We’re 11 days away from Boise State’s season opener, so it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty on the Broncos offensive line. It will be young and hungry, but will it be good? The only returning starter, of course, is left tackle John Ojukwu, who’s moving over from the right side. It’s not a stretch to look at the Boise High grad as an NFL prospect. Beyond Ojukwu, the sure things seem to be Kekaniokoa Holomalia-Gonzalez, who got some important fill-in time at center last year, and Jake Stetz at one of the guard spots. The other two positions would seem to be filled by some combination of Donte Harrington, Garrett Curran, Nick Crabtree and Rice transfer Uzo Osuji.
They’re all good players, but there’s a glue that has to be developed in terms of communication and anticipation. “It’s the challenge of the five guys working together,” Harsin said. “And when you lose a guy like John Molchon or Eric Quevedo or Garrett Larson or that other left tackle that we had named Ezra, he’s pretty good, too, so that’s an elite O-line.” Slow starts have been a hallmark of the Boise State O-line over the past several years, but that wasn’t the case out of the gate last year. The line paved the way for 214 rushing yards in the 36-31 win at Florida State, even after Stetz came in cold following an injury to Ojukwu.
We know a berth in a New Year’s Six bowl is a long shot for the Mountain West (and Boise State), considering the head start the American Athletic Conference had this season. So the logical goal is the LA Bowl in SoFi Stadium, the new destination for the Mountain West champion. Let’s sneak a peek at ESPN.com’s latest bowl projections. Both Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach project Boise State versus Cal. How cool would that be? The Broncos’ Bryan Harsin against the Bears’ Justin Wilcox in a battle of former Chris Petersen coordinators. It’s always amazed me that Boise State (the team I’ve covered all of my adult life) and Cal (the team I grew up watching) have never played each other in football.
A RIP FOR RYP
Brett Rypien’s shot at a second straight start for Denver may have been 2020’d. The Broncos’ game against the coronavirus-conflicted New England Patriots was originally delayed until Monday night, which would have been fine foe the former Boise State star. Coach Vic Fangio said Sunday that Drew Lock was “progressing well” from a shoulder injury that has kept him out since Week 2. But Fangio suggested it was unlikely Lock would have started Monday. Now the Broncos-Pats game has been moved to this Sunday, which may give Lock enough time to get back on the field and give Rypien a clipboard. Denver will return to the practice field Wednesday, and Fangio said drills will be formatted based on how Lock is coming along.
BOISE STATE SOUTH, CONTINUED
Could there be six former Boise State standouts on the Dallas Cowboys active roster when the Cowboys take the field next Monday night against Arizona? Yes, if Dallas keeps Marcus Henry on the active roster. Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Leighton Vander Esch is close to returning after a broken collarbone sidelined him in Week 1. LVE returned to padded practices late last week. Originally it was thought Vander Esch would be out 6-8 weeks, but coach Mike McCarthy says he’s ahead of schedule, according to Hill. The Cowboys’ embattled defense could sure use him, although Dallas did hold the New York Giants to exactly 300 yards in Sunday’s 37-34 win.
Henry was signed off the practice squad late last week and was suited up for the Giants game but did not play. He has been on and off practice squads ever since he went undrafted out of Boise State in 2016, but this was the first time Henry had ever been active for a regular season NFL game. Also in Jerry World, DeMarcus Lawrence had his first sack of the season and his first solo sack in 12 games Sunday, and it was a big one. Lawrence took down Giants quarterback Daniel Jones and jarred the ball loose. The fumble was picked up by Anthony Brown and returned 29 yards for a touchdown. Kellen Moore and Andy Dalton? More on that as the week goes by.
THE STEELIES’ UNAVOIDABLE DELAY
The ECHL did what it had to do to get a 2020-21 season in, splitting the schedule. Thirteen teams will begin the season December 11 and play a 72-game slate. The Idaho Steelheads are not among them. The Steelheads and the rest of the teams will wait until January 15, pending local approval, and play a 62-game schedule. “You need about 60 days advance notice to decide who’s going to be able to play,” said Steelheads president Eric Trapp. “Some jurisdictions have the ability to play, and those are the ones who will start in December.” Idaho’s coronavirus situation dictates that the Steelies’ status is undetermined at this point, hence the mid-January puck drop. Trapp says the organization has detailed protocols in place.
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October 13, 1960, 60 years ago today: One of the all-time great World Series moments—Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a home run in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 to beat the New York Yankees, 10-9, for the world championship. The image of Mazeroski jumping up and down as he rounded third and then leaping into a sea of Pirates has lasted through the ages. Pittsburgh won the World Series again in 1971 and with the “We Are Family” team in 1979 but hasn’t been back since.
(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.)