Ah, the kickoff suspense

The more we know, the more we wonder about Boise State’s 2015 football schedule. The more we know, the more we wonder about Boise State’s 2015 football schedule. The rest of the Mountain West’s national TV slate was released yesterday, and one more Bronco kickoff time was revealed—5 p.m. on the road at Colorado State October 10 in CBS Sports Network (how does CSU rate, getting that favorable start time?). We do know now that Boise State’s game at UNLV on Halloween and the blue turf dates versus Hawaii on October 3, Wyoming on October 24, and New Mexico on November 14 will be televised on “ESPN’s family of networks.”

The “family” includes ESPNU and ESPN3, which bring the school minimal exposure. And with kickoff times to those other three home games still to be determined, perhaps as late as 12 days ahead of the date of the game, fans will feel like they’re being hung out to dry. If any of those Albertsons Stadium dates end up on ESPN or ESPN2, any late start they’re saddled with will be worth the investment. But if the Worldwide Leader presents Bronco Nation with an 8:15 start for an ESPNU or ESPN3 game—whoa, Nellie.

It’s not going to shake out this way, but you have to admire Jay Ajayi’s confidence when he says he’s the best running back in this week’s NFL Draft. The former Boise State star, brandishing a noticeable British accent after his recent trip to his native land, held a teleconference yesterday with the media. What does he think sets him apart from a group that includes Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon? “My statistics in the fourth quarter, when games are really won,” said Ajayi. “How I never let up.” He was, of course, asked about the health concerns that have cropped up recently. “It couldn’t feel any better,” said Ajayi of the knee he injured as a true freshman over 3½ years ago.

Among Boise State’s opponents this season, we haven’t heard much about Virginia. The Cavaliers have finished spring ball, and last Thursday they released a post-spring depth chart. UVA has a quarterback battle going, too, and in this case there’s a No. 1 guy already tabbed. It’s Matt Johns, who outshone Greyson Lambert during spring drills. Which is interesting, because Lambert played a lot more than Johns last fall. “Matt was the most productive in spring,” said coach Mike London, whose team just missed bowl eligibility last season at 5-7. “He was the most efficient. It wasn’t close—if it was close we’d still be talking about going into August camp with two guys still fighting for the same position.” Both Johns and Lambert are juniors.

The race to replace star quarterback Garrett Grayson at Colorado State will remain a two-man duel into the summer. New coach Mike Bobo will decide between Nick Stevens and Coleman Key, who both performed well in CSU’s spring game. Stevens, a 6-3, 200-pound sophomore, threw for 438 yards and four touchdowns, while Key, a 6-4, 220-pound redshirt freshman, passed for 337 yards and two touchdowns. Stevens’ situation is much like Ryan Finley’s at Boise State, and he likely has the edge going into fall camp. He was Grayson’s backup last year, appearing in six games and going 15-of-25 for 136 yards and a touchdown.

Idaho native and Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens is set for another Run For The Roses. Stevens, the one-time Capital High wrestler, will be aboard Firing Line Saturday in the Kentucky Derby, a race he’s won three times. Stevens said earlier this year he felt Firing Line, which he rode to victory in the Sunland Derby in March, had “all the tools” to win the Derby. Here’s your Gary Stevens refresher: he won his first race at Les Bois Park in 1979 and went on to capture eight Triple Crown titles, including the Preakness two years ago to cap his comeback at the age of 50. He has more than 5,000 career trips to the winner’s circle.

A downtrodden Brad Ralph was a guest on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday. “I’m still definitely in shock,” said the Idaho Steelheads coach about 19 hours after his team’s season ended at Utah in the playoffs. A squad that was seen as a prime contender for the Kelly Cup Finals exited in a first round series that it once led two games-to-one. How did the Grizzlies do it? “Obviously the goaltending was good,” said Ralph. “(Igor) Bobkov—he didn’t give up any rebounds.” That door swings both ways. “Goaltending is everything, and unfortunately our goalies didn’t step up when we needed them to,” Ralph said. That would indicate disappointment in Olivier Roy. Ralph said goaltending is at the top of his evaluation list for 2015-16.

Boise State’s 11th foray into the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships will come a week from Friday as the Broncos take on 19th-ranked South Florida in a first-round match hosted by Virginia Tech. It’s a tough draw, but that was expected for a .500 team that turned into Cinderella at the end of the regular season and won its fourth straight Mountain West title. Boise State has already played USF, falling to the Bulls 4-0 at the Blue-Gray Classic. “We’ve played several teams this year that was lost to the first time and beat the second time,”said Boise State coach Greg Patton, ever the optimist. But maybe for good reason. “We’re a different team now—this team has a different mindset,” he said. Big Sky champion Idaho is also in the NCAA draw a week from Friday, taking on USC in the first round.

I have an update from yesterday’s column. More than 12,000 tickets were actually gone at the end of the first day of sales for the Basque Soccer Friendly. So one-third of Albertsons Stadium is already accounted for. We’re 91 days away from the event. That’s how long you have to figure how to pronounce the names of the two teams: Club Atletic de Bilbao and Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente.

This Day In Sports…April 29, 1986:

The Seattle Mariners make history, kind of. At Fenway Park, Boston’s Roger Clemens sets a major league record by striking out 20 batters in a nine-inning game against the M’s. But Clemens would not be the American League leader in strikeouts for the season. That honor went to the Mariners’ Mark Langston, who had 245 K’s in ’86. Clemen’s feat has been matched three times since. The Rocket fanned 20 again in 1996, the Cubs’ Kerry Wood did it in 1998, and a former Mariner, the Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson, reached the record in 2001.

(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.)