There’s a long, pressured-packed weekend ahead for players at the Albertsons Boise Open. We can only hope Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge can suppress any yips and put together three more rounds like yesterday’s. Aldridge, who turned 32 on Labor Day weekend, greeted the dew-coated 10th hole with a birdie to start the morning, then rolled through a bogey-free day and carded a four-under 67 at Hillcrest Country Club. He missed the cut last week at the DAP Championship, the first leg of the Web.com Tour Finals, opening with a 74. Aldridge is tied for 18th going into today’s second round, three shots off the pace.
The tournament’s upper echelon is getting the best of Hillcrest again. There’s a three-way tie after the first 18 at seven-under 64. Multiply that by four, and the pacing is pointed at defending champion Martin Piller’s 28-under performance last summer. Adam Schenk, a 24-year-old former Purdue standout, was the first of the trio in the clubhouse yesterday after playing Hillcrest for the first time and turning in a gem despite bogeys on Nos. 8 and 11. Schenk’s exclamation point was a 35-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole. He was joined at 64 by Sam Ryder and Keith Mitchell. Familiar PGA Tour names dot the top part of the leaderboard. Rory Sabbatini is one shot back at six-under 65, and Stuart Appleby, Matt Jones and Luke Guthrie are among those at 66. As is the inimitable Andrew “Beef” Johnston.
Boise State can use some of its bye week time this week to refine the return game. That facet of Bronco football has been explosive in the past, but it hasn’t been lately. Boise State averaged a lukewarm 21 yards on kickoff returns and just 5.3 yards on punt returns last year. In two games this season, the Broncos have three kickoff returns for 56 yards and three punt runbacks for a net zero. During fall camp, special teams coach Kent Riddle said Jeremy McNichols and Cedrick Wilson were the top guys at kickoff returner, and both have appeared in that formation, along with Ryan Wolpin. Riddle has gone all the way with Akilian Butler as punt returner. Wilson and Chaz Anderson also got work there in fall camp. We’ll see which way it goes in Corvallis next week.
Oregon State hosts Idaho State tomorrow, and Boise State may not know any more about the Beavers than they do now. It probably won’t be a 56-7 kind of game, like ISU’s loss at Colorado last Saturday. But OSU needs a big win tomorrow—and needs to enjoy it. The Beavers gave Minnesota a good contest on Labor Day weekend, but it was still a 30-23 loss. Oregon State has dropped 10 consecutive games. A drubbing of ISU would give the Beavs hopes of an upset the following week. After the Broncos come games against Colorado and Cal. OSU coach Gary Andersen wants his team to believe it can compete now.
Week No. 3 in the Mountain West is dotted by matchups against other Group of 5 programs. This is where the MW has to draw a line in the sand. It starts tonight when Utah State hosts Arkansas State as a 9½-point favorite. Tomorrow San Diego State should easily handle quarterback-depleted Northern Illinois, while Nevada is a solid favorite against Buffalo. But UNLV and Fresno State are decided underdogs at Central Michigan and Toledo, respectively.
Colorado State hosts Northern Colorado of the Big Sky, with the Rams starting their third different quarterback in three games. It’s true freshman Collin Hill’s turn after Nick Stevens, last season’s starter, and Faton Bauta, a graduate transfer from Georgia, basically flamed out. CSU QB’s are just 20-of-52 for 171 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions this season. The Rams’ pass efficiency rating of 64.4 is dead last among the nation’s 128 FBS schools.
It’s cliché to say this is not a good time for Idaho to be facing Washington State, but it’s a legit sentiment. The 92nd Battle of the Palouse kicks off at noon tomorrow at Martin Stadium, and we’ll see if the Cougars can come out from the bus under which coach Mike Leach threw them following last week’s 31-28 loss to Boise State. It’s likely the Cougs will. The Vandal defense should be stressed in this one—it saw Washington’s Jake Browning go for 23-of-28 for 294 yards and five touchdowns last Saturday in the Huskies’ 59-14 loss in Seattle. Now Idaho has to face Luke Falk, he of the 480 yards on the blue turf. On offense, the Vandals need production from running back Aaron Duckworth, who netted just 30 yards at Husky Stadium. Third-string quarterback Mason Petrino was Idaho’s leading rusher at UW with 48 yards.
The Battle of I-84, Part I, is set for tomorrow night in LaGrande as College of Idaho visits Eastern Oregon for the first game of a home-and-home set. The Mountaineers, just 150 miles away, represent the closest rivals on the Coyotes schedule. Eastern is C of I’s longest continuous rival—they played the last nine seasons before the Yotes program went dark in 1977, and they’ve faced off twice each season the last two years. So, are the Coyotes of last week the real 2016 Yotes? At C of I, they’re calling the 42-12 victory at Willamette the most complete win since football returned in 2014. The Yotes limited the Bearcats to less than 200 yards over the first three quarters. That’ll be tougher to do against Eastern Oregon’s big-play offense.
Local storylines in the NFL this week include how many carries former Boise State star Jay Ajayi will get for Miami Sunday at New England as he emerges from coach Adam Gase’s doghouse (and remains behind Arian Foster). Also—if Shea McClellin can get a lick in on Ajayi. And multiple reports say Darian Thompson will move into the New York Giants’ starting lineup at safety in Week 2. Thompson has been working with the first-team defense in practice all week. He played behind Nat Behre last week versus Dallas but ended up with more snaps than the former San Diego State star and logged three tackles in his NFL debut. The Giants host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
A couple other Friday notes: Idaho Steelheads coach Neil Graham has a former NHL player in the fold for the 2016-17 season. Bryce Van Brabant, a 6-3 power forward who played six games for the Calgary Flames in 2014, brings that experience to the Steelheads, along with 114 more professional games in the AHL and ECHL. And this is kind of cool—the Boise State swimming and diving team launches its 2016-17 season tomorrow morning at Quinn’s Pond, hosting the Fall Open Water Classic. The event is open to the public and offers a 500-meter sprint, a 1-kilometer swim and a 5-kilometer swim in men’s, women’s and junior categories of competition. (What’s the water temperature at Quinn’s Pond right now?)
It has been duly noted that Roderick Townsend-Roberts is, in fact, the second former Boise State Bronco to win a gold medal at the Paralympics (Townsend-Roberts earned his Wednesday in the long jump in Rio). Barb Buchan, a Boise State track athlete from 1974-78, won two gold medals in cycling at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing. Buchan was in a horrible road race accident after competing for the Broncos. It shattered her skull and put her in a coma, but she battled back. I remember in 1984, when the Ore-Ida Women’s Challenge was created (later the HP Women’s Challenge), race founder Jim Rabdau made sure Buchan was included on the organizing committee. She was still struggling a bit at the time, but you could tell how much she appreciated her role.
This Day In Sports…September 16, 2000:
Boise State plays its first-ever game against a team from the Southeastern Conference, facing Arkansas and former BSU coach Houston Nutt. It took the Broncos awhile to settle down as they fell behind 24-0 in the second quarter before rallying to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Then, trailing 38-31 with just over a minute to play, Boise State had a fourth-and-goal from the Arkansas nine. Bart Hendricks hit Jay Swillie, but he was stopped a half-yard short of the goal line and a possible overtime.
(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.)