About the Broncos’ running backs stable

There’s no indication that Jeremy McNichols will go this route—if indeed he has decided to forego his senior year to enter the NFL Draft. But what a bummer for fans when Stanford’s Christian McCaffery announced yesterday he’s skipping the Sun Bowl against North Carolina to focus on his draft preparation. Everyone understands why McCaffery is doing it, trying to guard against injury in a game that doesn’t exactly affect the Cardinal’s legacy as a program. But it’s a precedent that will certainly have its followers. In fact, LSU’s Leonard Fournette had already revealed he’s skipping the Citrus Bowl. McCaffery’s announcement came 11 days before the Sun Bowl—we’re just a week away from Boise State’s Cactus Bowl matchup against Baylor. Bronco Nation hopes (and expects) that it’s too late for McNichols now.

Boise State’s stable of returning running backs will be down by two now if McNichols goes. Cory Young, a redshirt sophomore, has decided to transfer out of the Bronco program in search of playing time. In fact, he’s already gone. Young got carries in only two games this season, logging 10 attempts for 48 yards in wins over Hawaii and UNLV. He had a big performance in the spring game in 2015, but it never went further than that. Young’s older brother, Kelsey, transferred in from Stanford last year, and he ended up as Boise State’s second-leading rusher behind McNichols. The future writing was on the wall, as true freshman Alexander Mattison and redshirt Robert Mahone are poised to share duties next year if J-Mac isn’t back.

The Nick Stevens story is central to Colorado State’s big finish in the regular season—and to the Rams’ status as 13½-point favorites over Idaho in Thursday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Stevens started at quarterback for CSU last season, and he was the starter in the Rocky Mountain Showdown on Labor Day weekend against Colorado. Stevens went just 6-of-20 for 31 yards and two interceptions against the Buffs before being benched in favor of Georgia transfer Faton Bauta. Colorado State eventually settled on true freshman Collin Hill, but he was lost for the season with a knee injury in October against Utah State. Stevens slid back in and rallied the Rams to a 31-24 win over the Aggies that night.

Stevens almost helped pull off an unthinkable upset of Boise State on the blue turf the following week when Colorado State, trailing 28-3, scored 20 points in 2½ minutes late in the fourth quarter with the help of two successful onside kicks. That turned out to be a launching pad, as the Rams won four of their final five games. Stevens completed 98 of 137 passes for 1,414 yards and 14 touchdowns in those last five contests. He threw just one interception and was sacked just once. It’s been redemption for the junior from Murrieta, CA.

I don’t know what it is about Jay Ajayi and Doug Martin, but neither of the former Boise State stars seem to be able to break a run anymore. Miami pounded the New York Jets 34-13 on Saturday night, but Ajayi rushed for just 51 yards on 19 carries, 2.7 yards per tote with a long gain of eight yards. In Tampa Bay’s 26-20 loss at Dallas on Sunday Night Football, Martin managed only 42 yards on 16 tries, just 2.6 yards per attempt, also with a long of eight. Martin has been under three yards per carry in five of his six games since returning from a hamstring injury. Ajayi has been under that threshold in three of the last four games.

Boise State hoops has one game left to settle on the core guys who’ll help it compete in the Mountain West this winter. Here’s what’s happening inside going into tomorrow night’s non-conference finale against Cal State Northridge in Taco Bell Arena. Zach Haney, Robin Jorch and David Wacker combine to average about 40 minutes a game. So it’s okay to combine their numbers and see how it’s going. That would be 12.7 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Those are serviceable stats. Individually, the jury is still out. You have Haney with 5.0 points and 3.3 rebounds, and Jorch with 4.0 points and 3.0 boards. Wacker’s averaging 3.7 points but is pulling down 4.3 rebounds per outing, and he’s the one coming off a solid effort with his nine points and eight boards in Sunday’s win over Idaho State.

So what’s the answer in the post for Boise State? Coach Leon Rice doesn’t really have one, and that’s fine with him right now. “That’s the beauty of having a three-headed monster like this,” said Rice after the ISU game. “I really don’t care who plays.” He’ll be able to go with what works when the Broncos host Cal State Northridge tomorrow night—then we’ll see what makes sense when the Mountain West season opens at Utah State a week later.

For the Boise State women, the non-conference schedule ends tonight when Hawaii visits Taco Bell Arena. Despite last week’s loss at Washington, the Broncos are still riding the program’s best start in 40 years at 9-1. Boise State and the Rainbow Wahine are playing for the first time in more than five years, since they were WAC rivals. UH holds a 12-10 advantage in the series, the entirety of which was played during the WAC era from 2001-11.

When the Idaho Steelheads debuted as a West Coast Hockey League team in 1997, one of their foes was the Reno Renegades, who were in their third season. It was a great geographic fit, but the Renegades didn’t make it, folding at the end of that season. Boise developer Larry Leasure held the ECHL rights to the Reno market 10 years ago (I think he finally gave up). Well, the Reno City Council has approved a 10-year agreement to establish an ECHL franchise in Reno starting in 2018. The club would play at the Reno Events Center. The West/Mountain Division needs more teams actually in the West and/or the mountains.

The Northwest Passage Ski Mountaineering Race is in the books at Brundage Mountain, as elite racers navigated their way through 12 miles and 6,000 vertical feet of race course—up and down and up and down—in temperatures that were stuck below zero during the weekend. As one race official put it: “Seriously burly mountain men and women. Respect.” The term “men and women” is relative. Both the winner, Henry Boyd of Breckenridge, CO, and the runnerup, Henry Hanes of Albuquerque, are 16 years old. Boyd has qualified for the 2017 Ski Mountaineering World Championship in Transcavallo, Italy.

This Day In Sports…December 20, 1980:

Boise State wins the Division I-AA national championship with a 31-29 win over Eastern Kentucky at the Camellia Bowl in Sacramento. BSU led most of the way—until the Colonels connected on a bomb with 55 seconds remaining. Trailing by five points with 80 yards to go, Joe Aliotti led the Broncos on the winning drive. He hit Kipp Bedard three times to get BSU close—then on fourth-and-10 from the 14-yard-line, Aliotti scrambled until he found tight end Duane Dlouhy in the corner of the end zone with 12 seconds left. Incidentally, Dlouhy is currently battling cancer. Look it up on Facebook, and help if you can.

(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.)