SCOTT SLANT: Bleed Blue against the Blue Bloods

Presented by BACON BOISE.

Wednesday Weekly…June 5, 2024.

There was a time when Bronco Nation’s collective mouth would be agape at an opportunity to play in a facility like Rice Stadium in Salt Lake City. That was 1980, when the home of the Utah Utes held about 30,000. The Division I-AA version of Boise State would have never dreamed of playing in 94-year-old Notre Dame Stadium. But here we go. The Broncos and Fighting Irish are scheduled to meet in South Bend on October 4, 2025. It’s not the biggest venue Boise State has ever visited (capacity 77,622 since 2017), but it will be the most historic, topping the Rose Bowl (which was only half-full for the UCLA game 25 years ago), Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium and Georgia’s Sanford Stadium. I guess you’d have to include Autzen Stadium and Husky Stadium as well.

The Notre Dame game is surely a landmark for the Boise State program, but the Fighting Irish do have a 38-game history with current members of the Mountain West. Thing is, 30 of those games were against Air Force. The Irish are 24-6 versus the Falcons and 32-6 overall against the conference. Six of the 12 Mountain West teams have played Notre Dame; the Broncos will be the seventh. Air Force is the only one that has hosted the Fighting Irish—15 times, actually. The last time was 2013, when Notre Dame won 45-10. Hawaii did play the Irish on its home field in the 2008 Hawaii Bowl. The last Mountain West team to play in South Bend was UNLV two years ago. New Mexico played at Notre Dame in 2019, Nevada was there in 2016 and 2009, and San Diego State visited in 2008.


Now this is a solid Group of 5 home-and-home series. Appalachian State will play on the Blue on September 27, 2025, and Boise State will play the Mountaineers in Boone, NC, two years later. The best apples-to-apples comparison for these teams is home records in the 21st century. App State has won 84 percent of its home dates and the Broncos 89 percent. Raise your hand if you remember the only time App State and Boise State have previously met. It was in the 1994 Division I-AA Playoffs 30 years ago on the blue turf. I can still feel the rain going down the back of my neck. The Broncos turned the ball over seven times and still won 17-14. Current Cincinnati coach Scott Satterfield was the Mountaineers quarterback that day, and future Dallas Cowboy Dexter Coakley starred at linebacker.


If there’s anyone who meets the criteria to make the College Football Hall of Fame, it’s Boise State great Kellen Moore. For the fourth straight year, Moore is on the ballot. This time, he’s got a shot, as no new quarterbacks were added this year. Do we have to go over this again? Kellen is the winningest QB in college football history with a record of 50-3. He’s second in NCAA history with 142 career touchdown passes, third in pass efficiency at a shade under 169 and fifth in passing yards at 14,667. Moore was also a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2010. Just remember this little nugget: Of the 5½ million individuals who have played college football since Princeton first battled Rutgers in 1869, only 1,093 players have earned induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. The announcement of the new class will be made in early 2025.  


The jolt was immediate when the Mountain West, Big Ten and Sun Belt TV schedules were announced, with Boise State’s game at Oregon in Week 2 slated for Peacock. Streaming reality comes to Bronco Nation. But if it’s good enough for the Big Ten, what can you say? The Apple Cup gets that assignment, too. If this is the future, the future is now. Other observations: the Broncos get another Black Friday game on a major network, as the home finale against Oregon State will air on FOX. All six of Boise State’s home games will appear on one of the FOX networks. The placement on ESPNU for the season opener at Georgia Southern is a little disappointing, but it’s not as bad as being relegated to FS2 last year for the Wyoming game on the Blue. That was when things were shaky.


Circa Sports in Las Vegas has unveiled its Week 0 and Week 1 odds, and Boise State is the only team facing an FBS foe that is favored. Circa has the line at 10 points for the Broncos at Georgia Southern. Elsewhere, it’s an ominous start for the Jeff Choate at Nevada, as the Wolf Pack are 21-point underdogs at SMU in Week 0 and follow that with a 15-point negative spread at Troy. New Mexico is a 30-point underdog at Arizona in Bronco Mendenhall’s debut. Fresno State opens at Michigan, where the Bulldogs are 22-point ‘dogs. Colorado State plays at Texas, which is a 36-point favorite. Hawaii has a remote chance at home against UCLA, which is favored by 17. These are interesting, though: Wyoming is only a seven-point underdog at Arizona State, and UNLV is just a three-point ‘dog at Houston


One of the reasons they keep me around is perspective, so let’s touch on Albertsons Stadium as the North End Zone Project nears. This will happen on exactly the same site where temporary bleachers were erected for the first Boise State-Idaho game in 1971. That took then-Bronco Stadium’s capacity from 14,500 to 16,123 (including standing room) for one night. That crowd was a record until the stadium’s first expansion in 1975, when the new east side upper deck jumped it to 20,000. Finally there was the addition of the southeast and southwest corners in 1997. That’s when capacity reached 30,000. The Steuckle Sky Center and south end zone expansion brought it to its current level: 36,363. That’s about to decrease by almost 1,600, though.


The Boise Hawks opened the final leg of their road trip last night, losing the first game of the 2024 Traffic Cone Series 6-5 in Idaho Falls after letting a 5-3 seventh-inning lead slip away. What a wild six-game series the Hawks had at Billings. Boise went 3-3 against the Mustangs, scoring only 11 runs in the three losses. But they put up 57 in the three wins, including an astounding 26 last Thursday as Patrick Merino and DJ Poteet drove in seven runs apiece (Merino homered twice). But that wasn’t the top RBI performance of the week. In the series opener at Billings, a 16-2 victory, Ben Livorsi went 3-for-5 with two homers and nine runs batted in.


The newly-released Idaho Steelheads for 2024-25 mixes things up—in a good way. The Steelheads do play Rapid City 14 times, but they have only nine games against the Utah Grizzlies. And there’s a new team in the ECHL Western Conference. Twenty years later, the Reno franchise never materialized, but the Tahoe Knight Monsters, with Tim Tebow as a co-owner, are set to begin play at the Tahoe Blue Event Center. The Steelies will face them there seven times, with five more dates in Idaho Central Arena. The season opens at home October 18 against Utah.


Did any Idaho golfers make it through qualifying Monday and into the field of the U.S. Open? No. Troy Merritt shot rounds of 68 and 66 at the U.S. Open Final qualifier in Springfield, Ohio, but just missed advancing. Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge and Star’s Graysen Huff were well back of the leaders in Columbus. Ashton McArthur of Rexburg was in Daly City, CA, and Derek Bayley of Rathdrum was in Bend, and neither contended. Merritt, by the way, is not in the field this week for the Memorial, Jack Nicklaus’ event in Dublin, OH. The former Boise State star missed the cut by one stroke last week at the RBC Canadian Open.


I want to mention Pat McCurry being named new head track and field coach at Boise State. Maybe this will revive the sport for the Broncos—it’s kind of been off the radar with the exception of some fantastic distance runners. McCurry’s a specialist in that himself, but hopefully he’ll put the “field” back in track and field at the school. And get a home meet next year at Dona Larsen Park. (How about a doubleheader with softball?) Missing from McCurry’s bio if the fact that he is a three-time winner of the Race To Robie Creek.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by POOL SCOUTS…perfect pools, scout’s honor!

June 5, 1977: The Portland Trailblazers, led by the most famous Deadhead in the sports world, Bill Walton, beat the Philadelphia 76ers to win the NBA championship. The 109-107 win in Game 6 included a huge performance from Walton, with 20 points, 23 rebounds, eight blocks and seven assists, giving Portland what is still its only NBA title. The Blazers have been back to the Finals twice (1990 and 1992) but haven’t been able to repeat the feat. Meanwhile, little did we know that Walton’s life in the public eye was still in its infancy. Hard to believe he is gone.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.) 


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