Scott Slant

Scott Slant

Outlooks vary for Boise State’s NFL backs

With NFL training camps opening, there are 22 Boise State products on NFL rosters. Four of them are running backs, and that’s the most intriguing position involving former Broncos right now.  Doug Martin started this parade of Boise State rushers into the NFL when he was drafted in the first round by Tampa Bay in 2012.  Martin is hanging on, prepping for his second season with the Oakland Raiders.  Next came Jay Ajayi, a free agent who is still looking for a team after not being re-signed by Philadelphia.  Jeremy McNichols, criticized for not sufficiently grasping playbooks, has another chance with Tennessee.  It’s his fifth NFL team in the past two-plus years.  The flag-bearer now is Alexander Mattison, Minnesota’s third-round pick this year.  Who’s to say he won’t be the most successful back of the bunch?

You seldom see all four Boise State stars stacked up next to each other statistically.  It’s kind of eye-popping.  We’ll go chronologically with their career totals (rushing only).  Martin: 3,431 yards, 43 touchdowns.  Ajayi: 3,796 yards, 50 touchdowns.  McNichols: 3,205 yards, 44 TDs.  Mattison: 2,829 yards, 33 TDs.  The one trend that Mattison has to buck is sleepy Septembers.  For purposes of this discussion, we’ll take out the pinball numbers from last year’s rout of UConn.  In non-UConn games in September, Mattison averaged just 139 yards per month with four yards per carry and a total of five touchdowns.  Methinks he’ll snap out of that with the Vikings.

LEGO FOLLOWUP

This comes with help from Mark Snider, Scott Slant reader and former Idaho Stampede play-by-play man.  It’s more background on “Gold Yeller,” who created the 2007 Fiesta Bowl Lego video.  His name is Jared Jacobs, and yes, he lives in Boise.  “He’s originally from Calgary,” Snider said.  “He used to be an intern with the Steelheads, and he still works with the team.  He even does some color for them on the radio.  Jared has quit his fulltime job, and now does the Lego stop-action videos as his job.  He produces these videos out of his apartment in Boise.  Pretty interesting how he’s carved out a career for himself—enough to support his family (he and his wife have 3 kids!).”

Jacobs has worked with the PGA Tour and the Big-10 Network, and—this spring—a number of NBA teams.  He Lego-animated Damon Lillard’s dramatic three-pointer for Portland to eliminate Oklahoma City.  Then he recreated Kawhi Leonard’s incredible four-bounce-on-the-rim buzzer-beater by Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard that finished off Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference semifinals.  Jacobs was then pulled in by the Golden State Warriors during the NBA Finals.  He did some great stuff.  The Warriors surely wish they could have given Jacobs an iconic moment of their own, though.

VEGAS MADNESS TO CONTINUE

There’s been a lot of March heartbreak in Las Vegas for Mountain West men’s and women’s basketball teams over the years.  It is going to continue (the Boise State women don’t mind, though). The Mountain West Tournaments’ stay at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center has been extended through 2023.  The facility has hosted the MW Tournaments for 17 of the conference’s 20 years of existence.  Attendance has slipped for the event in recent years—due to a combination of UNLV’s struggles, new distractions like the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and a glut of tournaments (the Pac-12 and West Coast Conference also hold their postseason events in Las Vegas).  But it’s still the best destination for the Mountain West.

HUNTER OSTROM HUNTING FOR A TITLE

There will be a new champion when the smoke clears Sunday on the 90thIdaho State Men’s Amateur at BanBury.  None of the past four Men’s Am winners is in the 2019 field as the tournament tees off today.  And that includes last year’s champ, Eagle’s Colby Dean.  The only guy close to Dean last summer was Meridian’s Hunter Ostrom, and it would seem he is due.  The Notre Dame senior, who won the Southwestern Amateur in Scottsdale last month, finished fourth in 2017, tied for fifth in 2016 and tied for 10thin 2015.  Footnote: the 2013 champion, former Boise State golfer Ty Travis of Eagle, is entered this year.

GIANTS FIRST-ROUNDER HELPS SINK HAWKS

San Francisco Giants fans saw Salem-Keizer’s 7-2 win over the Boise Hawks with orange-colored glasses last night.  Giants first-round draft pick Hunter Bishop out of Arizona State made his Volcanoes debut, singling in his first at-bat and hitting a home run in his second. The highlight for the Hawks was Bladimir Restituyo’s second homer of the season.  Restituyo, who just turned 18 on July 2, hit a solo shot in the fifth inning.  Boise has now dropped six of its last eight games.

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July 18, 2015:  The turf at Albertsons Stadium turns temporarily green for the first Basque Soccer Friendly, an international exhibition between Spain’s Athletic Bilbao and Mexico’s Club Tijuana.  A platform was laid over Boise State’s iconic blue turf, and on top of that went natural turf sod, transforming the field into a soccer pitch.  A crowd of 21,948 took in the surreal scene and watched Bilbao blank Tijuana 2-0.  It was the largest crowd to watch a soccer match in the state of Idaho.  By about, oh, 20,000.  The hope is that it can happen again.

(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.)

Boise State football: The math isn’t so fuzzy here

The Athletic’s Chris Vannini has penned an essay on NCAA FBS attendance guidelines.  Whatever happened to those?  “The NCAA requires an average attendance of 15,000 fans per game once every two years to maintain FBS status,” notes Vannini.  “But the reality is a number of programs don’t reach that mark.  As a result, schools have to boost their numbers through artificial means.”  Okay, let’s apply that to the Mountain West.  Last year, San Jose State averaged only 14,255 per game (and the turnstile count wasn’t anywhere close to that).  New Mexico, UNLV and Nevada were just over the 15,000 threshold.  “Distributing” tickets is the only way many of these schools get there.  But the tickets have to be paid for.  They can only be given away for free if somebody else has already bought them.  Vicious circle.

“In these cases, schools are essentially buying tickets from themselves,” writes Vannini.  “Even a school like Northern Illinois, which has won four MAC championships in the past eight years, has to boost its numbers.”  Boise State doesn’t have to inflate the gate.  The Broncos are still close enough to capacity to be the envy of the Mountain West, having averaged 33,068 fans per game last year. Attendance issues are the way of the world.  In 2018, the Mountain West and Conference USA had their lowest average attendance in conference history, according to CBS.  But even the Big Ten was at its lowest since 1993, and the SEC was at its lowest since 2003.  One quick way to achieve contraction in FBS football: enforce NCAA attendance regulations, but base it on turnstile count.  The Mountain West would suffer, though.

EXPECTATIONS FOR THE THUNDERING HERD

Marshall will likely bring a confident squad to the blue turf for Boise State’s home opener on September 6.  Conference USA’s preseason media poll is out, and the Thundering Herd are picked to win the league’s East Division.  Marshall was 9-4 last season and dominated South Florida 38-20 in the Gasparilla Bowl.  The Herd have nine starters back on offense and six on defense.  That offense could be dicey for the Broncos, as it returns the C-USA co-Freshman of the year, quarterback Isaiah Green, and a two-headed rushing attack—Tyler King and Brenden Knox combined for 1,233 yards and eight touchdowns in 2018.  On the other side of the ball, Marshall did not allow a 100-yard rusher all season.

FIESTA BOWL LEGO LAND

If you haven’t seen this yet, you need to.  Google “Boise State Fiesta Bowl in Lego.”  Stop-animation specialist “Gold Yeller,” which is apparently from Boise, recreated the the three trick plays that shocked the world in the Broncos’ 43-42 win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl—with Legos.  It uses the KBOI call by Paul J. Schneider and Jeff Caves.  The detail is spot-on, far beyond the fact that all the uniform numbers match: Jerard Rabb’s dive to the pylon on the hook-and-lateral touchdown, the shifts and Vinny Perretta’s pop over the top to Derek Schouman on the halfback pass TD, and Ian Johnson tossing the ball into the stands after Statue Left.  There’s also Bob Stoops shaking his head and Chris Petersen’s little dance when the game ended—plus Ian’s proposal to Chrissy.  It is must-see YouTube TV.

EIGHTH ISN’T ENOUGH

Now that Big Sky Media Days have come and gone, Idaho’s primary goal should be to seriously overachieve the predictions in the preseason polls.  The Vandals are picked to finish eighth by both the conference coaches and the media. They were ninth last season in their first year back in the Big Sky, underachieving the fourth-place prediction a year ago (which also foresaw an FCS playoff bid).  To be sure, 2018 had to be a letdown for a number of Vandals who were recruited as FBS athletes and found themselves playing down a level. That will change with time.  Two Idaho players were named first-team Preseason All-Big Sky, offensive guard Noah Johnson and punter Cade Coffey.  By the way, Mountain West Media Days are set for next Tuesday and Wednesday in Las Vegas.

ANOTHER CORNERSTONE FOR COACH SHEEN

The return of Will Merchant tells you the Idaho Steelheads organization has its culture intact under new coach (and former assistant) Everett Sheen.  After all, Merchant is returning for a fourth season with the Steelheads, Sheen announced Tuesday.  The 25-year-old forward spent most of last season with the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits but came back to Idaho in a March trade.  As a Steelie, Merchant has logged 101 points (42 goals and 59 assists) over 152 career games.

THE HAWKS’ PARRA NEEDS THREE MORE

The Boise Hawks had a chance to get back to .500 Tuesday night, but it didn’t go so well at Memorial Stadium.  Eugene thumped the Hawks 8-1.  One followup on Monday night’s 4-2 Boise win.  Red-hot Frederis Parra started the game but left after one inning.  That was by design, though, as the team had slotted him for the first.  It was not because of an injury to Parra.  It was planned to get extended innings for Eris Filpo in the game.  Parra threw a scoreless inning, extending his streak without allowing an earned run to 29 1/3 innings.  He now needs only three more shutout innings to break the Northwest League record of most consecutive innings without an earned run.  The current mark of 32 innings is 54 years old—set by Larry Loughlin of Eugene back in 1965.

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July 17, 2012:  Stephen Fife becomes only the third native Boisean to make the major leagues, and his debut is a dandy.  Fife was called up for a spot start for the Los Angeles Dodgers opposite two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay and allowed just one run on four hits over six innings.  Fife left the game with a 2-1 lead over Philadelphia—he took a no-decision when the Dodgers ended up with a 3-2 loss.  Fife was a member of the 1999 South Central Boise team that made the Little League World Series and helped Borah High to the 2005 state championship.

(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.)

The brave new sportswriting world

After 14 years at the Idaho Press and Idaho Statesman, Dave Southorn has made the bold and visionary move of joining The Athletic, where he’ll continue to be a Boise State football beat writer.  The Athletic, one of the fastest-growing sources for customized sports news in the country, is adding 10 new schools to its regular beat coverage (the Broncos are the only new Group of 5 team—and only the second to be part of the website’s 33-school beat roster).  Longtime Sports Illustrated writer Stewart Mandel, now the editor-in-chief for college football at The Athletic, made the official announcement Monday while welcoming another prominent former SI scribe to the fold, Andy Staples.  This is good news for Boise State fans,  And for Southorn.

So, as a congratulatory gesture, let’s delve into Southorn’s first piece for The Athletic: “Handicapping the horses of Boise State’s most wide-open QB race in years.”  The party line as fall camp approaches has been that if sophomore Chase Cord has recovered from the ACL tear he suffered last October, he’s probably the guy come August 31 in Jacksonville.  Southorn concurs, writing, “Cord knows the offense well, and his mobility at 6-foot-2 and 206 pounds matches the skill set the staff has continued to recruit toward in recent years.”  The experience in the program is the differentiator between Cord and true freshman Hank Bachmeier right now.  “It would not be stunning for (Bachmeier) to start right away, but history indicates the Broncos may go with someone who has more time in the system,” writes Southorn.

PLENTY OF GOOD SEATS AVAILABLE, SPORTS FANS

Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat reported Friday that Florida State has currently sold only about 30,000 tickets for the season opener in 67,174-seat TIAA Stadium, home of the Jaguars in Jacksonville.  Certainly it’s a symptom of the Seminoles going off the rails last year with their 5-7 season.  And the Broncos don’t create the national buzz they did 10 years ago (it’s impossible to replicate that).  As much as anything, though, it’s a measure of the way things are in attendance for all sports.  There’s a lot more to come on this subject, but Chris Vannini of The Athletic points out that attendance has fallen in the FBS as a whole seven times in the past eight years, and it is currently at the lowest average mark since 1996.

WATCH THIS LIST

Watch list season in college football began in earnest yesterday when Boise State’s Curtis Weaver was on the docket for the Bednarik Award that goes to the nation’s top defensive player.  Weaver, the junior STUD (stand-up defensive end/linebacker), was one of eight Mountain West players on the list.  He has already been named a second-team preseason All-American by Sporting News and a fourth-teamer by Athlon Sports.  There’ll be more Bronco watch list mentions to come, but most of them will probably belong to Weaver.  Longshots to join him might be wide receivers John Hightower and CT Thomas for the Biletnikoff Award or offensive linemen Ezra Cleveland and John Molchon for the Outland Award.

A PASSING GLANCE AT PORTLAND STATE

Unlike most of the college football preview magazines, Street & Smith’s features a decent section on the FCS. So how about we check out Portland State, who visits Boise State on September 14 as Boise State’s first FCS opponent since Idaho State in 2015.  The publication picks the Vikings to finish eighth in the Big Sky this season after being picked last in 2018 and managing to go 4-7.  Street & Smith’s notes that Rutgers transfer Jalen Chatman could challenge returning starter Davis Alexander at quarterback.  There’s another guy named Davis you’ll want to take note of: Davis Koetter, a sophomore wide receiver from Tampa.  Yes, he’s Dirk Koetter’s son.  He made four catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns last fall.

JURY STILL OUT ON HUTCH’S SUMMER

Only the Chicago Bulls know how seriously to take Chandler Hutchison’s Las Vegas Summer League stats.  The former Boise State first-rounder wrapped up his summer session Saturday night with a double-double—13 points and 10 rebounds—in an 85-73 loss to Orlando.  But Hutchison was just 3-for-10 from the field, par for the inconsistent course in Vegas.  In four games, he averaged 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds but shot just 29 percent. The asterisk is is that Hutchison was coming off a 5½-month rehab of a troublesome broken toe.  He was on a minutes limit during summer league and may not have found a rhythm.  And he does get high marks from coach Jim Boylen for facilitating in transition.

OF FORMER HAWKS AND CURRENT HAWKS

The weekend began with one of the great stories of the 2019 big league season, and a former Boise Hawk was part of it. The L.A. Angels returned to Anaheim Friday night for the first time since the unexpected death of popular pitcher Tyler Skaggs.  All of the Angels were decked out in Skaggs’ No. 45 uniform, and his mother threw out the first pitch (a perfect strike).  Then the Halos proceeded to no-hit Seattle 13-0.  Taylor Cole was the opener for L.A. and tossed two innings. Then Felix Pena threw the final seven and got the win.  The Angels ended the night by emotionally draping their No. 45 jerseys on the mound. Pena was a starter for the Hawks during the 2012 season and went 4-2 with a 3.43 ERA.

Andrew Cashner was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles by Boston on Saturday, and the Red Sox will start the former Boise Hawk tonight against Toronto.  Cashner might be the biggest pre-deadline acquisition in the majors. The 32-year-old righthander was 9-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 17 starts for the Orioles this season.  Think about that.  Baltimore’s record is 28-65.  Now re-read Cashner’s stats.  He’s been hot since before the hot weather began, posting a 1.41 ERA in five starts since the onset of June.  Cashner was a first-round draft pick of the Cubs out of TCU in 2008 and pitched for Boise that summer.  As for the current Hawks, they beat Eugene 4-2 Monday night at Memorial Stadium. The difference was a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning by the Hawks’ Zach Hall.

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July 16, 2009, 10 years ago today:  The most successful coach in Idaho Stampede history resigns to take an assistant’s spot with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.  Bryan Gates, who didn’t play basketball as a student at Boise State, rose from a job as an unpaid intern under Bobby Dye during the Stampede’s first season in 1997-98 to become the team’s head coach in 2006. Gates had a three-year regular season record of 100-50 and won the D-League Coach of the Year award in his first two seasons.  More importantly, he guided the Stampede to their only D-League championship in 2008.

(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.)

Sheen shows that Steelheads continuity counts

Everett Sheen has paid his dues for the Idaho Steelheads organization, serving as coach Neil Graham’s assistant the past three seasons.  With Graham off to Texas of the AHL now, the Steelheads have elected to stay the successful course and promote Sheen to head coach.  The 32-year-old native of Lethbridge, AB, becomes the second-youngest hire in Steelies history (Graham was the youngest) and he’s also the second-youngest active coach in the ECHL.  Sheen’s speciality has been defense and the penalty kill, and last season Idaho ranked in the ECHL’s top-10 in penalty kill percentage and shots allowed per game and placed in the top-five for goals against per game.  Sheen’s first goal is to take the Steelheads deep into the Kelly Cup Playoffs.  The only cloud over the team has been earlier-than-desired postseason exits in recent years.

THE WORLD LOSES SOME INFECTIOUS ENERGY

Word started to circulate on Twitter Thursday that former Boise State linebacker and fullback Dan Paul had passed away.  It hit his former teammates hard, as Paul was a favorite on and off the field. Memories include his three catches from Kellen Moore in a pivotal win over Nevada late in the undefeated 2009 season, with all three going for touchdowns—and Paul going bonkers each time he scored.  But he mainly made his mark leading interference for guys like Jeremy Avery, Doug Martin and D.J. Harper.  It was a monster block by Paul that sprung Martin into the end zone for the winning TD against TCU in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl.  Paul was 30 years old.  He had been working for the family business, Paul Brothers Comstruction, in his hometown of Boring, OR.

PUB FOR COACH PIT (AND JOHN MOLCHON)

Veteran writer Bruce Feldman, now with The Athletic, has spotlighted “the biggest freaks in college football” around this time for about 15 years.  The premise, Feldman says, is to “showcase guys who generate buzz inside their programs by displaying the type of rare physical abilities that wow even those folks who are used to observing gifted athletes every day.”  No 42on Feldman’s new list isBoise State left guard John Molchon.  The 6-5, 317-pound fifth-year senior hang cleans 425 pounds and power cleans 365 through two reps.  His vertical jump is 27.5 inches.  “John is an explosive athlete that stops all activity in the room when he maxes because everybody wants to watch him,” says Broncos strength coach Jeff Pitman, one who should know.  “He lifts his team’s energy level when he is in the room.”

HEARING SAM UKWUACHU’S NAME AGAIN

True freshman defensive end Sam Ukwuachu was kicked off Boise State’s squad by Chris Petersen in 2012 before transferring to Baylor and igniting a firestorm.  Now, a Texas appeals court has again overturned Ukwuachu’s 2015 sexual assault conviction involving a former Baylor women’s soccer player.  Judges determined that prosecutors improperly used records from his roommate’s cell phone in his trial.  The incident opened the Pandora’s Box on sexual violence at Baylor. Ukwuachu had been sentenced to 180 days in jail, 10 years’ felony probation and 400 hours of community service, and he had to register as a sex offender.  “We respectfully disagree with the decision of the 10th Court of Appeals,” Assistant District Attorney Tom Needham said. “We are confident that the decision will be reversed.”

ISLANDS ITINERARY

Boise State now knows its first-round opponent—and its bracket—in this year’s Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu over Christmas.  The Broncos meet Georgia Tech for the first time to open the tournament on December 22 in an ESPNU game at Hawaii’s Stan Sheriff Center. The winner advances to the semifinals against either Houston or Portland.  In the opposite bracket are Ball State, Hawaii, UTEP and Washington.  This will be a very different-looking Bronco squad. It’ll be interesting to see how far along the team is at that point.  Oregon transfer Abu Kigab will be eligible by then.  If Boise State can replicate its last performance in the Diamond Head Classic in 2013, it’ll be exciting.  The Broncos routed South Carolina and advanced to the championship game, falling to 14th-ranked Iowa State, 70-66.

PRO POTPOURRI

Troy Merritt began last week with an average round and turned it into a top 10 finish over the weekend at the 3M Open.  On Thursday, the Boise State grad started with a below-average round, and it’s going to take a miracle to recover enough to make the cut at the John Deere Classic. Merritt carded a two-over 73 and is tied for 134th.  And at Memorial Stadium Thursday night, Hillsboro plated three runs in the top of the second inning, and they held up in a 3-1 win over the Boise Hawks.  The Hawks have now lost four of their past five games to drop below .500 at 13-14.

TAKING IT TO THE DOWNTOWN STREETS 

After the 33rdannual Twlight Criterium takes over Downtown Boise Saturday night, a quirky companion event will ride around and out of town on Sunday.  It’s called the Gran Fondo Hincapie.  Boise is the fourth city added to the series, which is kind of a cycling festival, “with catered rest stops and epic routes.”  The inaugural Boise event will feature courses of 15, 50 and 80 miles, and riders will include Boise’s three-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong—and Lance Armstrong.  Yes, that Lance Armstrong.

The ninth annual Famous Idaho Potato Bowl High School 7-on-7 Tournament gets underway later today at the Optimist Football Complex.  It’s summer bonding for the best prep programs in the state, and the matchups are fast-paced and intense.  All the top teams in the Treasure Valley are entered, including reigning 5A state champion Rocky Mountain, Mountain View, and all five Boise schools, along with top programs from Eastern Idaho, including Highland and Madison.

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July 12, 1979, 40 years ago today:  It’s “Disco Demolition Night” at Chicago’s Comiskey Park.  Fans got in for 98 cents if they brought a disco record to burn between games of a doubleheader between the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. Comiskey had been drawing only 15,000 fans per game that season, but more than 50,000 turned up to see the spectacle that evening.  A crate of disco records was blown up, damaging the playing surface—and when fans rushed the field and refused to leave after the bonfire, the second game of the twin bill was forfeited to the Tigers.

(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.)

The Bronco football handicapping is underway

The ESPN Football Power Index, a fluid set of numbers, has begun its run for 2019. ESPN calls its FPI “a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance going forward.  Projected results are based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI.  Ratings and projections update daily.”  The first set of numbers has Boise State at No. 42, the third-highest ranking in the Group of 5 behind UCF and Cincinnati.  The Broncos’ record is projected to be 10-3 (actually dialed down to 9.8-2.9).  BYU is just two spots behind Boise State, and the computer model favors the Cougars in the game between the two teams October in Provo (that must be based on homefield advantage, right?).

Here’s where the crescendo to the Broncos’ season opener in Jacksonville amps up even more.  The FPI has Florida State ranked No. 21 (with a predicted record of 8-4 after last year’s infamous 6-7).  There’s no projected result for that one yet.  The next-highest Mountain West school in the FPI is—are you ready?—Air Force at No. 69.  Utah State is all the way down at No. 83, with the metrics showing the Aggies in a struggle to go .500 this season.  USU is favored in only five of its 12 games.

HUTCH UPS IT A NOTCH

Chandler Hutchison, still shaking off the rust from months of inactivity, was much more prominent in Chicago’s 75-72 win over Charlotte Wednesday in the Las Vegas Summer League.  The former Boise State star played 31 minutes and scored 18 points with nine rebounds. The downside: Hutchison was just 5-for-17 from the field and 0-for-4 from three-point range.  But apparently that’s not the primary thing Bulls coach Jim Boyle is looking for.  “I want him to try and become the best defender he can become,” said Boylen of Hutchison.  “We need a lockdown defender.  We have very difficult matchups in our division alone, let alone the league.”

MERRITT CLIMBS ABOARD THE JOHN DEERE

Troy Merritt has some serious momentum going into the John Deere Classic outside Chicago today.  The Meridian resident and former Boise State standout roared throught the holiday weekend and tied for seventh at the 3M Open last Sunday, earning $179,733 and climbing back into the top 100 of FedExCup standings at No. 99.  Merritt’s season earnings now total $946,868.  He has seven top 25 finishes and three top 10’s. Merritt has played the John Deere in four of the past seasons, making the cut three times.

OSICH’S SECOND SHOT IN CHICAGO

My “This Day In Sports” item below got me to wondering how Boise’s Josh Osich is doing with the Chicago White Sox this season.  Osich, who was not re-signed by the Giants last winter following a long slide over a period of several seasons, had a cup of coffee with Baltimore before landing with the White Sox in March.  Osich, whose ERA had ballooned to 8.25 last season with San Francisco, has made 26 appearances as a Chicago middle reliever this year with an ERA of 4.99.  He threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his latest outing last Saturday, a loss to the Cubs.

MORE BRONCO SUMMER SUPERLATIVES

Boise State swimmer Lauren Sale added a silver medal to her haul at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa on Wednesday with a runner-up finish in the 100-meter butterfly.  Sale, competing for Samoa, took gold in the 200 backstroke on Tuesday.  And Bronco senior Courtney McGregor will represent New Zealand at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in October in Stuttgart, Germany.  McGregor hopes to seal a second straight Olympics bid after competing in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

YOU CAN FEEL IT

You know football season is in the wind when the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl High School 7-On-7 Tournament unfolds at the Optimist Football Complex.  This year’s event will be played Friday and Saturday and features a record 20 varsity passing teams, 12 junior varsity passing teams and 12 lineman squads, consisting of more than 865 athletes and 170 coaches.  Then again, you know you’re in the heart of the summer when the Twilight Criterium takes over Downtown Boise.  The 33rdannual race is this Saturday night, followed by Boise’s first Gran Fondo Hincapie on Sunday.  Three-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong is scheduled dust off her spokes to ride in the inaugural 80-mile event.

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July 11, 2015:  Bishop Kelly grad Josh Osich becomes only the third native Boisean to record a major league victory, joining Borah High alum Stephen Fife a couple years before with the Dodgers, and Pat House, who won two games for Houston in the late 1960’s.  Osich got the Giants out of a jam against Philadelphia, retiring the one batter he faced in the top of the sixth.  Osich was the pitcher of record when the Giants scored five runs in the bottom of the inning—and ended up winning 8-5.  Boise High grad James Hoyt of the Houston Astros has since become the fourth native Boisean with a big league win.

(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.)