After two straight intense weeks on the blue turf, accompanied by the standard Albertsons Stadium noise, Boise State has to guard against being lulled to sleep tonight at New Mexico. Friday night game at Dreamstyle Stadium doesn’t bode well for the turnstiles. The Lobos are averaging just 17,093 fans per game, less than half of the Broncos’ average, to begin with. Now UNM has to compete with four high school playoff quarterfinal games tonight in the area. Like many locales in the Mountain West, attendance has been declining down there. Consider that 28,270 showed up for this game in 2012, coach Bob Davie’s first season in Albuquerque. There is going to be no atmosphere in the place.
While Boise State has spread the wealth nicely at wide receiver this season, there has not been a committee approach at running back, as Alexander Mattison has been the feature back all the way through. Mattison has 205 carries this season—and Robert Mahone and Andrew Van Buren have 27 apiece. Thoughts that Skyler Seibold could reprise Ryan Wolpin’s role last year have evaporated, as the senior backup has carried the ball just seven times, all against UConn. Mahone has run well when he’s had the chance and has been effective as a receiver out of the backfield. As hyped as Van Buren was coming into the season, part of you has to wish he had only played four games at this point.
Mattison hasn’t broken the big run yet this season, but he’s sure shown a knack for getting into the end zone. He has 12 touchdowns in 10 games, scoring in every game except two. That matches his total TDs from last season. And whereas the pounding took a toll on him toward the end of last season, Mattison appears to be getting stronger now, telling the media the other day he felt great after the 30 carries he logged against Fresno State.
If New Mexico is throwing more this year (which it is), that puts Boise State’s pass rush even more into focus tonight, doesn’t it? The Broncos lead the Mountain West in sacks with 34, and Curtis Weaver is tops individually with 8.5 sacks, as well as 13 tackles-for-loss. Jabril Frazier is tied for sixth in the conference with 5.5 sacks. But the defensive linemen to keep an eye on down the stretch are Jabari Watson and Scale Igiehon. Watson had a sack last Friday against Fresno State, and Igiehon registered 1.5 sacks versus BYU the previous week. Watson, a sophomore, is undersized for a tackle at 6-1, 253 pounds. Igiehon, a true freshman, is not. He’s 6-2, 300.
Boise State’s next (and much-anticipated) opponent, Utah State, may be able to name the score tomorrow at Colorado State. The Rams looked like they had thrown in the towel last week when they were routed at Nevada, and their defense has been a liability all season. It just keeps getting better for the Aggies, who are coming off a school-record 804 yards of total offense last week against San Jose State. And quarterback Jordan Love keeps one-upping himself. Love set a new personal best with 491 yards passing versus the Spartans, with five touchdowns—and one more on the ground for good measure. USU is looking for its longest winning streak in school history tomorrow: 10 in a row.
Idaho closes its 2018 season thanklessly tomorrow in the Swamp at Florida. One oddsmaker tabs the Gators as a 39.5-point favorite. As such, Florida is expecting to turn true freshman quarterback Emory Jones loose on the Vandals. Jones, who was rated as the No. 5 dual-threat QB in the country coming out of high school last year, can appear in two more games without burning his redshirt year. Also, Idaho State looks to finish with a seven-win season tomorrow, but it’ll take an upset of Weber State to do it. The Wildcats, quarterbacked by former Boise State QB Jake Constantine, go into the finale in Pocatello in a three-way tie for the Big Sky lead with UC Davis and Eastern Washington.
With their 24-game home winning streak in non-conference games now history, Boise State men’s hoops tries to start anew tonight against Jackson State in Taco Bell Arena. The Tigers are 0-2 and are coming off a 31-point loss at St. Bonaventure, and they’re coming all the way from Mississippi to boot. But nothing’s going to come easy in the early going for this season’s Broncos. Another indication that something’s a little off: Boise State was just 12-for-23 from the free throw line last Saturday in the 72-70 loss to Idaho State. I had to check that again to make sure I was looking at the correct box score column. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of rotation coach Leon Rice uses tonight.
The Boise State women have one more tuneup before the biggie against No. 5 Louisville Monday night. The Broncos, who are getting votes in the AP Poll, play the early game this evening in Taco Bell Arena versus NAIA Northwest Christian. Coach Gordy Presnell recognizes his team has a lot to get done before meeting the Cardinals. “We have to clear up our fouling, and we haven’t shot the ball from three as well as I would like to,” said Presnell. Elsewhere, the Boise State men’s and women’s cross country teams run tomorrow at the NCAA Championships in Madison, WI. Allie Ostrander, who clocked a 13-second victory last week at regionals, has been named West Region Athlete of the Year. And, the College of Idaho men compete today at the NAIA Championships in Cedar Rapids, IA.
Here’s today’s “pro paragraph.” The Idaho Steelheads have been making an unusual number of changes as they’ve struggled in the early part of the season. The latest move came Tuesday when the Steelheads acquired defenseman Colton Saucerman and his massive red beard from the Manchester Monarchs. Saucerman made his Idaho debut in Wednesday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to Rapid City, which is back in Century Link Arena tonight and tomorrow night. The Steelies have also settled on a season-long captain, forward A.J. White. And Troy Merritt started decently in the RSM Classic yesterday at Sea Island Resort in Georgia. The former Boise State star shook off a couple early bogeys with an eagle on No. 7 and carded a one-under 71, tied for 45th after the first round.
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November 16, 2015: For the second time, a former Boise Hawk is named National League Rookie of the Year. Kris Bryant, the Chicago Cubs third baseman who played in Boise in the summer of 2013, was the unanimous selection after hitting .275 with 26 home runs and 99 runs batted in. Bryant helped lead the Cubs into the postseason for the first time in seven years, and the following season he’d be a key part of their first World Series title since 1908. Former Hawk Dontrelle Willis won the NL rookie award with the Florida Marlins in 2003.
(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.)