Friday brings me back to my early-bird celebration of Albertsons Stadium’s 50th anniversary—this is my 17th edition. In 2012, the first of the current 12-game series between Boise State and BYU was played on the blue turf, and there’s never been anything quite like it. In the lowest-scoring game in stadium history, the Broncos edged the Cougars 7-6 before what I consider to be the loudest crowd in the history of the facility. Boise State held BYU to 200 total yards, and the Cougars returned the favor by keeping the Broncos offense out of the end zone. The home team’s only touchdown was scored on a 36-yard interception return by 306-pound defensive tackle Mike “Canadian Bacon” Atkinson. The game was decided when the Cougars elected to go for two points after their only touchdown of the game and failed with 3½ minutes left.
THE ACCOLADES STOP HERE
There were no Boise State players among the Mountain West individual preseason awards announced Thursday. But, whatever. These guys are good: Colorado State wide receiver Warren Jackson as Offensive Player of the Year, Fresno State linebacker Justin Rice as Defensive Player of the Year, and Utah State kick returner Savon Scarver as Special Teams Player of the Year. The last one is a little surprising, as Boise State’s Avery Williams was the 2019 Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year.
BUT THERE’S CONSOLATION
Outside of the Mountain West, though, it was a busy recognition day for Williams. For the third straight year, the senior cornerback and punt returner was named to the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the most versatile player in college football. Williams was also tabbed a second-team Preseason All-American as a punt returner by Athlon Sports and came in at No. 49 on Bruce Feldman’s annual “Freaks” list at The Athletic. Broncos senior offensive lineman Donte Harrington got in on the action by being named to the watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy that goes to players who most impact society. Last week, Harrington organized a voter-registration drive in conjunction with the League of Women Voters that resulted in 46 members of the Boise State football team registering to vote in Idaho.
KEENE IS A BRONCO MASKER
Boise State’s plethora of basketball talent is rubbing off on the recruiting trail. The Broncos got a big get in a very 2020 way on Thursday. It made the “Top Headlines” at ESPN.com. RJ Keene of Concordia Lutheran High in Tomball, TX, outside Houston, was at a table where he displayed six masks with team logos on them. Then Keene picked up the Boise State mask and put it on. Keene is a 6-7 shooting guard or small forward, depending on your source. He sounds like Justinian Jessup, the sequel. Keene averaged 19.5 points per game last season and nailed 153 three-pointers. “Coronavirus is the biggest thing right now, and for me committing, to be honest, I’m the least most important thing right now,” he told ESPN. “I want to spread awareness that everyone should wear masks so we can get back to basketball.”
THE STATE AMS ARE ON
The Idaho Men’s and Women’s State Amateur tournaments are being played the same week this year—and on the same course. The first round was Thursday at Elkhorn, with University of Idaho golfer Colt Sherell taking a one-shot lead in the men’s event. Douglas Manchester of Park City, UT, is one stroke back, and Caldwell’s Connor Johnstone is two off the pace. Johnstone is one of five Boise State players in the top 10. On the women’s side, Eagle High’s Brooke Patterson burst out to a four-shot lead Thursday with a three-under 69 in the first round.
THE LOCAL PRO SCROLL
Troy Merritt so wants to perform well on what is essentially his PGA Tour home course. But things disintegrated for the former Minnesotan and current Meridian resident in the first round of the 3M Championship Thursday. Merritt struggled to a two-over 73 at TPC Tri-Cities and is all but out of the running to make the cut. Meanwhile, the Idaho Steelheads are bringing forward Colby McAuley back for the 2020-21 campaign. McAuley appeared in 19 games for the Steelies last season after being acquired from the Orlando Solar Bears in January. He scored eight goals with four assists.
‘IT IS WITH A HEAVY HEART…’
This GoFundMe post Wednesday night from Amaia Van Tol, daughter of Boise State baseball coach Gary Van Tol, was fairly crushing. What a pit in the stomach. Amaia acknowledged it’s truly over for the Boise State baseball and swimming and diving programs. She wrote, “We were able to reach nearly one million dollars in fundraising, nearly $70,000 from this platform. We unfortunately received final confirmation from President Tromp that regardless of the amount raised or efforts put forth, they will not reinstate these programs. It is with a heavy heart I write this to inform you all that we will no longer be pursuing any fundraising, and as promised, all donations made on this GoFundMe will be refunded. We are incredibly grateful for everything you all have done for us. Thank you for fighting this.”
This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!
July 24, 2016: Ken Griffey Jr. is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the first player officially representing the Seattle Mariners to be enshrined in Cooperstown. Griffey had been elected to the Hall in January of that year with 99.3 percent of the vote, eclipsing the record of 98.8 percent set by Tom Seaver in 1992. Griffey, who was inducted with catcher Mike Piazza, hit 630 home runs during his 22-year big league career. “Junior” was the unanimous pick as American League MVP in 1997 when he hit .304 with 56 homers and 147 runs batted in.
(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.)