Defense Part I and Defense Part II

Who wants to take credit for last season’s Boise State defensive numbers? Well, it depends on which numbers you’re talking about. It was a mixed bag in 2015, and it was a team effort. This reminder may surprise you: through all the trials and tribulations, the Broncos were 12th nationally in total defense at 318 yards per game and 18th in the country in scoring defense at 20.2 points per game. Now, Marcel Yates has taken his coordinating reins to Arizona, and Andy Avalos has been elevated into the defensive coordinator’s post. No one doubts that Avalos is ready, having spent the last four seasons on the staff of his alma mater. He’d like to tilt the defense toward its performance the first half of last season.

You may not have looked at Boise State’s 2015 defense from this perspective, but it’s pretty easy to segment out. In the first six games, the Broncos allowed just 259 yards per game and 61 yards rushing. They were stingy in the first half of the campaign, yielding just 12 points per game. The last six games of the regular season saw the numbers jump to 425 yards per game—175 rushing and 250 passing. And the points-per-game average ballooned to 30.7 as Boise State posted a 3-3 record down the stretch. But oh, the Poinsettia Bowl. The switch flipped from “off” to “on” again. Boise State allowed 33 total yards, minus-5 on the ground and 38 through the air. And the only seven points Northern Illinois scored came on a kickoff return.

Here’s where the defense was consistent the past two years. Boise State forced 31 turnovers in each of the last two seasons, tying them for fifth nationally in 2015 and ninth in 2014. And the position group with the most returning experience this year did its part. Bronco linebackers contributed 10 fumble recoveries, eight forced fumbles and eight interceptions during that stretch. Ben Weaver snagged three picks over the final three games of the regular season last November and Joe Martarano one.

There will be no open scrimmage to cap fall camp for Boise State this month. It will be replaced by a “Fall Fan Fest” on Saturday afternoon, August 27, one week before the season opener at Louisiana-Lafayette. Rather than showcase a vanilla offense and defense in a scrimmage, the Broncos will show themselves off in a full-tilt practice. The free event includes an open practice and autograph session on the blue turf.

Former Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier has been busy in the same post at San Jose State. Last week he helped celebrate the reinstatement of the Spartans’ storied men’s track and field program (with John Carlos, Tommie Smith and Lee Evans looking on). Last Friday, Bleymaier also announced the renaming of Spartan Stadium to “CEFCU Stadium.” That’s short for Citizens Equity First Credit Union. SJSU and CEFCU have agreed to an $8.7 million, 15-year partnership. San Jose State thus becomes the first Division I school in California to sell naming rights for its football stadium to a company.

Tri-City’s first batter last night, Taylor Kohlwey, singled—then scored all the way from first on a botched pickoff attempt. But that was it for the Dust Devils, as the Boise Hawks notched a 4-1 victory in the finale of their five-game series in Pasco with Breiling Eusebio, Kyle Cedotal and Justin Lawrence combining on a two-hitter. The Hawks scored two runs on wild pitches and another on an error. They return home tonight to open a three-game series against the Hillsboro Hops.

Blake Parker’s stay with Seattle was over in the blink of an eye. The former Boise Hawk was called up by the Mariners last Thursday and pitched one scoreless inning that night against Boston, allowing one hit and walking one. Then on Saturday, the M’s acquired reliever Arquimedes Caminero from Pittsburgh, and Parker was designated for assignment. Parker had waited a long time—the appearance versus the Red Sox was his first since 2014, when he was a Cub. Word is Parker will head back to Triple-A Tacoma, where he had compiled a 2.72 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 39.2 innings before his call-up. Parker was 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA for the Hawks in 2007.

We have to give a nod to the 9th annual BAM JAM Boise, which took over the downtown streets in front of the Statehouse over the weekend. More than 1,000 players took the courts, representing seven states and 90 cities. Tick Tock Media repeated as champion in the top division this year with Rory Patterson, Aaron Garner, John Rillie and Rob Heyer. Rillie, the Boise State assistant coach, and Heyer, the Broncos’ former off-the-bench sparkplug, were new to Tick Tock Media this summer. Former Idaho Vandal Travis Blackstock won the Slam Dunk Championship while Ryan Skurdal won the 3-Point Challenge for the second straight year. May BAM JAM live long and prosper.

Rillie now packs his bags with the rest of the Boise State staff and roster for the Broncos’ trip to Costa Rica. His role will be to not only bring along BSU’s newcomers and recent redshirts, but to help Leon Rice transition his new coaches into the Bronco program. Costa Rica. What a great way for Phil Beckner, former Nebraska assistant and fresh off his tutelage of one-time Weber State pupil Damian Lillard, Mike Burns, the former Eastern Washington head coach and Pacific interim coach, and Jake White, the director of basketball operations who came from New Mexico Military Institute, to get up to speed on-court.

Yes, SMU is coming to Taco Bell Arena November 30 to face Boise State, the Statesman reports. No, Larry Brown won’t be there. Brown resigned as coach of the Mustangs a month ago in a contract dispute amid NCAA sanctions. Still, the SMU game—the front end of a home-and-home series between the two schools—becomes the marquee date on the Broncos’ non-conference schedule. Hopefully fans recognize it as such. The Mustangs have three straight seasons of 25-plus wins and ended last season ranked No. 24 in the AP Poll (although they were banned from the postseason by the NCAA). Mountain West Factoid of the Day: The conference’s performance in bowls has leveled out a bit after a down year in 2012. Over its first 13 seasons, the Mountain West posted a 31-20 bowl record and captured the Bowl Challenge Cup four times from 2005-11. But the MW went just 1-4 in the 2012 postseason. The league was 3-3 in 2013, but the three teams that lost, Boise State, Fresno State and UNLV, did so decisively. In 2014, the Mountain West was 3-4 in bowls but was on the short end of only two routs and had the Broncos’ Fiesta Bowl win to trumpet. Last season the MW was 4-4 in the postseason—the worst defeat was Air Force’s 55-36 loss at Cal in the Armed Forces Bowl. The league is 10-11 in bowls over the past three years.

This Day In Sports…August 9, 2005:

Felix Hernandez, Seattle’s prized 19-year-old prospect, picks up his first big league victory in his second start as the Mariners blank Minnesota, 1-0. Hernandez pitched eight scoreless innings and allowed five hits—all singles—and did not walk a batter. He was the first teenager to win a start in the majors in 21 years. And Hernandez wasted no time doing it, as the game lasted only two hours and one minute, the shortest in Safeco Field 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.)