Saturday night will mark Boise State’s final regular season venture into Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, or will it? Next year, UNLV football will move to the Raiders’ new facility, Allegiant Stadium, the 65,000-seat jewel west of Mandalay Bay. The key number is 65,000. There is no way the Rebels will attract that many fans (they currently average just 18,082 per game), so the upper decks are sure to be cordoned off. That will make for a blah atmosphere. Think San Diego State in the stadium formerly known as Qualcomm—to the Nth degree.
Will a lack of homefield advantage force UNLV to seek a better option eventually? “I wouldn’t be shocked to see them keep (Sam Boyd) around for a few years in case Allegiant Stadium doesn’t work out,” said Las Vegas Review Journal writer Mark Anderson Tuesday on Idaho SportsTalk. “If they draw what they’re drawing now, it’s going to be really tough.” Hopefully the Broncos can play in Allegiant in 2023, the next time they’re scheduled to go to Las Vegas.
Boise State has two eras of history in Sam Boyd Stadium. The first was in the Division II days; the Broncos played there in 1973, 1974 and 1976 when it was known as Las Vegas Stadium, capacity 15,000. Boise State went 0-3 in the place, with all of the losses by five points or less. The second featured a 29-point comeback that fell short, and the third came against legendary Boise State coach Tony Knap, who was in his first season with the Rebels. The Broncos haven’t lost there since, going 2-0 versus UNLV and 4-0 in the Las Vegas Bowl, with wins over Utah, Arizona State, Washington and Oregon.
THE TIGHT END DUDE
Coach Bryan Harsin has invested plenty of time this week in the work ethic and study habits and preparation of his Boise State players, an unusual concern of his (at least publicly). How about we check in on one Bronco Harsin doesn’t worry about, tight end John Bates? “You look at that dude—that guy’s a dude,” said Harsin Monday. “He puts a lot of time in the weight room. He puts a lot of time in the film room.” And the results show, with a career-high 11 catches already this season for 157 yards and that beauty of a touchdown against Air Force. Bates and Garrett Collingham are the only tight ends with receptions this year (Collingham has five for 57 yards). Matt Pistone spends much of his time at fullback. Redshirt freshman Tyneil Hopper would seem to be due, although he didn’t play versus Air Force.
STICKING OUT LIKE A SORE FOOT
The performance of Boise State’s punt team is personal to Harsin, as he works directly with that unit. The Broncos are ranked 126th in the country in punting, averaging less than 36 yards per boot. “We’re going to keep doing it until we get it right,” Harsin said Monday. For one thing, he wants to see the real Joel Velazquez, because he says the junior punter has it in him. “I know Joel is extremely talented,” said Harsin. Field position has pestered Boise State this season. “I believe in that stat,” Harsin said. Example: the Broncos have placed just two punts inside the 20-yard line this season. Opponents have dropped nine inside the 20.
AIR FORCE WITH PLENTY TO PLAY FOR
Boise State put a dent in Air Force’s Mountain West championship hopes a week and a half ago, but the Falcons play for two titles every year—and the other one is wide open. Air Force visits Navy Saturday in the first leg of the battle for the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy, as cherished at the service academies as conference hardware. The Army-Navy game is the flagship event in the series, but this one is just as important. And the Midshipmen are all about it. Almost exactly a year ago, Air Force all but ruined Navy’s season by beating the Midshipmen 35-7 and holding them to just 178 yards of total offense. The sidebar (for us, anyway) is that the game in Annapolis pits the Mountain West against the American.
BENGALS LOOK TO TURN THE CORNER
Now Idaho State will find out how far it has come. The Bengals head for Montana Saturday to take on the Grizzlies in Missoula, where ISU hasn’t won since 1983. It’s tough for Idaho State to beat Montana anywhere. The Griz have won 12 straight in their current streak over the Bengals. But ISU is coming off an impressive 51-24 rout of Portland State last week in Holt Arena, scoring 41 points in the first half, the Bengals’ most in the 21st century. Safe to say they have their quarterback, as Matt Struck threw six touchdown passes against the Vikings. Montana is 4-1, with its only loss a 35-3 defeat at Oregon. The Grizzlies are No. 9 in the FCS Coaches Poll. This would be a statement win for Idaho State.
DELAET’S BACK IS BACK
This is it. Graham DeLaet is set to return to the PGA Tour today after almost two years away when he tees off at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open in Las Vegas. DeLaet’s been fighting chronic back problems his entire career, but they became so severe in late 2017 that he underwent a stem cell injection, followed by microdiscetomy surgery last year. The former Boise State star has a medical exemption that allows him to enter 24 PGA Tour events this season. “As long as I’m feeling well, I expect to play well,” DeLaet said in August on Idaho SportsTalk. Former Bronco Troy Merritt is also in the Vegas field after missing the cut last week at the Safeway Open.
TONIGHT’S FORMER HAWK WATCH
Both National League Divisional Series open tonight, St. Louis at Atlanta and Washington at the L.A. Dodgers. Josh Donaldson has been a catalyst in his first season with the Braves after coming over from Cleveland (he finished last year there after being traded by Toronto). It may be the only season in the ATL for the former Boise Hawk. Donaldson will be a free agent in the offseason, and he’ll be the most coveted third baseman on the market. He batted a pedestrian .259 during the regular season, but he clubbed 37 homers and knocked in 94 runs. Donaldson is in his ninth big league season—he starred for the Hawks in 2007.
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October 3, 2012: Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers becomes the first player in 45 years and only the 10th in modern major league history to win baseball’s Triple Crown. Cabrera hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 runs batted in, edging Angels rookie Mike Trout in batting average and nudging the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson and the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton by one homer. Cabrera was a runaway winner for the RBI title. Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski had been the last Triple Crown winner back in 1967.
(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.)