Are these guys now the two best quarterbacks in the Mountain West? Hawaii’s Cole McDonald and Boise State’s Hank Bachmeier will face off on the blue turf Saturday night, and the player who performs the best will emerge as the favorite for first-team All-Mountain West at the end of the season. McDonald leads the conference in pass efficiency rating at 161.0, and Bachmeier is second at 150.6 (a number that continues to rise). There’s a big drop from there, as Josh (not Jordan) Love of San Jose State is next at 139.3. McDonald has thrown 17 touchdown passes in five games to Bachmeier’s eight. But McDonald has also tossed nine interceptions to Bachmeier’s three. The duo by itself will be worth the price of admission at Albertsons Stadium.
HAWAII’S MOVERS AND SHAKERS
It’s who McDonald throws to that has been causing the midnight oil to be burned at the Bleymaier Football Center. Boise State coach Bryan Harsin singled out Cedric Byrd II when talking about Hawaii’s wide receivers group on Monday. Byrd leads the Mountain West in receiving with 40 catches, 498 yards and nine touchdowns. But the Rainbow Warriors have Nos. 2 and 3 as well, Jared Smart and JoJo Ward. Combine those three, and you get a whopping 97 grabs, 1,268 yards and 16 TDs in five games. This is the week that Harsin says will mark the return of safety and secondary leader DeAndre Pierce, who hasn’t played since being injured in the first half at Florida State. The Broncos will be glad to have him.
LUCKY NO. 7 GOES WAY BACK WITH THE WARRIORS
There are only two players left from Boise State’s active roster in 2015, Akilian Butler and David Moa. Butler redshirted in 2017 after tearing his ACL at Washington State, so like Moa, he’s played against Hawaii twice. It’s ironic that Butler scored a rushing touchdown at UNLV last week, because that kind of bookends his career. His first TD as a Bronco was against the Rainbow Warriors in 2015, and it came on the ground as well (on a 10-yard reverse). He has two receiving touchdowns and two rushing TDs in his career. As soon as DK Blaylock left the team in August to pursue basketball, Butler claimed Blaylock’s No. 7 jersey and embarked on what so far has been a productive senior year. He has 15 receptions for 197 yards this season. Can a TD catch be far behind?
WEATHER NERD MODE
I like to look at the weather in games like this. And why not? Hawaii’s making a little trip over from the tropics. The record-setting cold will moderate by the time Saturday night gets here. It’s expected to be clear and calm at kickoff, with a temperature of about 50. That must sound frigid to the Rainbow Warriors, but Hawaii promises to power through it. When UH played in Reno two weeks ago, it was rainy and breezy and 39 degrees. Fairly miserable. But the Warriors proceeded to thrash Nevada 54-3. Boise will be the banana belt to those guys.
COULD A BRONCO REALLY WIN A NATIONAL TROPHY?
There are watch lists here, there and everywhere in July and August. Then the candidates are whittled during the season, and we never hear much about those awards again. But Boise State’s Curtis Weaver appears to be a legit contender for the Lott IMPACT Trophy after being named one of 16 quarterfinalists for the honor on Wednesday. The award recognizes the player who makes the biggest “IMPACT” on his team both on and off the field (IMPACT stands for Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity). Weaver, the current national leader with nine sacks, checks all the boxes for the Broncos.
BENGALS BANKING ON A REBOUND
After a humbling 59-20 loss at Montana in a game it once led 17-0, Idaho State picks up the pieces back home in Holt Arena Saturday versus North Dakota. The Bengals had scored on a pair of explosive 71-yard plays, a touchdown catch by Michael Dean and a run by Ty Flanagan, before the wheels fell off against the Grizzlies. Despite some struggles in Missoula, quarterback Matt Struck still boasts an excellent pass efficiency rating of 161.7, throwing for 962 yards with 10 touchdown passes against just one interception. UND comes into the game 3-2; the Fighting Hawks are 4-0 all-time in Pocatello.
ALL ABOARD FOR ALSTON’S JUNIOR YEAR
While we wonder which newcomers will impact the Boise State men’s basketball team the most this winter—and there will be some significant ones—a veteran junior will be key to the Broncos’ fortunes. Derrick Alston returns after a season that saw a remarkable leap from his redshirt freshman campaign. He averaged 0.6 points per game and hit a total of one three-pointer in 2017-18. Last season Alston scored 13.4 points per game, logging nine 20-point games and two 30-point outings. It was the largest points-per-game jump in Boise State history. The lanky but athletic Alston had put on only three pounds over last season, weighing in at 188 pounds. But he’s listed as an inch taller now, standing 6-9. The Broncos play their annual open scrimmage Saturday in Bronco Gym following the Homecoming parade.
YOTES ARE CONTENDERS—AT THE VERY LEAST
College of Idaho cruised to a 31-6 record in Cody Blaine’s first season as men’s basketball coach, and the Cascade Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll says the Coyotes should maintain. The Yotes, who made a second straight trip to the NAIA Division II national semifinals last March, are picked to finish second behind Oregon Tech. C of I won the Cascade tournament title in 2018-19, but the Owls advanced all the way to the championship game at the national tournament. They return all five starters from a 28-8 squad. The Yotes are led by a couple of former Treasure Valley standouts: NAIA first-team All-American Talon Pinckney from Centennial and All-CCC pick Nate Bruneel from Rocky Mountain.
DELAET’S RETURN, PART II
Troy Merritt is taking the week off from the PGA Tour, but fellow former Bronco and Eagle resident Graham DeLaet is entered in the Houston Open today, ready to test his healing back for the second consecutive week. DeLaet returned to the tour for the first time in almost two years in Las Vegas last week and missed the cut. DeLaet carded a 75 and 72 at TPC at Sunderlin, but in each round he got hot and strung together three birdies. “The back held up pretty well,” DeLaet told PGATour.com. “Obviously I’m not happy with the score but I’m happy to be back. It’s been so long. You can play all the little money games with your buddies at home but it’s a little different on this stage.”
This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…we’re payroll, we’re risk, we’re HR, we’re business!
October 10, 1969: The birthday of one of the NFL’s most popular quarterbacks. Brett Favre came out of Southern Mississippi and was drafted by Atlanta in 1991. Green Bay traded a first-round draft pick for Favre in 1992, and he spent the next 16 seasons as a Packers icon. He led the Pack to two Super Bowls, winning it after the 1997 season. Favre retired from and returned to the NFL twice, finishing his career with the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings. He holds the NFL record for most consecutive regular-season starts with 253, spanning his time with all three teams. Brett Favre, believe it or not, is 50 years old today.
(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.)