In my book, there’s only one man deserving of a statue at Albertsons Stadium. While Boise State celebrates the 30th anniversary of the blue turf and the All-Blue Team that goes with it, there’ll be a special addendum to Lyle Smith’s 100th birthday on St. Patrick’s Day. The statue of Smith in the works since last winter has been installed in front of the Allen Noble Hall of Fame Gallery and will be unveiled before Saturday’s Washington State game. What a fitting tribute to the “father of Bronco football.” Smith, who built Boise Junior College into a powerhouse in the late 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, inspired the Boise State program to grow into what it is today. His career record at BJC was 156-26-6, with five undefeated seasons, a 37-game winning streak, 51 shutouts, and the school’s original national championship—in the JC ranks in 1958.
Eastern Washington quarterback Gabe Gubrud threw for 474 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-42 win at Washington State last week. He did it in the second half against the Cougars’ third-string free safety. The starter will be back Saturday night on the blue turf in the form of Shalom Luani, who was suspended for the Eastern game after being charged with second-degree assault for allegedly punching a WSU student in an altercation at a Domino’s Pizza. Luani led Wazzu with four interceptions last season and amassed 90 tackles. He should make a difference in the Cougs’ secondary. Will Luani’s talent be worth a savings of 100 yards against Boise State’s Brett Rypien? Or 200 yards? And a couple touchdowns? Rypien is likely to have a tougher go than Gubrud did—if only because of Luani’s presence.
Luke Falk threw for 418 yards against Eastern Washington last week. Will there be a difference between the Eagles’ respected FCS defense and a Boise State defense that is still proving itself? Falk gets rid of the ball in a hurry in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, so it’ll be difficult for the Bronco defensive line to get to him. That shifts the pressure directly to the secondary. There’s no Darian Thompson nor Donte Deayon. Neither is there Dylan Sumner-Gardner, of course. The veterans assigned with leading a protection of the blue from a Falk-and-Gabe Marks onslaught are cornerback Jonathan Moxey and safety Chanceller James, making his first start of the season after last week’s suspension. Cornerback Tyler Horton and safeties Cam Hartsfield and Evan Tyler will have the test of their young careers.
Is Boise State true freshman Alexander Mattison supplanting Devan Demas as Jeremy McNichols’ primary backup at running back? The rotation Saturday night at that spot may be tell-tale. The Washington State game is not one for experimentation. The coaching staff will play the guy they believe in when they want to spell McNichols. Demas was fine at Louisiana-Lafayette, rushing for 29 yards on eight carries. He did have 11 yards in losses, though. You had to like Mattison’s downhill running as he netted 61 yards and a touchdown on 11 attempts with no lost yardage. Their roles in the Bronco passing game remain unknown—Demas had one reception for five yards versus the Ragin’ Cajuns, and Mattison wasn’t targeted through the air.
If Matt Linehan had trouble against Montana State, how will he fare against an elite Pac-12 defense? Washington has just that as the Vandals come into Husky Stadium Saturday. The Huskies are going to be a brick against the run, so Linehan is going to have to shine. In the 20-17 win over the Bobcats a week ago, he was just 8-of-22 for 126 yards with an interception. UW held Rutgers to 304 yards and a 5-for-20 day on third down conversions while forcing three turnovers in the 48-13 romp last Saturday in Seattle. Scarlet Knights quarterback Chris Laviano averaged just 4.2 yards per pass attempt.
College of Idaho will rekindle a long rivalry in its lone non-conference game of the season Saturday night, playing at Division III Willamette. The Coyotes and Bearcats were charter members of the Northwest Conference in 1926, with the teams playing 45 times between 1923 and 1977. Willamette, where Dan Hawkins was the head coach 20 years ago, opened with a 35-21 loss to Rhodes College last Saturday in Memphis. The Bearcats allowed 323 yards through the air, providing Yotes quarterback Tyler Cox with an opportunity and a challenge after a short-yardage passing day in the 26-13 loss to Montana Western in the opener. Wide receiver Turner Simmons and tight end Marcus Lenhardt, at 6-2 and 6-5, respectively, could present match-up problems against a Willamette secondary that has no player taller than 5-11.
One game to keep tabs on Saturday is the revival of the BYU-Utah rivalry at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Cougars and Utes had an unplanned matchup in the Las Vegas Bowl last December, with Utah holding off BYU 35-28 after building a 35-0 first-quarter lead. What the Cougars offense does this week bears watching—it scored only 18 points against Arizona last Saturday, although that was enough for an 18-16 win. The Wildcats defense held up well in the first game under new defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, who came over from Boise State last winter. BYU would tell you it was just quarterback Taysom Hill shaking off the rust in his first action in a year.
The 2016 NFL season opens tonight, with two former Boise State stars suiting up as NFL Broncos when Denver begins defense of its Super Bowl title against the team it beat in February, the Carolina Panthers. Matt Paradis, the Council High grad, begins his second season as Denver’s starting center. Paradis was the only Bronco to play every offensive snap last season and allowed only one sack. He was also whistled for just one false start all season. Defensive end Billy Winn, who wasn’t signed by Denver until this summer, has stuck with the club. That’s a nice place to get a fresh start. Winn is going into his fifth NFL campaign after playing sparingly last season for Indianapolis.
Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge hopes to re-establish himself as a PGA Tour pro as the Web.com Tour Finals begin today. Aldridge tees off in the DAP Championship in Beachwood, OH, before heading for the Albertsons Boise Open next week. He’s in this series after finishing No. 140 in FedExCup standings—those ranked Nos. 126-200 this season go to the Web.com Tour Finals to compete for the 25 tour cards not already called for in 2016-17. Aldridge had an up-and-down season, making 14 cuts while missing 13. He’s had four top 25 finishes and has earned $517,738.
A couple campus notes: new Boise State wrestling head coach Mike Mendoza has his staff set now. Mendoza has hired Levi Jones, a former Bronco wrestler who was previously a staffer at Arizona State, Riley Orozco, his assistant head coach at Cal State Bakersfield the past five years, and Andrew Hochstrasser, another former Boise State wrestler who worked with the Broncos in a volunteer capacity last season.
And Boise State alum Roderick Townsend-Roberts will represent the U.S. at the 2016 Paralympic Games, which are underway in Rio de Janeiro. He will compete in the 100-meters, high jump and long jump. Townsend-Roberts won all three events at the 2015 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships. He was a track athlete at Boise State, taking third at the Mountain West Championships in the heptathlon in and second in the high jump in 2014.
This Day In Sports…September 8, 1974:
Daredevil Evel Kneivel attempts to jump the Snake River Canyon near Twin Falls in his rocket-powered Skycycle before a crowd of 15,000 curiosity-seekers. The contraption’s parachute deployed prematurely—that and the wind caused the cycle to drift back into the canyon after it had almost made it to the north rim. Kneivel and the Skycycle finally landed a few feet from the river, and he suffered only minor injuries. He never attempted the jump again.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)