When I asked Boise State coach Andy Avalos last Tuesday if UCF would be an underlying thread from Day 1 of fall camp, he deflected. “It’s all about us the first 2½ weeks or so,” said Avalos. “Our camp objectives will be our focus.” Well, the past couple of days, linebacker Riley Whimpey and running back George Holani have both mentioned the Knights as a focal point for them as they go about their business. It’s clear that the Broncos are mentally preparing for one of the most anticipated games ever between two Group of 5 teams. They know their program’s legacy—they’re schooled on it. Boise State is the winningest team of the 21st century and is on a run of 22 straight winning seasons, the longest streak in the country. UCF has been the power of late, though, going to two New Year’s Six bowls in the past four years.
UCF’S QUEST ON DEFENSE
UCF opened fall camp last week, too, and just like Boise State’s woeful running game performance in 2020—115th in the nation at 107.1 yards per game—the Knights are trying to atone for a defense that ranked 123rd in the FBS. Despite an offense that was second in the country, rolling up 568.1 yards per game, UCF’s defense allowed a whopping 491 yards per game. In 10 games, the Knights allowed 216 plays of 10 yards or more, the most in the American Athletic Conference. But the Knights opened last season without 10 COVID opt-outs. They’ve also added five transfers on defense, including edge rusher Big Kat Bryant from Auburn. Frankly, I don’t take the stats on Boise State’s rushing offense and UCF’s defense too seriously. The COVID season will forever have an asterisk to me.
DEAD HEAT AFTER ONE WEEK
Avalos says that there’s no front-runner yet in the race between Hank Bachmeier and Jack Sears for the Broncos’ starting quarterback job. The sample size isn’t big enough. Avalos noted Sunday that Sears was limited at practice earlier in the day—Sears told the media it was a “minor strain” of some sort. The Broncos have a day off today as they pace through the 25 practices of fall camp. That will hopefully benefit Sears, allowing him to rejoin drills on Tuesday. The silver lining is that true freshman Taylen Green got the No. 2 QB reps Sunday. Green will have to be on call this season if injuries or the “C” word, or some combination of the two, put Bachmeier and Sears on the shelf.
BRONCOS’ COACHING TREE EXTENDS TO TORONTO
Ryan Dinwiddie got his first Gatorade bath as a head football coach Saturday. The former Boise State quarterback debuted with Toronto of the CFL and guided the Argonauts to a 23-20 road victory over Calgary in the season opener. The Argos survived a short missed field goal, a strip of a wide receiver on his way into the end zone and a blocked punt—and ended up rallying from a 17-12 fourth quarter deficit to win it on a 32-yard field goal with 37 seconds left. Dinwiddie had waited 604 days to coach a game since getting the job on December 12, 2019.
VANDALS EMBARK ON PIVOTAL CAMP
Fall camp opened Friday night at Idaho with the Vandals at a crossroads as they enter their fourth season in the Big Sky. Idaho has yet to record a winning season—be it in conference play or overall. When the Vandals left the FBS for the FCS, one season removed from a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl victory, it was expected that the changed level of competition would make them instant contenders in the Big Sky. But Idaho has gone a combined 11-18 overall and 8-14 in the league. The Vandals are picked eighth this season. The pressure is on to overachieve that.
THE FIRST-PLACE HAWKS
The Boise Hawks, winners of four of the first five games of their series in Grand Junction, have sole possession of first place in the Pioneer League’s Southern Division second half standings. The Hawks romped over the Rockies 14-4 on Sunday, getting two home runs from Byron Smith, one of them a three-run shot in the eighth inning. Boise also got a masterful pitching performance from Liam Steigerwald, who scattered five hits and allowed one run over seven innings to earn his first win of the season.
FINISH LINE IN TOKYO
It was a lean year for Idaho ties in the Olympics. The only medal won in Tokyo went to equestrian Adrienne Lyle, a former Ketchum resident, who was part of the USA Dressage team that won the silver medal in the Grand Prix Special team final. It is worthy to note that cyclist Jennifer Valente, a three-time Boise Twilight Criterium women’s champion, captured the gold medal in the women’s Omnium on Sunday. Valente led wire-to-wire. With that, the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are just six months away. Idaho fares better in the winter.
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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 the Twin, 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 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.)