It’s NFL Draft week, and the talk surrounding Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols centers on his deceiving speed, timed at 4.49 seconds in the 40 at the NFL Combine two months ago. While scouts pan McNichols’ size at 5-9, 214 pounds, they praise his vision and his ability to run downhill. But I don’t know if McWeapon’s wild card is truly appreciated. Not to be forgotten is the fact that McNichols’ first role as a Bronco was at wide receiver. When Matt Miller’s career ended with an injury at Air Force in 2014, McNichols’ redshirt year was burned, and he began catching passes. In the 2017 draft class, McNichols is third in receiving yards per game among running backs behind Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon.
McNichols’ draft profile at NFL.com projects him to be picked in the third or fourth round. The synopsis didn’t focus much on his receiving ability, but it did note, “Legit pass catching option with five catches of 25-plus yards (last) year. Can be split out and work down the field.” Yes, he can. All McNichols did in 2015 was break a 40-year-old school record for catches by a running back with 51. He also holds the Boise State career record for receptions by a back with 103, covering 1,089 yards and 11 of his 55 touchdowns. J-Mac brings tremendous value in the passing game.
The National Football Foundation has released its 2016 bowl review, complete with TV ratings. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl garnered an 0.7 rating and 1,142,835 viewers. Sidebar: the NFF noted that the combined 111 points by Idaho (61) and Colorado State (50) on the blue turf were the third-most in NCAA bowl history. The 84 points in the second half are the most combined in a half in any bowl game ever. The Cactus Bowl between Boise State and Baylor drew a 1.4 rating and 2,281,713 people. Also of note, San Diego State’s thumping of Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl attracted a 2.4 rating and 3,744,000 viewers, making it the game’s biggest audience since the Broncos’ win over Washington in 2012.
It was another marathon session as Idaho took its second scrimmage of spring football to Lewiston Friday night. No team stats were provided, but with Vandal quarterback Matt Linehan throwing for 499 yards and wide receiver Jacob Sannon logging a 200-yard night, you know there were lots of reps (as coach Paul Petrino prefers during spring ball). The Idaho linebacking corps is living up to its billing—Tony Lashley recorded 20 tackles and Kaden Ellis 14. Petrino praised the front seven in general after the session at Lewiston High’s Bengal Field. The Vandals wrap up spring with the Silver & Gold Game this Friday in the Kibbie Dome.
Connor Richardson, at least in terms of numbers, was a fitting fill-in for the injured Darius-James Peterson in College of Idaho’s Purple & Gold Spring Game Friday night. Richardson threw for 138 yards and two touchdowns on only six completions (10 attempts) and rushed for another 94 yards and a score, leading the Gold team to a 27-7 win. Richardson, a redshirt freshman from Fallon, NV, guided the second and third-team offense. Tyler Cox, the Boise High product who split time with Peterson last season, ran the No. 1 offense and was 8-of-17 for 94 yards with one TD and one interception and ran for 80 yards.
The Idaho Steelheads were 2:28 away from evening their first round Kelly Cup Playoff series Friday night, cruising with a 5-2 lead. Then came an epic meltdown and a 6-5 Colorado win in overtime, and the misery continued Saturday night in a 6-3 defeat that ended the Steelheads season. From that point near the end of Friday night’s game, through the overtime and into the first period Saturday, the Eagles scores seven unanswered goals in less than 14½ minutes of ice time. Former Steelies Alex Belzile had a gigantic series, scoring five goals. Included were the overtime game-winner Friday, one of two that night, and the one that gave Colorado separation on Saturday after the Steelheads had narrowed the deficit to 4-3. The Eagles now move on against the Allen Americans in the ECHL Mountain Division Finals.
Boise High grad James Hoyt was called up by the Houston Astros last Thursday from Triple-A Fresno, and Saturday night he saw his first action in the majors this season. Hoyt came on for the Astros during a 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay and tossed 1 2/3 perfect innings. Last year the 6-6 righthander became only the fourth native Boisean ever to win a game in the big leagues. It’s been better late than never for Hoyt, who’s now 30 years old and has experienced a rollercoaster journey through baseball that included stints in the independent leagues.
TPC San Antonio was tough on Troy Merritt at the Valero Texas Open. But the former Boise State star was able to play the weekend thanks to a 69 on Friday, coming back from the brink of a missed cut. Merritt then shot 76-74 over the weekend, ending up three-over for the tournament and tied for 49th, earning $15,469. He’s made the cut in three of his past four events now.
It was a breakthrough weekend for Boise State men’s golf. The Broncos didn’t win the Mountain West championship—they finished third at Omni Tucson National—but they produced their first Mountain West individual champ. Brian Humphreys won the tournament by two strokes over Boise State teammate Danny Hopoi to earn a berth in the NCAA Regionals. Humphreys, a freshman from Washougal, WA, is the first Bronco to capture an individual crown since Merritt won the WAC title in 2008. In men’s tennis, Greg Patton went from one prized pupil to another Saturday with a similar result. One week after falling to Fresno State and former star player and assistant coach Luke Shields, Boise State lost 4-1 Saturday to Utah State and former star player and assistant coach Clancy Shields.
This Day In Sports…April 24, 1967, 50 years ago today:
The Philadelphia 76ers defeat the San Francisco Warriors, 125-122, to win the NBA championship in six games. The Sixers went down as one of the greatest teams in NBA history, finishing the regular season at 68-13. They were led by Wilt Chamberlain, who had moved with the Warriors from Philly to San Francisco five years earlier. Chamberlain was not as loved by the Bay as in the City of Brotherly Love, and he was traded to the 76ers mid-season in 1965.
(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.)