Ducks ain’t afraid of no Broncos

Oregon has never beaten Boise State in football, but the Ducks will take three more shots in the mid-2020’s. UO, as you know, is 0-3 against the Broncos—one at home, one on the road and one in a bowl. Oregon and Boise State have announced a new three-game series, with contests in Eugene in 2024 and 2026 and a clash on the blue turf in 2025. With the widening gap between the Power 5 and Group of 5 conferences, the only way to get a home game against a team of Oregon’s stature moving forward is a two-for-one arrangement like this. I wonder if the Broncos’ home-and-home series against Oklahoma State, Florida State and Michigan State could happen today. Boise State is very fortunate to have those. Expect two-for-ones to become the norm in the future.

We have six years to hype this series, but you’d love a recap, wouldn’t you? The first game between the Broncos and Ducks at Autzen Stadium in 2008 represented the first road start of quarterback Kellen Moore’s career, and the redshirt freshman threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-32 upset win. The 2010 game featured a legendary defensive performance, with Boise State holding Oregon to 152 total yards in a 19-8 victory in offensive guru Chip Kelly’s first game as head coach. There was also the infamous LeGarrette Blount punch to the chin of Byron Holt afterward. The latest meeting, of course, was less than eight months ago in the Las Vegas Bowl when the Broncos led 24-0 before finishing a 38-24 win over the Ducks. It’ll start buggin’ Oregon again in early 2024.

The Boise State-Oregon series means the Broncos’ non-conference schedule is full through 2024, and the 12-year BYU series ends in 2023. So there’ll be no Broncos-Cougars that following year. There is room in 2025, for what that’s worth. The current run began in 2012, so we’re halfway through. Boise State is 4-2 against BYU since then (and 6-2 overall).

Only a few of Boise State’s Polynesian players come from the South Pacific. In fact, one of them is from Meridian. But it’s the roots that count. Four Broncos are among the 50 standouts named to the watch list for the 2018 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year award. Junior nose tackle Sonatane Lui, junior linebacker Tyson Maeva, senior defensive tackle David Moa, and junior safety Kekoa Nawahine represent Boise State, with Moa on the list for the third-straight season. Lui is clearly a player to watch, Maeva’s role increases this year with the departure of Leighton Vander Esch, and Nawahine, the former Rocky Mountain star, is the Broncos’ leading returning tackler.

Speaking of Vander Esch, he played the second quarter and part of the third—plus special teams—in the Dallas Cowboys’ 24-21 loss at San Francisco last night. The former Boise State star wasn’t making the instinctive decisions we became accustomed to from him last year. But that’ll improve with time. Vander Esch did make a heckuva play on what would have been an interception had he not been out of bounds. He ended up with four tackles. “Vander Esch is still finding his way, but he displayed athleticism during his first NFL game,” said the Dallas Morning News. “He came out OK.” On the 49ers side, former Bronco Chanceller James looked good, playing for the first time since a season-ending knee injury last summer. James made three tackles, one for loss. Jeremy McNichols got in during the fourth quarter and had three carries for 15 yards, one for a one-yard touchdown.

The guys on the bubble are hoping for the best in the exhibition games. One of those is Boise State product Doug Martin, the one-time first-round draft pick who plays for the Oakland Raiders for the first time tomorrow night (versus Detroit). The Raiders are hoping Martin will become Marshawn Lynch’s backup. Preseason Week 1 wraps up Sunday night with three of the four former Idaho Vandals in the NFL appearing in the same game. The Arizona Cardinals have running back Elijhaa Penny, offensive tackle Mike Iupati and defensive end Benson Mayowa on the roster, as well as former Broncos Jamar Taylor and Jonathan Moxey. The fourth ex-Vandal, linebacker Korey Toomer, plays for San Francisco.

Turns out College of Idaho won’t have former Boise State linebacker Joe Martarano in the lineup this season. Martarano was injured during weight training and has elected not to play his senior year for the Coyotes after all. The Fruitland High grad made the switch back to baseball in 2017 before being released by the Chicago Cubs organization this spring, and the NAIA was his only football eligibility option. The rest of the Yotes will be scrimmaging at Simplot Stadium tomorrow morning. They were supposed to be in Cascade, but the smoke got in the way. The good news: that will be after the heat wave is supposed to moderate. C of I is just two weeks away from its opener at Eastern Oregon.

All things considered, Troy Merritt’s one-under 71 in the first round of the PGA Championship yesterday was amazing. The former Boise State star teed off sight unseen on the Bellerive course in St. Louis after undergoing emergency surgery for a blood clot in his left arm a week ago at Saint Alphonsus. The arm was throbbing after Merritt hit 50 balls on the driving range Wednesday, and he wore a compression sleeve yesterday. He’s injecting blood thinners twice a day, and the surgery incision site is sore. Nevertheless, Merritt was two-under after 12 holes before wearing down a bit and absorbing three bogeys over the final six holes. He begins the second round at 1:16 Mountain time this afternoon.

The Boise Hawks are just 5-9 in the second half of the Northwest League season, but they did get back to .500 overall last night with a 5-4 win over Spokane at Memorial Stadium. The Hawks also announced yesterday that Boise has been selected to host the 2019 Northwest League/Pioneer League All Star Game at Memorial Stadium. The schedule for the two-day event will be released later this year.

This Day In Sports…August 10, 2010:

Boise State football graces the cover of Sports Illustrated for the first time, on the magazine’s College Football Preview issue. The theme was defense, and Bronco seniors Ryan Winterswyk, Brandyn Thompson and Jeron Johnson were the models. Not even following the memorable Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma had Boise State made the SI cover. The 2010 team would prove to be arguably the best in Boise State history, but a painful overtime loss at Nevada that November kept the Broncos from reaching the Rose Bowl, and they finished 12-1.

(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.)