis Weaver has been close to unstoppable. Watch list season reflects that. On Wednesday, Weaver was named to the Ted Hendricks Award watch list, the fourth postseason honor for which he’s a candidate going ino the 2019 season. The Hendricks Award goes to the top defensive end in college football. Weaver is also the Preseason Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and is a Sporting News second-team Preseason All-American. ESPN’s Todd McShay tabs him as one of the top 32 players in the 2020 NFL Draft.


Good news for Florida State—maybe not so much for Boise State. FSU junior defensive tackle Marvin Wilson returned to practice Monday after missing 10 days with a sprained knee. This is why the Seminoles are so excited. Wilson has been named a second-team AP Preseason All-American and will be an imposing figure in the trenches. The 6-5, 311-pounder logged 42 tackles with 3.5 sacks last season. Wilson will be anxious to welcome the Broncos’ new quarterback, whomever it may be, to Jacksonville. And the veteran Boise State offensive line will be on high alert.


There’s something missing as the 30th annual Albertsons Boise Open tees off this morning: smoke. The greatest fear in the tournament’s move to August this year was the effect smoke would have on playing conditions. But it’s perfecto. Per insider calculations, 20 of the Korn Ferry Finals’ 25 PGA Tour cards are still up for grabs. Ben Taylor, Brendon Todd, Beau Hossler, Brandon Hagy and Robert Streb have already clinched them (all five are entered today). No. 1 on the Korn Ferry Tour during the regular season was China’s Xinjun Zhang, who didn’t make a cut during the 2018 Korn Ferry Finals and had to go through Q-School to get back on the circuit. Now he’s headed to the PGA Tour next season. Zhang has also earned an invitation to The Players Championship next season, as will the points winner in the Korn Ferry Finals.

Many of the PGA Tour players in this week’s field are looking for comebacks to retain their tour cards, and that includes some big names. Stewart Cink is here. Cink came up through the Korn Ferry Tour (including the Albertsons Boise Open) and famously won the Open Championship at Turnberry in Scotland 10 years ago in a playoff over 59-year-old Tom Watson. Also in the field is Hunter Mahan, who has won two World Golf Championship events. Two past Boise Open champions are entered: 2014 winner Roger Tambellini and 2012 champ Luke Guthrie. And keep track of Norwegian Viktor Hovland, who tied for 12th at the U.S. Open in June and has since turned pro.


The Boise State men’s basketball schedule hasn’t officially been released yet, but Oregon’s has, and it confirms that the Broncos and Ducks will play in Eugene on Saturday, November 9. Oregon transfer Abu Kigab won’t be eligible for Boise State yet. The Broncos will be facing old foe Anthony Mathis, though. The former New Mexico guard is a graduate transfer with the Ducks. Another scheduling note: your first sneak peak at the revived Boise State baseball program will come the first weekend of October. The Broncos will be hosting Northwest Nazarene and MSU Billings for scrimmages on Friday, October 4 and Saturday, October 5, respectively. The usual tenants of Memorial Stadium, the Boise Hawks, fell 4-1 at Salem-Keizer last night. The Hawks are now 1-7 halfway through their Western Idaho Fair road trip.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…we’re payroll, we’re risk, we’re HR, we’re business!

August 22, 1965: San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal hits Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro over the head with his bat, giving baseball one of the more bizarre moments (and most famous photos) in its history. Marichal was angered when Roseboro returned a pitch from Dodger hurlers Sandy Koufax too close to Marichal’s ear. The Giants star was suspended for nine days and fined $1,750.

(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: As the linebackers turn

Presented by WESTERN SIDING.
Wednesday, August 21, 2019.

Boise State’s first-teamers are strong all across the board this season. Even the unidentified ones (quarterback and running back). But if injuries crop up the way they did last year, will the Broncos’ depth compensate? This is particularly important at linebacker. The presumed starter at middle ‘backer is Zeke Noa, who was so strong down the stretch last season after Riley Whimpey’s ACL tear. Whimpey may or may not be ready to start on the weak side against Florida State. If not, that’s where depth becomes paramount. Perhaps Noa would move back to that role, elevating former walk-ons Benton Wickersham and Bruno DeRose in the middle. Or maybe redshirt freshman Brandon Hawkins is ready to step up.

Coach Bryan Harsin mentioned last Friday how nice it was to see redshirt freshman Phillip Mills healthy and running around out there. And Harsin expects the long-awaited Josh Booker-Brown to arrive at any time after completing course work at Pearl River Communituy College in Mississippi. Booker-Brown is the 6-3, 228-pound inside linebacker who just committed to the Broncos at the end of May. There’s a reason the Broncos welcomed that news with open arms. Make no mistake—there are some unknowns in Boise State’s linebacking corps.


The theory that Boise State coach Bryan Harsin should refrain from naming his starting quarterback until the guy hits the huddle in 10 days is gaining traction. Dan Hawkins did this once while he was coach. In 2004, when Jared Zabransky and Mike Sanford were competing to succeed Ryan Dinwiddie, Hawk didn’t reveal his starter until Zabransky trotted out for the first series in the opener on the blue turf, a 65-7 win over Idaho. There’s a lot more at stake in the Florida State game. And whether Harsin would be able to keep the Chase Cord-Hank Bachmeier decision under wraps in today’s social media world is debatable, but it’s worth a shot. It would also allow Harsin to reserve the right to change his mind on the way to Jacksonville.


San Diego State has more to look forward to now, as its new stadium took another step from concept to reality during the team’s annual FanFest last Saturday. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that SDSU unveiled updated renderings for the 35,000-seat stadium, including three tiers along the home sidelines. There’ll also be standing-room-only viewing areas, large concourses and a food truck zone at one end. And palm trees, of course. The Aztecs say the timetable has groundbreaking set next spring, with completion in time for the 2022 football season. Which means when Boise State next visits San Diego State in 2021, the game will be in the stadium formerly known as Qualcomm (if it’s still there). If the Mountain West rotation remains in place, it’ll be 2025 before the Broncos get to play in the new facility.


College of Idaho has always had a strong rushing attack. This season’s run game could be its best yet. The Coyotes have led the Frontier Conference in rushing yards per game each of the past three seasons. However, only once in the first five years since football returned has a running back led the Yotes in rushing. That might not change this year with ground-chewing quarterback Darius-James Peterson back for his senior year, but Nick Calzaretta promises to make it interesting. Calzaretta shook off an injury for a strong finish to the 2018 season and has 1,000 yards in him if he can stay healthy for 11 games. Calzaretta and fellow returnee Dominic Garzoli both peeled off some big gainers Sunday in C of I’s first scrimmage of fall camp.


Time for an annual refresher on how the Korn Ferry Tour Finals work as the Albertsons Boise Open tees off tomorrow. In 2013, what is now the Korn Ferry became the primary vehicle to get to the PGA Tour. The top 25 money winners during the regular season are guaranteed spots on the big tour for the following season, which has been moved up to a September start this year. But “The 25” still plays the Korn Ferry Finals this month, and—except for the No. 1 player—their priority rankings will be decided by results from the three-event series. There are an additional 25 PGA Tour berths up for grabs based on winnings in the Finals, which are designed to include 150 players (the top 75 from the Korn Ferry and Nos. 126 through 200 on the PGA Tour money list).


Former Boise State star Graham DeLaet has played in six Albertsons Boise Opens, the most recent in 2011. DeLaet’s in a very different place now as a PGA Tour veteran. Severe back problems have kept him off the PGA Tour for almost two years. He was on Idaho SportsTalk Tuesday and said he still plans to return in about a month at the Safeway Open in Napa, CA. DeLaet tied for fifth there in 2017, two weeks before the pain forced him to stop playing. He wants to play three or four events this fall, “then really crank it up in January.” And DeLaet can’t wait. “I miss the flights, I miss the hotels, I miss the boys, I miss the money game,” he said. Right now DeLaet is gearing up for his charity tournament, the “Graham Slam,” at SpurWing September 8-9.


A change of scenery didn’t do much for the Boise Hawks Tuesday night. Stop No. 3 on the Hawks’ Western Idaho Fair road trip is Salem-Keizer, and they came away with loss No. 6 of the journey in a 5-3 defeat. The Volcanoes struck with three runs in the bottom of the first inning—that’s kind of the way things have been going for Boise. The Hawks’ Daniel Cope hit his second home run of the season in the second, but there weren’t enough such answers.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by POOL DOCTOR & SPA…so many ways to soak and save!

August 21, 2007: The biggest day at the plate by any former Boise Hawk to make the majors, as Garret Anderson of the Los Angeles Angels knocks in 10 runs, a franchise record, in an 18-9 win over the Yankees. Included in Anderson’s barrage were a grand slam and a three-run homer. Anderson had the longest big league career of any Hawks alum at 16 seasons. He’s still the Angels’ all-time leader in games played, at bats, hits, total bases, singles, doubles, grand slams, extra-base hits, career RBIs, and consecutive games with an RBI (12).

(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: Balancing the turnover line

Tuesday, August 20, 2019.

Boise State defensive statistics were rife with weirdness in 2018. The bad news: the Broncos were all the way down at No. 102 in the country in interceptions, making only seven all season. The good news: at the other end of the spectrum, Boise State was no. 1 in the nation last season with 17 fumble recoveries. That definitely kept the Bronco defense’s head above water. And it’s remarkable. Just two years before, Boise State was near the very bottom in fumble recoveries, at No. 126 with a measly two. That was 2016, the year the Broncos forced only nine turnovers total. They’ve been able to resurrect their turnover ratio since then. Boise State just needs some rhyme and reason to it this year—keep the fumble recoveries total close to last year, and bring the interceptions way, way up.

The underlying issue in the turnover imbalance is pass defense. The lack of interceptions is just part of a bigger picture for Boise State. The Broncos dropped to 70th in the country from 49th in 2017 with 233 passing yards allowed per game. They gave up 22 pass plays of 30 or more yards, 87th in the country. And pass efficiency rating has always been a source of pride for the program, but that number slipped to 140.5 last year, 93rd in the nation. Boise State had been 32nd in 2017 with a more fathomable 118.3 rating. It’s a major area of focus for the Broncos in 2019.


What’s the takeaway from the Preseason AP Poll released Monday? Media voters don’t like the Group of 5 very much this year. Like the Coaches Poll, UCF was tabbed No. 17 in AP. After the Knights comes Boise State from the Group of 5. But the Broncos, who coaches placed second-in-line in the “others receiving votes” category, is eighth-in-line on the AP list. The Broncos were ranked 22nd in both preseason polls a year ago. That’s what losing a four-year starter at quarterback will do for you. And the Group of 5 really drops off from there (Cincinnati, Fresno State and Utah State are next). There’s a total of seven Group of 5 “honorable mentions” on the AP docket, while the Coaches Poll had 10. Florida State, which garnered four points in the Coaches Poll, did not receive a vote in AP.


It’s not size that matters, but skills. If Noah Elliss and Jonah Kim have the the skills, though, the size is taken care of in the defensive trenches at Idaho. Elliss, the son of defensive line coach Luther Elliss, originally signed with Mississippi State out of high school and just became eligible with the Vandals. He is 6-4, 347 pounds. Kim, who arrived in Moscow a few days into fall camp after finishing up business at Santa Rosa Junior College, is 6-3, 353 pounds. Elliss and Kim have been working side-by-side in practice the past week. They take up a lot of space inside (do you think?) and could be a handful in the Big Sky this season.


You may have caught a couple glimpses of Brett Rypien wearing a ball cap on the Denver sidelines Monday night. The cap never came off. Even with 1:40 remaining and the game decided in San Francisco’s 24-15 victory, Kevin Hogan trotted out for the Broncos’ final possession. We can only surmise that Denver coach Vince Fangio hasn’t seen enough from Rypien in practice to put him in the past two games. And the work Hogan got (he was 5-of-14 for 40 yards with an interception but had a 24-yard touchdown run) doesn’t bode well for the former Boise State star’s chances at the practice squad. Why would Hogan play so much if Denver plans to release him? There’s a wild card, though: No. 2 QB Drew Lock went to the locker room with an injury to his throwing hand.


Hillcrest Country Club is prepping for heat this week in the Albertsons Boise Open, much like it did when the tournament was played in July from 2013-15, although temperatures are expected to moderate Thursday and Friday. Conditions are usually perfect in September, which is where the event has landed in 26 of the previous 29 years. This is the first time it has been played in August. calls Hillcrest “perhaps the most scoreable track” in the Korn Ferry Finals rotation. Michael Thompson won it at 23-under in 2016, and there have been nine winning scores of 20-under or lower in the last 13 years. Martin Piller set the course record in 2013 at 28-under before the Boise Open became part of the Finals. That year the tourney was played in July.


There’s plenty of PGA Tour golfers in the Albertsons Boise Open field, as players ranked Nos. 126-200 on the big circuit go to the Korn Ferry Tour to try to retain their tour cards. Troy Merritt was one of those two years ago, and he tied for ninth at Hillcrest to help ensure his return to the PGA Tour. Now, the former Boise State star’s 2018-19 season is over, and it was the second-best of his career. Merritt’s earnings topped $1.5 million, and he’s currently 58th in FedExCup points (that could shift a bit after the Tour Championship this week). Merritt logged one runnerup finish, four top 10’s and nine top 25’s this season. His best campaign was in 2014, when he won $2.1 million and finished 56th in points.


The essence of minor league baseball in short-season Class A is not in the wins and losses, but in the fan experience. The Boise Hawks organization does a great job in the latter, and attendance is healthy. But on the field, it’s been a struggle. The Hawks lost 8-3 at Vancouver Monday night. That drops them to 24-39 on the season, ensuring that they’ll finish below .500 again. This is the Hawks’ fifth straight losing season since they logged back-to-back winning campaigns under current Boise State baseball coach Gary Van Tol in 2013-14.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…we’re payroll, we’re risk, we’re HR, we’re business!

August 20, 2008: Usain Bolt of Jamaica breaks the world record in the 200-meters, winning in 19.30 seconds at the Beijing Olympics. Bolt thus became the first runner since Carl Lewis in 1984 to sweep the men’s 100 and 200 gold medals in the Summer Games. He was also the first man to break the world marks in both sprints at an Olympics—a feat that neither Lewis nor Jesse Owens accomplished. Bolt topped the 200 record of 19.32 set by Michael Johnson at the 1996 Atlanta 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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Broncos Still Haven’t Found What They’re Looking For


BOISE — Harsin, we have a problem.

Or is it the exact opposite?

The Boise State football team is halfway through August, less than two weeks away from one of the biggest games in school history, and a shroud of questions and mysteries hover above three of the most important positions on the roster.

In football, as you know, a majority of the scoring is produced by four positions:


Running back.

Wide receiver.


Coach Bryan Harsin can check the wide receivers box — unless he’s worried about juggling one of the most talented, deepest positions on the roster. He’s not.

But quarterback? Still working on it after Friday night’s critical scrimmage, where depth charts are made, and three players continue to battle in what has emerged as a tight race.

Running back? Five players are in the mix, only two are really needed, and a clear No. 1 has yet to stand out. At least publicly.

Kicker? The Broncos have a returning specialist who has never made a college field goal, and a couple of curious new faces. So who’s The Guy? Don’t know yet.

Harsin met with the media after Friday’s closed scrimmage, and while the focus shines on the quarterback race, and our angst to find an answer, it’s clear that competition rages all over this program as the clock continues to tick.

Translation: A lot of work to be done in a short period of time.

“We’re talking quarterbacks, but really with our other positions, too, you’ve got competitions going at other positions, so it’s no different there,’’ Harsin said. “We still got to figure out this is where we’re going at all these positions. Quarterback’s obviously the big one everybody wants to know about.’’

We all want answers — coaches, fans, media.

The waiting game is frustrating for those of us with limited patience, especially when key scoring positions are involved.

Fall camp is to find answers, and in many cases, we’re still looking. And waiting.

The quarterback race appeared to favor Chase Cord before the scrimmage, then Harsin hinted that it tightened up over those two hours. Hank Bachmeier could be charging, and Jaylon Henderson is lurking.

Harsin could make a decision this week.

Or next, he said.


Or competition?

There are decisions to be made at running back, too, with Robert Mahone and Andrew Van Buren the top contenders. Newcomer George Holani has worked with the No. 1 offense this fall, and Harsin keeps throwing out Keegan Duncan and Danny Smith as names who continue to show promise.

But no decisions.

Then there’s the kicker — the red-headed stepchild of the Boise State program. So much angst in the past. So many special teams question marks from last season. So much emphasis and change in the offseason.

And now — 13 days before Florida State — coaches continue to work with three kickers, hoping to find Mr. Consistent.

Joel Velazquez has been the punter and kickoff specialist, but could become the kicker this year.

Gavin Wale is the true freshman phenom from Nevada who can kick and punt.

And now meet Eric Sachse, a graduate transfer who made 29-of-36 field goals at Division III Trinity College in Connecticut. He, apparently, has made a significant impact during his short time in Boise.

Harsin said he “kicked well’’ in Friday’s scrimmage, his second straight solid scrimmage with the Broncos.

Like a grade-school class, Boise State holds storytime every fall camp, where new players introduce themselves to veteran players. Sachse called himself a “rental car’’ during his storytime — and his demeanor clicked with the team.

“He’s fun to be around, he’s got a good personality, and he also executes when he’s on the field,’’ Harsin said. “He loves to compete. … To me, I enjoy being around guys like that. They’re coachable, they can coach themselves up, he’s certainly got the experience, he’s been through this, and it’s kind of nice to be around that.’’

Harsin said Velazquez and Sachse have been going “back and forth’’ with Wale getting in a few kicks.

But no decision yet on the one position that will lead the team in scoring this season.

Harsin, who wants players to rise and separate, obviously wants his starters set in the next few days. The following week is full-on Florida State prep.

“Guys have worked hard up to this point, but we’re not there, and I really mean that,’’ Harsin said, specifically pointing out a lack of consistency. “What are we going to do over these next two weeks to prepare ourselves?’’

Typical camp coachspeak — but Harsin has an answer for that, too.

“I would say it’s typical, but, again, the expectation is greater right now.’’

Florida State looms and a potential New Year’s Six bowl season awaits. But not before season-defining decisions are made at quarterback, running back and kicker.

Cause for concern?

Or thriving with competition?

Mike Prater is the Idaho Press sports columnist and co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk on KTIK 93.1 FM every Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. and Bronco Game Night after every Boise State football game on KTIK and KBOI 670 AM. He can be found on Twitter @MikeFPrater and can be reached at


SCOTT SLANT: The Bronco depth chart is in our heads

Monday, August 19, 2019.

In most years, Boise State releases a preseason depth chart. It gives us hints as to how the pecking order will go, and it serves as a conversation piece at the very least. The Broncos did not do that this year, probably because the word “or” would have been worn out. As in, Chase Cord “or” Hank Bachmeier “or” Jaylon Henderson at quarterback. Before fall camp, coach Bryan Harsin had estimated it would be about 10 days before the season opener versus Florida State that he would name his starting QB. That would be Wednesday. Harsin said after Boise State’s second scrimmage of fall camp Friday night that it might be Tuesday, “or” Wednesday, “or” next week. “It’s a tough one,” Harsin said. “It’s not like somebody’s running away with it.”

We read between the lines a lot at this time of year, but based on Harsin’s comments Friday night, if Bachmeier is named the starter, it won’t be because Cord’s recovery from last October’s ACL year is still a concern. “He took all his reps—there were no limitations on his reps tonight,” said Harsin of Cord. “Which is good. He looks good.” Does Harsin have an inclination of who his guy will be? “I did, until tonight,” he said. So we’re left to wonder. Had Bachmeier bowled ‘em over during fall camp, followed by a boffo performance by Cord Friday night? Or was it the other way around? We talked about this on Sunday Sports Extra: why even name a starter publicly before the Broncos take the field against Florida State? With everything so new under center, the less the Seminoles know, the better.


It doesn’t really matter if Boise State names its starting running back. That may just be a placeholder until one guy gets in a rhythm. If it’s going to be a committee, the Broncos need three, and it would appear to be narrowed down to Andrew Van Buren, Robert Mahone and George Holani. But Harsin made a point Friday night of mentioning redshirt freshman Danny Smith, who is “cleared from this point forward” after dealing with injuries. Harsin said now it’s a matter of Smith getting into playing shape. As for the rest of the backs? “George Holani has had a really good camp,” said Harsin. “He’s in the mix. He was worked (periodically) with the first team throughout camp.”


It’s looking highly likely that James Blackman will be the starting quarterback when Florida State heads out for its first series against Boise State a week from this Saturday. Tashan Reed, the FSU beat writer for The Athletic, said Friday on Idaho SportsTalk that Blackman “has a pretty solid lead” in the Seminoles’ QB battle. “He seems to be a step ahead of Alex Hornbrook,” said Reed. Hornbrook is the graduate transfer from Wisconsin. Blackman’s going to be quite a sight out there. He is 6-5, 185 pounds and is nicknamed the “Slim Reaper.” Blackman appeared in four games with one start last year and was 33-of-51 for 510 yards and five touchdowns.


We never wanted to compare Brett Rypien to Boise State great Kellen Moore the past four years, because it was patently unfair. But how about this comparison? Is Rypien’s NFL journey is shaping up much like Moore’s in Detroit in 2012? The practice squad wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, though. Rypien didn’t play in Denver’s loss at Seattle nine days ago. Now we’ll see what MNPF (Monday Night Preseason Football) holds, as the Broncos host San Francisco. He’s keeping his head up, anyway. “It’s been good so far. I think I’ve been playing well,” Rypien told the Spokane Spokesman-Review after the game against the Seahawks. “I like this whole organization and coaching staff. I’ve learned a lot, but I think I’m getting better every single day.” Will Denver let him show it on the field tonight?


In his second preseason game as Dallas offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore shouldn’t be judged on any more than the Cowboys’ first possession against the L.A. Rams Saturday in Honolulu. In his only drive of the game, Dak Prescott went 5-for-5 as he marched Dallas 97 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown. Moore’s offense was victimized once by a former Bronco, though, as Donte Deacon came down with a nice interception. The Cowboys went on to win 14-10. Elsewhere, Alexander Mattison is looking like a mainline running back for Minnesota. Mattison played only the first half, logging 41 yards on 10 carries, including a 22-yarder, in the Vikings 25-19 Sunday night win over the Seahawks. The play of the weekend came from Jeremy McNichols in Tennessee’s 22-17 loss to New England. McNichols flipped skyward over the pylon and scored on a 15-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill.


Troy Merritt wrapped up his 2018-19 PGA Tour season with a six-under 66 Sunday to tie for 43rd at the BMW Championship in Medinah, IL. The bogey-free round was a nice recovery from the 76 the former Boise State star shot on Friday. Merritt earned $30,525 for his efforts. Local golf attention now turns to the 30th annual Albertsons Boise Open that tees off Thursday at Hillcrest Country Club, the second leg of the Korn Ferry (formerly Tour Finals. The first stage, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Columbus, OH, was won Sunday by Scottie Scheffler. The former Texas Longhorn had already secured his PGA Tour card for next season by finishing the regular season No. 3 on the Korn Ferry money list.


The Boise Hawks scored two runs in the fifth inning on Sunday. Vancouver scored three in the sixth, and that was it, as the Canadians posted a 3-2 win at Nat Bailey Stadium. The Hawks won the first game of their marathon Western Idaho Fair road trip, but they’ve lost the last four—two in Hillsboro and two in Vancouver. Boise is an anemic 5-22 on the road this season.

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August 19, 1992: Rookie second baseman Bret Boone, grandson of Ray Boone and son of Bob Boone, becomes the first third-generation major leaguer when he breaks in for the Mariners against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. Bret had a hit, an RBI, and two runs in his debut as the M’s won, 10-8. Boone returned to Seattle in 2001, leading the M’s to their best season ever with 116 wins. But less than four years later, with his numbers in a steep decline, the Mariners cut him loose. Boone finished the 2005 season with the Twins and retired the next spring.

(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 1,000-yard streak is expendable

Friday, August 16, 2019.

Boise State has had a 1,000-yard rusher for 10 straight seasons, running (literally) through Jeremy Avery, Doug Martin, D.J Harper, Jay Ajayi, Jeremy McNichols and Alexander Mattison. It’s the longest current streak in the country. The Broncos would love to see that continue, but who’s it going to be? Is Andrew Van Buren the favorite? And if he is, would the staff be best off also utilizing some combination of the talents of Robert Mahone, Danny Smith, George Holani and Keegan Duncan? Boise State would gladly sacrifice the streak if it meant winning the Mountain West championship, and—beyond that—making a New Year’s Six Bowl. If the Broncos get one running back with 800 yards, plus one with 600, 400 and 200, they’ll be sittin’ pretty.

Even if a committee convenes at running back this season, that doesn’t mean there can’t be a 1,000-yard rusher. Behind Avery’s 1,151 yards in 2009, you had Martin with 765 yards and Harper with 284 (and Harper played only three games before tearing his ACL at Fresno State). Then Martin rushed for 1,260 yards in 2010 and Avery 495. In 2011, it was Martin and Harper with 1,299 and 557, respectively. Harper and Ajayi comprised somewhat of a committee in 2012. But there really hasn’t been one since. Last season, Mattison led the Broncos with 1,415 yards. There was a tie for second between Van Buren and wide receiver John Hightower at just 163. This would seem to be a year Boise State can spread the wealth.


What a great idea. The Boise State football team has a tradition of hiking up Table Rock in August—a little bonding, and a little Zen. For the first time this year, you can be a part of it, as Bronco Nation is invited to join the team for the 2,000-foot, 3.6-mile climb to one of the most iconic locations in Boise on Sunday morning. Just meet the team at the base of the Table Rock trail near the Old Idaho Penitentiary at 9:30 a.m., and be ready to head up the plateau. If you’ve never done that hike before, well, bucket list. Bring your camera.


NFL Preseason Week 2 is underway. The best performance amomg the six Boise State alums playing in Thursday night’s games came from Arizona linebacker Tanner Vallejo in a 33-26 loss to Oakland. Vallejo, trying to stick with the Cardinals after making 27 tackles and forcing a fumble for Cleveland last year, made six stops against the Raiders. The focus Saturday night will be on the Dallas Cowboys and their six Boise State alums as they face the L.A. Rams at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. If Cedrick Wilson is cleared to go after suffering an illegal target hit last week, he’ll have a chance to build on the three catches for 36 yards he made at San Francisco. And maybe he’ll be covered by former Bronco Donte Deayon, who’s trying to make the Rams roster.


One thing that would help the Idaho Vandals moving forward is an Idahoan who bursts on the scene and gets fans excited and engaged. Former Rocky Mountain running back Nick Romano is showing signs of being such a guy. “Nick’s had a great fall camp,” said Idaho coach Paul Petrino on Idaho SportsTalk the other day. “There’s no question he’s going to play a lot for us—if not be a starter.” Romano, the 2018 Idaho 5A Player of the Year, is 5-10, 203 pounds and is coming off a state championship with the Grizzlies. He rushed for 2,211 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior—309 of the yards came in the 5A title game. The opportunity is there for Romano; the Vandals’ leading returning rusher is sophomore Roshaun Johnson, who ran for 99 yards last year.


Troy Merritt didn’t start the BMW Championship Thursday the way he did The Northern Trust last week. But it still wasn’t bad for the Meridian resident. Merritt shot a three-under 69 and is tied for 25th going into the second round at Medinah outside Chicago. The positives simply outweighed the negatives for the Boise State product—five birdies and two bogeys. And Trey Jacobs and Tyler Plantier both went 2-for-4 Thursday night for the Boise Hawks. But the rest of the Hawks were just 1-for-22 as four Hillsboro pitchers combined on a 6-0 shutout. The Hawks have one more in Hillsboro tonight before their Western Idaho Fair road trip takes them north to Vancouver.


It seems half of what Allie Ostrander has in her trophy case is from the Mountain West—and deservedly so. The former Boise State superstar runner was named conference Female Athlete of the Year for the third straight year Tuesday. We’re talkin’ all sports. Ostrander, the three-time national champion in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, is the only student-athlete, male or female, to win the award three times in league history. Also at Boise State, the school has a contractor now for its new on-campus baseball stadium. The Statesman reports that the Gardner Company will build the facility, with a targeted open date of March 2021. The Broncos will play their inaugural season next year in Memorial Stadium.


The Optimist Football Jamboree takes over the blue turf tomorrow, a tradition that dates back 39 years, when the turf was green. This year there’ll be 81 teams and about 1,800 players—plus 450 coaches and 25 cheer squads. Not only have stars like Cedric Minter, Brock Forsey and Jake Plummer come through the Optimist program, some quality coaches have, too. There’s Bryan Harsin, of course. And Boise State running backs coach Lee Marks was an assistant coach in OYF for two years after graduating.

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August 16, 1965: After five increasingly successful seasons and about to enter a sixth, the American Football League awards its first expansion franchise to Miami. The team would be named the Dolphins and would debut in 1966. Two years later, with the AFL-NFL merger already announced and interleague play set to begin in 1970, the AFL expanded again, awarding a franchise to Cincinnati. The Bengals began play in 1968.

(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: What are you wishing for?

Thursday, August 15, 2019.

Veteran writer Pete Thamel posted this story Tuesday at Yahoo! Sports: “Which college football coaches will get plucked for bigger jobs next year?” Boise State’s Bryan Harsin always pops up in pieces like this, and Thamel has him as the third-hottest Group of 5 coach. Thamel’s synopsis of Harsin: “He’s a remarkable 52-15 at Boise with two conference titles. Harsin is the most accomplished coach on this list, but he’s been picky. This season, not much in his presumed geographic sweet spot (Pac-12 or Big 12) appears likely to open. He has been hurt a bit by being judged through the prism of Chris Petersen’s ridiculous 92-12 run at Boise.” Bingo. Harsin’s been hurt by that locally. Some people just can’t understand why the Broncos aren’t at least 12-1 every year and actually call for a change.

I received a comment some time ago from a fan who complained that Bronco football is stale, and that there are empty seats at Albertsons Stadium, and said, “We need a new coach.” That always blows me away. Some thoughts: 1) the Coach Pete era was a once-in-history experience and will never be repeated—at Boise State or at any other Group of 5 school. 2) Empty seats are a problem throughout college football…an increasing one. Boise State is in much better shape than the vast majority across the country, especially the rest of the Mountain West. Sellouts in the Group of 5 are extremely rare anymore. 3) Bryan Harsin has that 52-15 record in five seasons. The fact that he has been able to sustain success is impressive, and his recruiting is tops in the Group of 5. Name someone who’s going to come in here and top that.


ESPN’s Todd McShay has released his early list of the top 32 prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft. It’s not necessarily a reflection of the draft order, but you have to like Curtis Weaver’s chances of going in the first round. McShay has the Boise State star, classified as a defensive end, as No. 27, writing: “Weaver uses his power to be effective as a pass-rusher. He extends his arms against tackles to find the quarterback. Weaver also has the ability to make plays in the backfield as a run defender and can set the edge when his technique is sound. But there’s some room for improvement when it comes to getting off his blocks.” Okay then. Weaver is the only Group of 5 player on McShay’s list.


Before we let this week’s Sports Illustrated College Football Preview go, we have to note that the cover features Oregon senior quarterback Justin Herbert. SI calls him “a lock to be a top 10 (draft) pick” and “the most polished QB in the country.” On his ESPN list, McShay has Herbert as his No. 7 prospect in 2020. Which makes Boise State’s performance against him in the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl all the more impressive. Through three quarters, the Leighton Vander Esch-led Broncos defense limited Herbert to 92 yards passing with two interceptions and sacked him three times. The Ducks had not scored an offensive touchdown at that point. Precisely the type of effort this year’s Boise State squad needs on August 31.


Amie Just of is high on former Idaho star Kaden Elliss sticking in New Orleans. Just notes that “no Saints special teamer played more (last) Friday than Elliss, the Saints’ final pick in the NFL Draft.” Elliss was on the field for 77 percent of the Saints’ special teams opportunities, logging 20 snaps. After watching the game tape, Saints coach Sean Payton said he was encouraged with some of Elliss’ special teams play, reported Just. “He had some good plays and then some plays that you want to learn from,” Payton said. “You see those flashes and get encouraged. A little bit more up and down, but encouraged with what you saw when he was doing it right.” Elliss is soaking it all in. “Everything’s a different speed,” Elliss said. “But it’s been fun. You know, it’s exciting.”


There’s a chance of thunderstorms through the weekend at Medinah Country Club in Illinois as the BMW Championship tees off today. Meridian’s Troy Merritt probably wouldn’t mind some wind to go with it. During his course-record 62 to open The Northern Trust last Thursday, Merritt hit a 12-foot putt that missed the cup by a few inches. While he was walking over to tap in, the strong wind blew the ball right in the hole. The big picture this week: Merritt is ranked 59th in points going into the second leg of the FedExCup Playoffs. Now that he’s made it this far, everything is really gravy (and money) for the former Boise State star. Merritt’s wrapping up the best season of his career—seven months after surgery to have a rib removed.


The plan for Boise State’s first baseball squad in 40 years: a 32-player roster, with 15 pitchers and 17 position players. About six months ahead of the first pitch, it is done with the addition of right-handed pitcher Jake Nelson out of College of Southern Idaho. Nelson pitched in eight games for the Golden Eagles in 2016 and did not give up a run in six of his final seven outings. He battled back from injury to make eight appearances this summer for the Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox in the Golden State Collegiate Baseball League. In those stints, all in relief, he struck out 8.64 batters per nine innings. It took 20 months for Broncos coach Gary Van Tol to complete his first roster. “We can’t wait to get on the field with these guys,” said Van Tol.


Pitching has been spotty for the Boise Hawks this summer, but it represented Wednesday night in Hillsboro. The Hawks got a great start by Jeffri Ocando, who went five innings, scattered three hits and allowed just one run—on a wild pitch. For a while it looked like Ocando’s effort might be wasted, as the Hops nursed a 1-0 lead into the seventh. Then the Hawks manufactured a run in each of the next two innings and won 2-1. Yorvis Torrealba scored the game-winner. He went 3-for-4 on the night and was a home run away from the cycle.

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August 15, 2012: Felix Hernandez, with his hat slightly askew as usual, pitches the first perfect game in Seattle Mariners history, blanking the Tampa Bay Rays, 1-0. While it was only the 23rd perfect game in big league history, it was the third perfecto of the season in the majors, an all-time record. It was also the second perfect game of the year at Safeco Field—Chicago White Sox hurler Philip Humber had tossed one in April. Furthermore, it was the second no-hitter of the season thrown by the Mariners, as six Seattle pitchers had combined to no-hit the Dodgers in June.

(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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