A return to the scene of the dud

Every season for the past several years, the wheels have completely fallen off at least once for the Boise State football team. We’re including Chris Petersen’s final season here, as 2013 started with the 38-6 loss at Washington (ironically). There was the Cactus Bowl against Baylor last year and the Air Force game in 2014. I’m really making your day here. But the all-timer in recent seasons was the game at Utah State two years ago. The Broncos had just re-entered the Top 25 and had beaten their previous four opponents by a combined 204-24. Eight turnovers later, USU had a resounding 52-26 win. By my count, 15 current Boise State players appeared in that game. That’s actually not so many—not a single defensive starter remains. But Brett Rypien played, of course, and he can impart some of his wisdom on teammates.

Rypien threw for 299 yards, and Boise State had five more first downs than Utah State that night. But seven of those infamous turnovers came in the first half, including a 90-yard pick-six on the final play that, incredibly, made the score 45-10 at the break. And Boise State rushed for just 34 yards while Jeremy McNichols was sidelined by a concussion. It’s all about the turnovers, though. Harsin mused about the old cliché Monday: “You win the turnover battle; you’ve got a great chance to win the game.” Boise State hasn’t turned the ball over since Rypien’s interception in the first series at BYU three games ago. The Broncos were clean last Saturday—that marked the first time Wyoming has failed to force a turnover in two years. Utah State is second in the nation in takeaways with 20. It’s a push-comes-to-shove week.

Boise State is preparing for Utah State assuming that two of the Aggies’ best players, cornerback Jalen Davis and wide receiver Ron’Quavion Tarver, will be in the lineup Saturday night in Logan. But their status is still undetermined after injuries sent them out in the first half at UNLV last Saturday. Davis is one of 13 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award that goes annually to the nation’s best defensive back. He was also named a Mid-Season All-American by SI.com after snagging five interceptions in September alone. Davis had three of them against BYU, including a pair of pick-sixes. His absence would make a difference. Tarver is USU’s leading receiver with 29 catches for 255 yards and three touchdowns.

Bowl projections continue to shuffle weekly. Let’s look at the ones at ESPN.com from Kyle Bonagura and David Hale. Bonagura still puts a lot of stock in Boise State, placing the Broncos in the Las Vegas Bowl against Arizona. (Would a 2014 Fiesta Bowl rematch happen so soon?) Hale thinks Fresno State will make a Cinderella run to Vegas and face Utah—and feels Boise State will fade and face Ohio in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Actually, that’s more fathomable than the matchup Bonagura has for Boise’s bowl on the blue turf: Colorado State-Northern Illinois. Doubtful that the Rams would be placed here two consecutive years, unless they really, really want to vindicate themselves for last year’s loss to Idaho.

Tracking Matt Linehan in the Idaho record book: the senior quarterback has passed Nathan Enderle to move up to No. 3 on the Vandals’ career passing yards list with 10,130. Linehan is the fourth Idaho player and the fifth in Sun Belt history to amass 10,000 passing yards. But what matters right now to the Vandals is victories. At 2-5, they can afford just one more loss as they try to keep bowl eligibility hopes alive. Idaho’s the favorite against Louisiana-Monroe Saturday in the Kibbie Dome. Meanwhile, College of Idaho is readying for its final road trip of the season, as the Coyotes visit rival Eastern Oregon on Saturday before closing the season with two home games. The Yotes are 3-5 and need to win out to achieve their first winning season since reinstating football in 2014.

Former Boise State great Kellen Moore still has his roster spot in Dallas. The Cowboys have signed veteran kicker Mike Nugent to fill in for the injured Dan Bailey. But instead of cutting Kellen to make room for Nugent, Dallas released defensive end Damontre’ Moore. Elsewhere in NFL mopup, Jay Ajayi and Doug Martin had similarly frustrating days on the ground Sunday. Ajayi’s came in a Miami win—Martin’s in a Tampa Bay loss. The Jay-Train rushed for just 51 yards on 23 carries in the Dolphins’ 31-28 home win over the New York Jets. The one-time Muscle Hamster netted only 49 yards on 20 totes in the Buccaneers’ 30-27 loss at Buffalo. Ajayi did have three catches for 26 yards, though, and Martin had two receptions for 31.

Boise State hoops was supposed to get an unexpected tuneup to the 2017-18 season tonight, until the charity exhibition game against Portland State in Taco Bell Arena was unexpectedly cancelled. That means coach Leon Rice’s evaluation of his long list of guards will continue to be limited to the practive floor. Last winter’s three true freshmen are now grizzled sophomores, with Alex Hobbs as perhaps the most intriguing one. Hobbs reached double figures in five games last season, with four of them coming in the final six games of the campaign. The table is set for more playing time this season. Then there’s the redshirt freshman with the very un-guardlike frame, Derrick Alston. The 6-8, 170-pound Alston dished out three assists in Saturday’s open scrimmage before the Wyoming football game.

One of the great stories of this World Series is that of L.A. Dodgers lefthander Rich Hill, who gets the start in Game 2 tonight against Houston’s Justin Verlander. Hill was pitching for the Long Island Ducks in independent baseball as recently as 2015 before being pulled off the scrap heap by the Oakland A’s last year. He began his pro career with the Boise Hawks back in 2002, and it did not go well—an 0-2 record with an ERA of 8.36 in six appearances. He was sent back to Boise the following season and went 1-6 with a 4.35 ERA. But Hill made it to the bigs with the Cubs in 2005 and bounced around with six other teams the next 10 years. He had to basically start over two seasons ago, but he has made the most of his second chance.

If you’re not familiar with BoiseDev.com, well, the site get scoops on local development news that nobody else seems to get. The latest: a possible name change for the Boise Hawks as the city pushes for the downtown stadium project at Americana Blvd. and Shoreline Drive. “BoiseDev was provided with a large trove of documents from Concerned Boise Taxpayers,” writes the site. “Correspondence between Boise City Council member Scot Ludwig and Greenstone Properties CEO Chris Schoen indicates the idea to ‘rebrand’ the team is in the works. Ludwig pitched names like the Boise Chukars, Boise Rapids, Boise Rocks—and even Boise Sheepherders. Ludwig and Boise Mayor Dave Bieter spent time brainstorming ideas, according to an email from Ludwig to Schoen.” I’ll leave it at that. Talk amongst yourselves.

This Day In Sports…October 25, 2012, five years ago today:

Former Boise State star Doug Martin logs the first 100-yard rushing game of his NFL career, going for 135 to lead Tampa Bay to a 36-17 win at Minnesota. Martin had it wrapped up by halftime, gaining 106 yards on 14 carries before the intermission, including a 41-yard scamper. But his biggest play of the night came through the air when he bolted 64 yards on a screen to score early in the third quarter. The only other former Bronco ever to rush for 100 yards in an NFL game had been Brock Forsey, who ran for 134 for the Chicago Bears in a 2003 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

(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.)