Exhilaration the new normal at the top in Boise

Michael Thompson was pretty solid Thursday and Friday. The 31-year-old former Alabama standout was magnificent on Saturday and Sunday. Thompson turned in a pair of seven-under 64’s in winning the 27th Albertsons Boise Open by three strokes over Argentina’s Miguel Angel Carballo. Thompson was 23-under for the tournament. More importantly, he won $180,000, guaranteeing him another PGA Tour card for the 2016-17 season. Thompson had finished 148th in the FedExCup standings, sending him to the Web.com Tour Finals to try to retain his card. Now he’s in. Cue the mega-sigh of relief. “It’s a huge confidence boost, to know that you can do it on such a big stage on a big level,” said Thompson. “These four (Finals) events mean a lot to all of us.”

The Albertsons Boise Open certainly meant a lot to rising star Andrew “Beef” Johnston. The popular Englishman finished fourth at Hillcrest Country Club, and he also has secured a PGA Tour card, his first. “That’s what I came here for,” said Johnston. “Once it’s done you have to push forward and try to improve to make use of it.” Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge has some work to do in the last two events of the Finals. Aldridge tied for 24th at 11-over and will need to earn somewhere around $27,000 over the next two weeks to remain on the PGA Tour.

Golf (and tennis, for that matter), are pure professional sports. You play well, you earn your money. If you don’t, you can be out on your ear. There was a “who’s who” among those who missed the cut Friday at the Albertsons Boise Open. Among the more recognizable PGA Tour names were Rory Sabbatini and Camilo Villegas. Three of the five former Boise Open champions in the field were left out over the weekend, too: Martin Piller, Steve Wheatcroft and Jason Gore. It was particularly peculiar for Piller, who won last summer at Hillcrest at 28-under par. He was even-par Thursday and Friday—he shot an opening round 75.

A bye week is supposed to benefit a football team, no matter when it falls. Ideally it happens later in the season, when there are numerous nicks that need to heel. Two weeks of preparation for an opponent is an added benefit. But bye weeks have not been kind to Boise State the past two seasons. In 2014, with two weeks to bone up on New Mexico’s triple-option, the Broncos went to Albuquerque and allowed 505 rushing yards, the most in school history. They escaped that one with a 60-49 victory after falling behind by two touchdowns three different times in the first half. Last year, the bye came before back-to-back home games against New Mexico and Air Force, and we all know what good the week off did that time. Maybe a September bye will cure some ills.

San Diego State beat Boise State to the Top 25, as the Aztecs rode a 42-28 win at Northern Illinois Saturday into the No. 22 spot in the new AP Poll. The Broncos did gain ground in the “others receiving votes” category despite the bye, though. They moved up one spot to the equivalent of No. 29 in AP and No. 30 in the Coaches Poll, adding 27 and 25 points, respectively. Just ahead of Boise State on the AP list is North Dakota State at No. 27. As odd as it seems to see an FCS team garner that kind of support in a major poll (NDSU’s 74 points are the most ever in a poll for an FCS or Division I-AA school), who’s to say the Bison don’t deserve it after beating No. 13 Iowa 23-21 on the road?

Ben Weaver and Sam McCaskill tended to academics during the bye weekend, participating in the 2016 Boise State Venture College “Scramble.” It’s an entrepreneurial exercise that charges student teams with developing and presenting a workable new business idea in about 40 hours’ time between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. Weaver and McCaskill were all business, as they will be when the Broncos visit Oregon State this Saturday. For McCaskill, it’s an especially meaningful week. He grew up in Eugene as an Oregon Ducks fans, so he’ll have no shortage of inspiration at Reser Stadium. McCaskill says he’ll have plenty of family and friends in the stands.

Yes, Oregon State routed Idaho State Saturday, but the Bengals didn’t leave Corvallis embarrassed after their 37-7 loss on Saturday. ISU’s offense included a nifty 75-yard touchdown run by Jakori Ford. And on defense, the Bengals chased OSU quarterback Darell Garretson all day and limited him to a 15-of-30 day for 172 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. The Beavers scored 24 of their points after five Idaho State turnovers. Despite snapping a 10-game losing streak, Oregon State’s celebration was muted as it recognized how much work lies ahead, with this Saturday’s test against Boise State to be followed by a brutal nine-game Pac-12 schedule.

Things were progressing nicely for Idaho early in the second quarter in Pullman Saturday. The Vandals were moving the ball and chewing clock, and had lined up for a 32-yard Austin Rehkow field goal that would narrow Washington State’s lead to 7-6. Then the Cougars blocked the kick, Marcellus Pippins returned it 72 yards for a touchdown, and everything changed. The Cougs unleashed an unexpectedly effective running game and ran away with a 56-6 victory, with quarterback Luke Falk throwing only 32 passes. Wazzu rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Idaho has been outscored 115-20 the past two weeks in the state of Washington.

The past two seasons of College of Idaho football have been punctuated by a lot of “first time since” moments, with the program having been dark for 37 years before resuming in 2014. In year No. 3, the milestones keep coming. Saturday night in rainy LaGrande, the Coyotes beat a Top 25 team for the first time—not since 1977, but ever—when they took down No. 10 Eastern Oregon 20-7. The Yotes also recorded back-to-back road wins for the first time since 1974 as they spotted the Mountaineers a 7-0 less than three minutes into the game and shut the home team out the rest of the way. C of I’s defense came up big on fourth down, stopping Eastern on five of six attempts to convert. The Coyotes are now 2-1.

Jay Ajayi is out of the doghouse and back in the kennel with the Miami Dolphins, but it hasn’t gone much beyond that. Ajayi had an opportunity to shine at New England after starting running back Arian Foster left the game at halftime with a groin injury. Ajayi rushed for just 14 yards on five carries and lost a fumble in his season debut, although he did have four catches on four targets for 31 yards in Miami’s 31-24 loss. The other former Boise State running back in the NFL, a premier player for Tampa Bay last year, didn’t make it through Week 2. Doug Martin left the Buccaneers’ 40-7 loss at Atlanta one play into the second quarter with a groin injury. At that point Martin had seven carries for 23 yards.

Notes from campus: The Rio Paralympics were quite an experience for Roderick Townsend-Roberts. The former Boise State trackster earned his second gold medal of the 2016 Games Friday by winning the high jump. Townsend-Roberts added another Paralympics record to his golden performance in the long jump last Wednesday, going over the bar at 6 feet, 10¼ inches. And the Bronco women’s volleyball team picked up its first win ever over a ranked opponent Friday night, defeating No. 17 Santa Clara in Bronco Gym. Boise State swept four matches in its three-day round robin tournament, also topping Portland State, UC Davis and Arizona State to improve to 9-4.

This Day In Sports…September 19, 2005:

One of the most unique days in golf—not only here, but anywhere. In the Kraft/Nabisco Shootout, the skins game for charity that preceded the Albertsons Boise Open, the field included the tournament champions from the day before on the PGA, LPGA and Nationwide Tours. Jason Gore, Annika Sorenstam and Troy Matteson won those respective titles. Also playing the event were Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis, stars of America’s win in the Solheim Cup earlier that month, and LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster.

(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.)