Winston Venable spent two years at Boise State during the height of the program’s glory years, from 2009-10. At that time, it was rare for a junior college transfer to step in and start. But Venable did—he not only bought into Broncos’ culture, he made it stronger. Now he aims to do the same as the team’s new running backs coach. An example is his advice to junior Andrew Van Buren: “I just want him to know that when you’re running and you see a safety, the safety has absolutely zero chance of tackling you.” When Venable was a nickel chasing running backs, it was more like, “they have zero chance of escaping you.”
Venable is uniquely qualified for his new job on the other side of the ball. It’s all about his football smarts and his approach to the game. The Broncos’ traditional blue collar mentality is in his DNA. And Venable has charisma in the running backs room. Expect George Holani and Van Buren to have more of an edge this year. And look for Venable to bring out the best in Danny Smith.
2014 MW TITLE GAME FOOTNOTE
This Saturday’s KBOI Decade of Dominance retro broadcast is the 2014 Mountain West championship game, Boise State’s 28-14 win over Fresno State. The running game was the main Broncos sidebar that night. I noted afterward that this was supposed to be the game that Jay Ajayi “ran angry.” But Fresno State held the J-Train to 70 net yards, all in the first half. What we ended up seeing was Grant Hedrick “running happy.” The senior quarterback was a headache for the Bulldogs, rushing for 81 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries while earning championship game Offensive MVP honors. The first TD was a dandy, featuring a masterful fake on an option for a 20-yard score. More fuel for those who voted Hedrick this week as the quarterback on Boise State’s All-Decade team.
BLUE TURF CROWD CLUE
If you’re looking for comparables when trying to figure out why Albertsons Stadium will look like it does on October 24, you can find one in Reno. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has authorized increased attendance at sporting events in the state, however, Chris Murray at Nevada Sports Net reports that the Nevada Wolf Pack isn’t going along with it. Sisolak’s move allows 10 percent capacity in sports venues, which would have allowed 2,700 fans in Mackay Stadium. But Washoe County’s authorized maximum for any gathering is 250 people, and Nevada will restrict attendance on the 24th to family members of players and coaches. As unfortunate and painful as it is, it appears that’s going to be the case in Ada County for the Broncos as coronavirus spread continues to peak.
‘BEATING THE JETS IS NICE, BUT…LOOK, IT’S THE JETS’
Unless Drew Lock makes a miracle recovery the next couple of days, Brett Rypien will start at quarterback for Denver at New England Sunday. It’ll different than what Rypien experienced in his first start versus the New York Jets a week ago. Sean Keeler of the Denver Post nailed it this week. “Granted, there was a lot to like,” writes Keeler. “The calm in the pocket. The zip to Tim Patrick through that tight window for six. The touch on that rainbow to Jerry Jeudy.” But Keeler cautions that three interceptions won’t fly in Foxboro.
Adds Keller: “The thing that strikes—and, in the end, ultimately slays—most young quarterbacks upon getting thrown to the NFL wolves is the warp speed at which everything flashes by. Very little about last Thursday night looked too fast for Brett Rypien, which is the best compliment you can hang around any rookie signal-caller’s neck. One-and-oh in this league is 1-0. On the flip side, 1-0 also happened against the Jets, who right now resemble the Washington Generals, minus the confetti and the ice buckets.”
HARD TO KEEP A GOOD MAN DOWN
Leighton Vander Esch’s 2020 season consists of one quarter against the L.A. Rams on September 13. That’s when the former Boise State star broke his collarbone, but the Dallas Cowboys say he’s been cleared to return to practice from the injured reserve list. Vander Esch could be activated to the 53-man roster at any time in the next three weeks, but it’ll probably take a while. Man could the Cowboys defense use LVE right now. He’s a great run-stopper, and Dallas has been run over since he’s been gone. If Vander Esch can’t return to the roster in the next 21 days, though, he’d have to go back to injured reserve for the rest of the season.
TWO VALLEY GUYS IN VEGAS
Former Boise State stars Troy Merritt and Graham DeLaet are both in the field today at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. It’s standard operating procedure for Merritt, but it’s a rare PGA Tour appearance for DeLaet. Merritt missed the cut last week at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi. He has played the weekend in only one of his past three tournaments. Given, the one was in the U.S. Open, but a pair of 78s on the final two days at Winged Foot sank him. DeLaet played the Corales Puntacana Championship in the Dominican Republic two weeks ago, carding a distrastrous 78 in the first round but following that with a 64 the next day to miss the cut by only a stroke. It was just his second tournament of the new season after missing 7½ months with his chronic back problems.
CHIP ON THE YOTES’ SHOULDERS
There’s a new team in the Cascade Conference this season. Voters in the Preseason Coaches Poll think it’s the new sheriff. Despite the best season in school history at 31-3 and a season-ending No. 1 ranking in NAIA Division II, College of Idaho is picked second this year. Who’s first? Newcomer and in-state rival Lewis-Clark State nosed out the Coyotes. The Warriors return the bulk of a squad that claimed the Frontier Conference regular-season and tournament championship last season, ending the year with a 29-3 record. One of the Yotes’ three losses was to L-C State. Some C of I incentive right there.
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October 8, 1995, 25 years ago today: Probably the most memorable moment in Seattle Mariners history (well, not probably), as Edgar Martinez beats the Yankees in the Kingdome with a dramatic double in the playoffs. Martinez brought home the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the 11th inning to rally the M’s to a 6-5 win, sending them to the American League Championship Series for the first time. Seattle would, however, lose the ALCS in six games to the Cleveland Indians. Not only have the Mariners never been to the World Series, they haven’t so much as made the playoffs since 2001.
(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.)