Boise State’s quest to corral an elite Cowboy

The foundation of the Boise State defense in the Broncos’ new century run has always been stopping the run. That’s going to be a big deal Saturday in Stillwater, OK. Oklahoma State may have lost star quarterback Mason Rudolph to graduation, but it still has running back Justice Hill, who’s coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Hill’s 2,763 career rushing yards rank seventh in the nation among active players. Here’s the rub: OSU has kind of been hiding Hill behind the curtain in the first two games. He has only 19 carries so far, although one of them was a 92-yard touchdown in the opener against Missouri State. And he has scored three touchdowns. The Broncos had better wrap Hill up—he has a vertical leap of 41.3 inches. But this is the type of challenge they relish.

Let’s see, who was the most prolific feature back the Broncos faced last season? Oh yeah, it was Rashaad Penny of San Diego State, the nation’s leading rusher. Going into that mid-October matchip, Penny had opened the season with six straight 100-yard games—the first Aztec to do that since Marshall Faulk 25 years earlier—and was seven yards away from a thousand. He got the 1,000th yard, but he managed only 53 yards and 2.5 yards per carry in Boise State’s 31-14 victory, a defensive accomplishment beyond anyone’s expectations. The Broncos made it a point of pride to bottle up Penny. If they do the same with Hill at Boone Pickens Stadium, they’ll still have OSU quarterback Taylor Cornelius to deal with. But that’s what makes this game something special for Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos.

An advanced computer configuration is solidly in Oklahoma State’s corner. “The ‘SportsLine Projection Model’ simulates every FBS game 10,000 times, and those who have followed it have seen massive returns,” according to CBS “The model is calling for another big day for Oklahoma State’s attack against Boise State. Cornelius throws for almost 350 yards and two touchdowns for the Cowboys, and Oklahoma State covers the spread in well over 50 percent of simulations. Back the Cowboys with confidence in this non-conference showdown.” On the other hand, a CBS Sports Network studio show had four panelists who unanimously picked the Broncos. Computers versus humans.

How about this Boise State-Oklahoma State angle? OSU assistant Kasey Dunn was the 2017 FootballScoop Wide Receivers Coach of the Year after leading a crew that featured two 1,000-yard receivers and four 500-yard receivers. And his group is off to a great start this season. Dunn was a three-time Division I-AA All-America wideout at Idaho from 1987-91 and still holds Vandal career records with 268 catches and 3,847 receiving yards. He always played well against the Broncos. Dunn is in his eighth season under Mike Gundy with the Cowboys. His previous coaching stops include Southern Miss, the Seattle Seahawks, Baylor, Arizona, TCU, Washington State, New Mexico, Idaho and San Diego.

One of the good angles in the Albertsons Boise Open beginning today is Jim Knous. He doesn’t come from the traditional powers of college golf like so many pros do, but from Colorado School of Mines. This is the 28-year-old’s sixth year on the Tour, and he’s so close to earning his PGA Tour card he can taste it. Knous is 16th on the Tour money list among those who haven’t already punched their tickets to the PGA Tour next season, and there are 25 cards left. Two of Knous’ three top 10 finishes this year have come in the past three tournaments. If this doesn’t work out, he does have something to fall back on—Knous has a degree in civil engineering.

This guy is indeed from one of the traditional powers, the University of Texas. Kramer Hickok comes into Hillcrest Country Club fresh off his first Tour win two weeks ago at the DAP Championship. He had already secured his PGA Tour card before cruising to a three-stroke victory over PGA Tour players Matt Jones and Hunter Mahan in the second leg of the Tour Finals. The Albertsons Boise Open represents the third of four tournaments in the Finals, and it’s an important one for 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover. If the series ended today, Glover would be on the outside looking in, as he is 30th among those vying for the final 25 cards.

Back over to football, and the two teams shaking the Mountain West party line in September. One is Utah State, who many thought would be a factor this year. The Aggies are showing it early, having lost by just a touchdown at Michigan State and trampling New Mexico State 60-13. USU is eighth nationally in sacks, second in forced turnovers, second in defensive scores and third in kickoff returns. The Aggies should run roughshod over FCS Tennessee Tech in Logan tonight. Then there’s Hawaii, which is—believe it or not—getting votes in the AP Poll. The Warriors are 3-0 and will get more notice if they win at Army on Saturday.

One week, BYU’s Tanner Mangum is on the top of the world, brimming with confidence. The next week, he’s being “evaluated” by coach Kalani Sitake. Mangum spent his 25th birthday last Saturday going 22-of-41 for 196 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in the Cougars’ 21-18 loss to Cal. The squeaky wheels in Provo are calling for true freshman Zach Wilson to replace the Eagle High grad with BYU facing sixth-ranked Wisconsin Saturday. Mangum had played really well in the upset of Arizona the week before, but now everybody’s wondering about the Wildcats. They got worked 45-18 by Houston last week, and it wasn’t that close. So the subject becomes those other Cougars from Houston. Why aren’t they ranked? If Boise State and UCF stumble, Houston could zoom up the Group of 5 totem pole.

The Northwest League season is over, and there’ll never be another finish like this one. First, the last-place Eugene Emeralds made the NWL Championship Series after a 31-45 regular season. That was wacky enough. But in Game 3 of the title series against the Spokane Indians Tuesday night, the Emeralds loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the scored tied 2-2. A walk-off balk. Yes, the Spokane pitcher balked in the winning run, and the Ems are Northwest League champions.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!

September 13, 2015: It’s Novak Djokovic again, as he wins his third Grand Slam event on the year and 10th of his career in a four-set victory over Roger Federer in the U.S. Open men’s final. It was the second time the Serbian star had won three majors in a season, matching his 2011 campaign. At that point, Djokovic had been ranked No. 1 in the world for 164 consecutive weeks. Two days earlier, Serena Williams had lost to unseeded Roberta Vinci of Italy in the women’s semifinals, ending her calendar Grand Slam bid.

(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.)