Hillcrest circles the wagons

The 27th Albertsons Boise Open will shine the brightest spotlight ever on Hillcrest Country Club beginning today. Web.com Tour players have torched the Hillcrest course in years past, and this year there are PGA Tour guys sprinkled in. One of them is defending champion Martin Piller, who—as mentioned—came in at 28-under par last summer. But for its debut as a Web.com Tour Finals stop, Hillcrest has lengthened four tees, stretching the par-71 layout to about 6,880 yards. The greens are already firmer than they have been in past Boise Opens (they had to be consistently watered during the tournament’s three-year run in July). Also, the rough will be thicker, so driving accuracy will be at a premium. Can anyone go 20-under?

Why do the guys already assured of PGA Tour cards for next season continue to enter the Web.com Tour Finals? Just because they have cards, that doesn’t mean they’re automatically entered in any non-major PGA Tour event they choose next season. There’s a priority ranking system used to select tournament fields for the 2016-17 season, and that is affected by the final money list from this Web.com Tour series. The Web.com’s top 25 has to keep grinding. That’s just one reason this week’s field is, by far, the strongest ever at the Albertsons Boise Open.

The biggest gallery today might be following Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who gained fame earlier this year when, asked what his plans were after his first European tour win in Spain, said, “I can’t wait to get hammered.” Party on, Beef. The 27-year-old Englishman with the big, curly beard then enjoyed wild popularity in July at the British Open, where he finished eighth. According to a story at PGATour.com, Johnston is eager to try some fries made from the iconic Idaho potato this week. “You have to have some good sauces. Ketchup, mayonnaise, Buffalo sauce,” said Johnston. “Then you’ve got to put some chili on there, some jalapenos, and cheese. The more the better!” Johnston tees off on No. 1 at 1:34 p.m.

The local favorite will obviously be Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge, the Vallivue High grad who briefly played for Boise State. Aldridge returned to the PGA Tour this season after a six-year absence thanks to a top 25 finish on the Web.com Tour money list last year. It’s been an uneven season for Aldridge, who is 160th in the FedExCup standings. But he has notched four top 25 finishes and has pocketed $517,738. Aldridge tees off at 8:55 a.m. on No. 10.

USA Today sent Paul Myerberg out to cover the Boise State-Washington State game last Saturday. Myerberg’s impression? “For all the laurels thrown at Houston’s feet, it seems Boise State has been forgotten—but not for long,” wrote Myerberg. “Prepare your insults; the Broncos are poised to re-enter the national conversation.” He sees it on the field. “This defense can play and tackle in space. Kellen Moore will never be replaced, but the coaching staff has found perhaps the best quarterback prospect in program history in sophomore Brett Rypien. Through two games, this feels…familiar.” Myerberg contends the Broncos have never gone away. “There’s only been one Boise State, clashing and gate-crashing in its blue-on-blue combinations, frustrating fashionistas and defensive coordinators alike,” he wrote.

“What we did for our September vacation,” by the Boise State coaching staff. It’s no vaca, of course, as the Broncos prepare for Oregon State a week from Saturday. This bye week comes much earlier than usual; it’s the first this early since the week after the opener at Michigan State in 2012. Much of the staff is scattered on the recruiting trail, from California to Texas, and selected hotspots in between.

North Carolina State settled its quarterback situation right before the season opener, choosing Boise State graduate transfer Ryan Finley as its starter. And it was a good beginning, as Finley completed 81 percent of his passes and threw for two touchdowns against outmanned William & Mary in a 48-14 blowout. He was fine last week at East Carolina, going 20-of-31 for 254 yards and an 80-yard touchdown, but the Wolfpack lost 33-30. NC State coach Dave Doeren especially likes Finley’s ability to change tempo as Eli Drinkwitz’s offense rolled up 497 yards at ECU. The Wolfpack has Old Dominion at home on Saturday.

Utah State has two home games before it visits the blue turf October 1—against Arkansas State and Air Force. The Aggies’ fortunes this year are partially tied to star running back Devante Mays, and now they’re wondering if he’ll be available for either of those two contests, or even the one against Boise State. Mays left USU’s 45-7 loss at USC last Saturday with a right knee injury in the third quarter. He had to be helped off the field and later stood on crutches on the sideline. Mays finished with just 24 yards on eight carries versus the Trojans after rushing for 208 yards and three touchdowns in the opener against Weber State. Coach Matt Wells calls him “questionable” for tomorrow night’s game against Arkansas State.

Idaho State is facing a second straight Pac-12 opponent Saturday, and all the Bengals can hope for is improvement. ISU gets Oregon State the week before Boise State does on the heels of the Bengals’ 56-7 loss at Colorado last week. The Buffaloes had a 597-96 advantage in total yardage, as ISU’s longest play went for 11 yards. At least quarterback Tanner Gueller made it through in one piece—he was only sacked once. Idaho State needs Gueller to stay healthy.

Roderick Townsend-Roberts yesterday became the first Boise State athlete—past or present—to win a gold medal at the Paralympic Games. Townsend-Roberts won the long jump in Rio with a Paralympic record 24 feet, 3.75 inches. The former Bronco multi-sport trackster finished second in the high jump at the 2014 Mountain West Outdoor Championships and third in the heptathlon at the 2013 MW Outdoors. Townsend-Roberts will compete in the high jump tomorrow afternoon.

This Day In Sports…September 15, 1951:

The birthday of a football coach whose inauspicious beginning belied the success he would have later in his career. After nine years as an NFL assistant, Pete Carroll became head coach of the New York Jets in 1994 and was fired after a 6-10 season. A later three-year stint leading the New England Patriots produced a 27-21 record before he was fired again. Carroll would hit paydirt in a nine-year run at USC, and he parlayed that into his current perch with the Seattle Seahawks. Carroll is one of only three coaches who have won both a Super Bowl and a college football national championship. Pete Carroll, currently the oldest coach in the NFL…65 years old today.

(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.)