Boise State football: Opener deserves all the Broncos’ focus

Something at ESPN.com reminded me that Troy could change the dynamic of the Group of 5 before September is halfway over. Adam Rittenberg’s “Names to know for the 2018 coaching carousel” accentuates how well-coached Boise State’s opening day opponent is: “Neal Brown could become the hottest candidate in this category if he keeps his momentum from the past two seasons. He’s the lone Group of 5 coach to win more than 80 percent of his games (since 2016). Brown already has a signature win at LSU, and another against Scott Frost’s Nebraska team on Sept. 15 in Lincoln would bump up his stock even more. Brown could be a strong candidate for Kansas, Texas Tech or other potential openings.” The point here is: if the Trojans upset the Broncos a week from Saturday and do the same to Nebraska two weeks later, they they could become the sudden Group of 5 favorite for a New Year’s Six bowl berth.

Troy is serious about being a Group of 5 player. Karl Benson, who’s retiring next summer as commissioner of the Sun Belt, knows what it takes—Boise State grad that he is. Facilities matter when you’re up against the Power 5’s shiny objects. Benson was on KTIK’s Idaho SportsTalk Friday and trumpeted Troy’s massive new 35-by-90 foot video board the Broncos will see a week from Saturday. The BroncoVision board at Albertsons Stadium, by comparison, is 37-by-58 feet. The Trojans’ new big screen is part of a $24 million North End Zone complex being added to Veterans Memorial Stadium. It will be christened at the Troy-Boise State game.

Bryan Harsin is obligatorily on that ESPN.com “job board.” Rittenberg notes: “He seems more than content at Boise State, which doesn’t have the national profile it once did but remains a premier Group of 5 job and better than some Power 5 gigs.” Colorado State’s Mike Bobo was in the discussion, too. “We need to see more from Bobo,” writes Rittenberg perceptively. Bobo has had three straight 7-6 seasons at CSU. Air Force’s Troy Calhoun also gets mentioned, interestingly enough. This from Rittenberg: “His overall work at his alma mater (82-60, six seasons of eight or more wins) is respected in the industry. The 51-year-old has been considered for Power 5 jobs, including Purdue multiple times. He also isn’t tied to the triple option and could rely on his NFL experience for the offense at a non-academy.”

Used to be we’d get a crisp morning or two in August to tell us football is imminent. These days, smoke is the indicator. But the feeling is pervasive—football is in the air. Fall camp has officially ended for Boise State, and with school starting today, the Broncos begin two weeks of game prep for Troy. There’s been an announcement that Kohl the Tee Dog is back for the 2018 season. ESPN’s Adam Amin reacted with a tweet: “Hello best friend.” Kohl has become part of the scene at games on the blue turf. Then there’s the Blue Collar Pass, the $150 rotating season ticket that was extended Friday with 100 additional available, “by popular demand.” If that’s true, that’s great. It’s the kind of creative packaging required to sustain season ticket levels in this era of late kickoffs, home TV experience and millennial distraction.

The most impressive performance by a former Boise State Bronco in NFL Preseason Week 2 was the first one, as Jay Ajayi had six carries for 23 yards and one reception for 16 yards in Philadelphia’s 37-20 loss to New England last Thursday night. The game was ridiculously billed by some as a “Super Bowl rematch.” One of Ajayi’s rushes was classic Jay-Train, a tackle-breaking 10-yard run during which his shoe came off. The Boise State product in the fish bowl, the Cowboys’ Leighton Vander Esch, didn’t play against Cincinnati in Dallas Saturday night due to a groin injury suffered in practice last week.

George Iloka did play for Cincinnati in its 21-13 win over the Cowboys, starting at free safety and making two tackles in his familiar No. 43. Turns out that was the last time he’ll wear a Bengals uniform. Iloka, drafted in the fifth round out of Boise State by Cincy in 2012, was cut by the organization yesterday, enabling the Bengals to save $5.6 million against the salary cap this year. ESPN reports a team source said Cincinnati was unhappy with Iloka’s play in 2017, hence the drafting of Wake Forest free safety Jesse Bates in the second round this spring. Nevertheless, Iloka should find work elsewhere in the NFL quickly.

Orlando Scandrick isn’t ready to hang it up. The former Boise State star has landed with the Kansas City Chiefs on a one-year, $1.5 million contract, according to NFL Network. Not to forget that he already has a $1 million signing bonus in his pocket from Washington, who released him last week. The Redskis had signed Scandrick to a two-year deal in March after after his 10-year run with the Dallas Cowboys ended. NFL.com notes that the 31-year-old cornerback “was reported to be drawing significant interest on the open market.”

The first game of the Boise Hawks’ annual Western Idaho Fair road trip resulted in an 11-0 shellacking of Eugene Friday night, but the next two were losses—the Emeralds won 5-4 in 10 innings last night. The Hawks move on to Salem-Keizer for a three-game series beginning tonight. Wrapping up the weekend with soccer: the Boise State women, after a 5-0 exhibition win over NNU Friday, played their official season opener yesterday at the Boas Complex. And it was one of those ever-so-rare athletic competitions against in-state rival Idaho. The Broncos won 2-1, getting the ultimate winning goal from former Rocky Mountain star Raimee Sherle, one of the top scorers in the country last year. Boise State held off a late rally by the Vandals, who are hitting the reset button under new coach Jeremy Clevenger.

This Day In Sports…August 20, 2008, 10 years ago today:

On what he said was a “gut feeling,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen names redshirt freshman Kellen Moore as his starting quarterback. Moore would become the first freshman to open a season at quarterback in BSU history after beating out fifth-year senior Bush Hamdan. Moore came to BSU with a stunning resume from Prosser High in Washington—he threw a state record 66 touchdowns as a junior, then topped that with 67 as a senior. He had 173 career TD passes, also a state record.

(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.)