Bronco defensive rebuild well underway

The Boise State defense has heard all the talk about how it’s going to be a shell of its former self. The Boise State defense has heard all the talk about how it’s going to be a shell of its former self with wholesale departures on the defensive line and with Darian Thompson and Donte Deayon gone from the secondary. A select group of fans (students, faculty and staff) got a first look at how the Broncos feel about it Saturday evening on the blue turf. The Boise State scrimmage was dominated by the defense, and two players were especially noteworthy. Jabril Frazier, one of those charged with replacing Kamalei Correa at D-end, sacked Ryan Finley and forced a fumble three plays into the event. And linebacker Darren Lee, taking advantage of increased reps while Tanner Vallejo sits out, scored eight points by himself. Lee made a tackle in the end zone for a safety, and later he scooped up a fumble and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown.

The two emerging W’s, Ryan Wolpin and Cedrick Wilson, put their punctuation on the Boise State offense. Rushing stats are always skewed downward during Bronco scrimmages, but Wolpin still managed to go for 42 yards on 12 carries as he makes a bid to become Jeremy McNichols’ primary backup. Wilson, the junior college transfer wide receiver, made four catches for a pedestrian 30 yards. But three of them may tell us something about the makeup of the 6-3 junior. He hauled in nine-yard strike from Brett Rypien on a third-and-six during the red zone session. Then in the “game-winning drive” drill, Wilson caught a 13-yarder from Ryan Finley on a third-and-17 and made a four-yard grab on fourth down to reach the chains on the next play.

Here’s one issue that’ll be a focus this week before the Blue & Orange Game—if not in the coming months: hiking the football. Meridian’s Mason Hampton and Fruitland’s Garrett Larsen spent the bulk of the scrimmage at center, and some of the snaps were sailin’. There were high ones and a few low ones in shotgun formation. A couple were fumbled, including a high snap to Rypien on a fourth down. Rypien, incidentally, wasn’t particularly sharp Saturday, going 14-for-23 for 127 yards with one interception. Finley, in his first live-action appearance since breaking his foot last September, completed seven of 10 attempts, but for only 34 yards.

If the Kelly Cup Playoffs started now, the Idaho Steelheads would be going in devoid of momentum. Fortunately, the playoffs are another week away, giving the Steelheads some time to right the ship. The Steelies were swept again by Colorado over the weekend and have now lost five of their last six games. What’s more, there’s now a three-way tie between Idaho, Colorado and Utah atop the ECHL’s Pacific Division. Saturday night’s 5-1 loss was particularly frustrating, as the Eagles managed only 19 shots the entire game, and the Steelheads watched five of them hit paydirt. It was goalie Branden Komm who had to absorb the rout, as Philippe Desrosiers had been called up earlier in the day by the AHL’s Texas Stars.

Speaking of momentum, that’s what Nevada men’s basketball has going into 2016-17. The Wolf Pack outlasted Morehead State 85-82 in overtime Friday to win the decisive Game 3 of the CBI Championship Series. The Pack drew 9,043 fans for the finale, and they watched first-year coach Eric Musselman strip down to his T-shirt for the cutting of the nets in the Lawlor Events Center. Nevada won just nine games under David Carter last season—Musselman took it to 24. The Wolf Pack has four starters returning next season.

D-League Digest and the Deseret News report that this weekend was indeed it for the Idaho Stampede in Boise. The Utah Jazz plan to move the franchise to Salt Lake City next season, with plans to re-brand it. If so, the accomplishment of the Stampede during their final homestand is bittersweet. All season long, the Stamps had languished around last place in the D-League’s West Division. On the final weekend of the season (and their last-ever in Boise), the Stampede escaped last place by sweeping the Santa Cruz Warriors at CenturyLink Arena. The Stamps ended with a 20-30 record, one game better than the Warriors. Corey Hawkins starred in the final homestand, scoring 37 points in Friday night’s 108-104 victory and adding 24 in Saturday night’s 106-103 win.

It was pretty much a typical Graham DeLaet weekend. After a good start, the former Boise State star had a middling finish at the Shell Houston Open. Following his opening-round 67, DeLaet posted three straight par-72’s to finish in a tie for 27th. But give DeLaet this: it’s a grind on the PGA Tour. There are no annual contracts, and you have to earn your money every week. DeLaet made $47,260 for his efforts in Houston. Next up is Troy Merritt’s first-ever foray into the Masters this week, beginning Thursday. Yesterday at Augusta, Homedale’s 14-year-old Darren Uranga won the putting competition and tied for second overall in the 14-15 division at the annual Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. Uranga was presented his putting trophy by none other than Tom Watson, wearing his green Masters jacket.

The Boise Hawks’ parent club, the Colorado Rockies, begin the 2016 season tonight at Arizona, and they’ll be without last year’s Coors Field Opening Day pitcher, Tyler Matzek. The 25-year-old lefthander has been placed on the 15-day disabled list for personal reasons, specifically his well-documented performance-anxiety problems. Those issues make Matzek the player with perhaps the most curious designation as “former Boise Hawk.” He was sent to Boise last summer to try to work his way into the game after a stunning decline in performance. As a Hawk, he was 0-1 in three appearances and allowed six runs in just 2 1/3 innings, equating to a 23.14 ERA. Matzek spent two weeks last month undergoing neurological testing in Denver—when he’s able to pitch again, he’s likely to head for Triple-A Albuquerque.

The Boise State women’s gymnastics team was passed by Cal on the final rotation at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional, and the Broncos finished third, just missing their first-ever team trip to the NCAA Championships. Boise State’s Shanie Remme won the beam with a 9.9 to earn an individual berth at nationals. The Broncos, who scored a 195.75 in the meet, got credit for three victories and two losses at regionals. They finish 18-2, the best record in school history.

Elsewhere on the campus cruise, Boise State’s David Elliott broke the school record in the 5,000-meter run Friday night, running a 13:42.17 at the Stanford Invitational. Elliott finished fifth in an elite field—he now has six school records to his credit between indoor and outdoor track and field. The Bronco men’s tennis team picked up an impressive 4-1 win at New Mexico yesterday. “This was the shootout at the OK Corral,” said coach Greg Patton. “New Mexico has been our heated rivals ever since I had hair.” The NNU baseball team was swept by Concordia Friday but returned the favor Saturday to maintain its grip on first place in the GNAC. And College of Idaho split doubleheaders each day on Saturday and Sunday with Corban. The Coyotes thus fall a half-game behind Lewis-Clark State in the North Division of the NAIA West.

Finally, very saddened to hear of the passing of Herb Criner, the father of Rocky Mountain High coach Scott Criner, brother of former Boise State coach Jim Criner, and longtime assistant coach and athletic department administrator at Boise State. Criner, who was 81, died Saturday in Salt Lake City due to sudden complications following heart surgery. He was as cordial as they come. When the Broncos were on the rise in the football ranks, Criner was tabbed as the “parking czar” as the athletic department dealt with increasing demand and decreasing supply due to facilities upgrades. It was amazing how Criner was able to keep most everybody happy.

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April 4, 2011, five years ago today: In the lowest-scoring NCAA championship game in 62 years, Connecticut beats Butler 53-41 to win its third national title. The Bulldogs once again captured the country’s imagination, rising from a No. 8 seed to make their second straight NCAA Tournament final under coach Brad Stevens. But couldn’t find the bucket against UConn. Butler shot just 18.8 percent, the worst in title game history.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)