I refer to The Athletic periodically, and I can’t help but do it again. Chris Vannini’s series on “five pivotal upsets from the 2001 season that still resonate 20 years later” lands on Boise State’s ultimate launching pad. You know the Broncos shocked No. 8 Fresno State 35-30 on that fateful Friday night on ESPN. So let’s pull out some of Vannini’s nuggets. Boise State was 3-3 at the time. “I said we could be a consistent top-15 team, and people kind of laughed at me a little bit,” coach Dan Hawkins says. Do you remember this? Vannini writes, “With six minutes left in the first half, Fresno State punted, and gunner Kendall Edwards leveled Boise State returner Tim Gilligan with a headshot before Gilligan could field the punt. The Boise State sideline erupted. ‘That was like poking the bear,’ says quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie.”
Fresno State’s Pat Hill was a guy Boise State fans loved to hate. But he was a good guy. “That was the most impactful game of my tenure,” Hill says in Vannini’s piece. “Hill went 1-10 against the Broncos, and that will always frustrate him,” Vannini adds. “’We lost 80 games in 15 years, and 50 were to Boise or Power 5 teams,’ Hill says. ‘That’ll go down on my tombstone, Boise.I hear about Boise all the time.’” It was too late for Hawkins to win the WAC championship that year, but the Broncos won the next four under him. Vannini wraps it up with this: “The 2001 win at Fresno State made it all possible. It put the Broncos on the path for everything else to come in the subsequent 20 years. That’s the impact still felt today.”
A TRANSFER TO HELP SET THE EDGE?
My Scott Slant column headline yesterday was “To portal or not to portal.” Well, Boise State has portaled again. The Broncos have picked up a graduate transfer from Nebraska, tight end Kurt Rafdal. The first you thing you noticed is that Rafdal appeared in just 26 games over four seasons for the Cornhuskers, spending a lot of time on special teams. Then you notice that he’s 6-7, 245 pounds. Rafdal has “road-grader” written all over him for a Boise State running game that struggled mightily last season. There’s no one quite like that on the roster right now.
LOCAL FLAVOR AT THE BALLPARK
In the Boise Hawks’ 30 seasons of major league affiliation, once every few years there would be a local tie-in of some sort. It was rare. This year is somethin’ else. Manager Gary Van Tol has pulled in five players from his short-lived Boise State baseball program. And with what we’ve seen from those former Broncos who transferred to Power 5 schools, you know the talent is there. The quintet is led by catcher Cory Meyer, one of Van Tol’s “Dirty Dozen” who initiated the Boise State program in the fall of 2018. Meyer, a catcher from Highland High in Pocatello, hit .381 for the Broncos. The rest of the contingent includes pitchers Jay Baggs, Matt Gabbert and Mitch Lines and catcher Myles Harris.
And there’s a sixth Bronco tie if you count pitcher John Boushelle, who signed with Boise State and had just arrived in town last summer when he learned the program had been eliminated. Two more locals are on the roster, both pitchers. One is former Northwest Nazarene Nighthawk Zach Penrod, and the other is Matt Dallas, who lists Boise as his hometown. The Hawks season opens on the road a week from Saturday, and the home opener at Memorial Stadium is 12 days away.
THE LEADERBOARD, FAR AND NEAR
There were lots of low scores Thursday on the opening day of the AT&T Byron Nelson north of Dallas. So while Troy Merritt’s four-under-68 is really good, it’s middle-of-the-pack. Merritt is tied for 54th going into the second round. And in U.S. Open Local Qualifying Thursday at RedHawk in Nampa, Hunter Ostrom of Meridian and Cole Ponich of Farmington, UT, advanced to Sectionals after each fired a four-under 66. Ostrom, a former Notre Dame golfer who’s finishing his college career as a grad transfer at Texas this season, is no stranger to local leaderboards. He finished second at the 2019 Idaho State Amateur.
LEADERS IN THE AWARDS CLUBHOUSE
It was a sweep for Boise State men’s golf. The Broncos’ Hugo Townsend and Dan Potter were named the 2021 Mountain West Golfer of the Year and Coach of the Year, respectively, Thursday. Townsend joins Graham DeLaet in 2006 and Troy Merritt in 2008—both in the WAC—as the only Broncos to earn conference golfer of the year honors. Boise State’s only previous coach of the year was Bob Campbell in the Big Sky in 1995. Townsend is ranked 16th nationally and has produced six straight top-10 finishes this season, including a title at the Duck Invitational in Eugene. Potter, in his seventh season at Boise State, guided the Broncos to a No. 46 ranking, the highest in school history, earlier this season. The Broncos are headed for the NCAA Albuquerque Regional beginning Monday.
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May 14, 2011, 10 years ago today: Boise State’s final conference competition after 10 years as a member of the WAC, as the Broncos finish second on the men’s side and seventh among the women at the conference track and field championships in Honolulu. It also marked the final time Boise State and Idaho would ever face each other in a conference event. The Broncos’ greatest successes during the WAC era came in football, of course. The final report card showed 75 wins, five losses and six undefeated seasons in league play, and a perfect 40-0 record on the blue turf.
(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.)