All about getting drives off to good starts

Special teams is an established priority for Boise State in fall camp. One piece of that is identifying the young guys who are going to make their names by busting through blocks and racing downfield on punt and kickoff cover. The other is finding the players who will ignite a resurgence in the Bronco return game. Kickoff returns are kind of hard to judge, because there aren’t as many of them as there were before kickoffs were moved back up to the 35-yard line. But Boise State’s numbers are down. The longest return the Broncos had last year was 36 yards, with a 21-yard average. In 2014, it was just 18.8 yards per return. Cedrick Wilson lined up for kickoff returns and punt returns in April’s Blue & Orange Game. That was an eyebrow-raiser. You don’t see many 6-3 guys dropping deep to run back kicks.

The kickoff return category had been solid before 2014. Boise State had a pair of 100-yarders, the one from Bryan Douglas at San Jose State in 2013 and the memorable Doug Martin return on the opening kickoff against Arizona State in the 2011 Las Vegas Bowl. Those were the only touchdowns this decade, though. Now I’ll go Cliff Clavin on you. Little-known fact: the Broncos haven’t had a kickoff return for a TD on the blue turf since Titus Young opened the 2009 win over Nevada with a 95-yard dash.

Punt returns have been way off at Boise State the past two seasons (outside of Donte Deayon’s 75-yard runback for a touchdown at Wyoming in 2014). Last year the Broncos’ average return was only 5.3 yards. Compare that with 2013, when it was 15.7 yards per return. Boise State’s preseason depth chart has Wilson and Jonathan Moxey listed as punt returners. Cliff Clavin again: The Broncos haven’t had a punt returned for a TD at what is now Albertsons Stadium since Kyle Wilson took one back 90 yards in the 2008 regular season finale against Fresno State.

I like the idea of wild-card submissions for Boise State’s All-Blue Team. Hey, round it up to 30 players for the 30 years of the blue turf. Why not? I don’t see a deadline on the ballot for the wild cards, so you have time to ponder. They’ll be unveiled with the rest of the All-Blue squad at the Washington State game on September 10. The three names on the list that had the greatest overall effect on the Bronco program are running backs Brock Forsey and Ian Johnson and defensive back Quintin Mikell.

It’s nice to see former Boise State stars Jeron Johnson and Billy Winn get chances to extend their NFL careers. They had been on hold for months, and the wait for landing spots had to be nerve-wracking. Johnson, who was cut loose by Washington during the offseason, is now a Kansas City Chief. The sixth-year safety had 20 tackles as a Redskins reserve last season. Winn has been picked up by the Denver Broncos. The fifth-year defensive tackle played sparingly for Indianapolis last year after being traded to the Colts by Cleveland at the end of training camp. Winn logged just six tackles last season.

Strange as it sounds, Kristin Armstrong dropped out of the women’s road race at the Rio Olympics yesterday—and did everything her team wanted her to do. The two-time time trial gold medalist from Boise was a prominent player in the U.S. strategy early, fulfilling her role as a set-up person of sorts. Armstrong’s husband, Joe Savola, told KTVB they decided finishing was optional if and when she fell off the pace, and she took a DNF. Unfortunately the cyclist she helped, Mara Abbott, was passed in the final sprint yesterday and finished fourth. Armstrong now sets her sights on her specialty, the time trial, on Wednesday.

Twin Falls shooter Will Brown missed the final for the Olympic men’s 10-meter air pistol event on Saturday by only three points. Brown finished 12th overall and now moves on to the men’s 50-meter free pistol on Wednesday. Incoming Boise State true freshmen Courtney McGregor and Isabella Amado became the first Bronco gymnasts ever to compete in the Olympics last night. McGregor, competing for New Zealand, scored a 53.165 in the all-around to finish 41st. Amado, competing for Panama, was 44th. Neither advanced to the finals in the all-around or in individual events.

Tri-City has taken three of the first four games in a five-game set against the Boise Hawks after winning 5-1 on its home field last night. The Dust Devils batted around in the sixth inning while scoring four runs to put it away. The exception to the rule over the weekend came Saturday night, when the Hawks recorded their second shutout of the season. Christian Talley, Brandon Gold, Austin Moore and Julian Fernandez combined on a five-hitter to stop Tri-City, 4-0. Fernandez’s fastball topped out at 100 miles per hour in the ninth. The Hawks have one more in Pasco tonight before returning to Memorial Stadium for an eight-game homestand.

Can giving up a triple serve as a memorable career moment for a big league pitcher? I don’t know, but former Boise Hawk Chris Rusin can always tell his grandkids about Ichiro and one sunny August afternoon at Coors Field. Ichiro Suzuki legged out a triple off Rusin yesterday for his 3,000th career hit, becoming the 30th player in Major League history—and the first from Japan—to hit the milestone. Ichiro did it as a 42-year-old Miami Marlin in a 10-7 win over the Colorado Rockies. Rusin threw three innings of relief for the Rockies; the historic hit was one of five he yielded, and the one run he allowed was scored by Ichiro moments later.

Boise’s Brian Scott isn’t getting those top 20 NASCAR results he craves, but he’s been a lot more consistent the last few weeks. Scott started 27th and finished 25th in the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International Speedway in New York yesterday. Scott now has three straight finishes in the 20’s after enduring a streak of six straight results in the 30’s on the Sprint Cup circuit. Mountain West Factoid of the Day: Brett Rypien, as you know, had a record-breaking debut season for Boise State. Rypien set four new conference freshman marks—3,533 passing yards for the season, 506 yards passing against New Mexico, 75 passing attempts versus the Lobos, and 81 total plays (the 75 passes plus six rushes) in the loss to UNM. The latter two are overall Mountain West records, eclipsing the 73 passing attempts and 77 total plays by Fresno State and current Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr at Rutgers in 2013.

This Day In Sports…August 8, 1976, 40 years ago today:

In a 5-2 victory over Kansas City, the Chicago White Sox make history by wearing shorts. I wonder what current White Sox pitcher Chris Sale would have done with those uniforms. Thank goodness Comiskey Park had natural turf. The latest of Bill Veeck’s experiments didn’t take (it was probably then that he started planning for Disco Demolition Night). Veeck was also the inventor of 10-Cent Beer Night and once, while owner of the St. Louis Browns in 1948, sent 3-foot-7 midget Eddie Gaedel to the plate.

(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.)