Is Demarcus Boise State’s top NFL defender?

Boise State has a lot of players in the NFL these days. While Jay Ajayi and Doug Martin stand out among guys on offense, there’s not a clear leader among former Broncos on NFL defenses. Demarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford or Orlando Scandrick in Dallas? George Iloka in Cincinnati? Shea McClellin in New England? They’re all solid, but none of them screams “All-Pro” right now. To hear’s Jeremy Bergman explain it, Lawrence has an opportunity to separate himself this year—if he can turn last season inside out. The 2016 campaign started with a four-game suspension and ended with a back injury. And all of one sack. This from a guy who had eight sacks the previous season. “A one-sack year? That’s not me,” Lawrence said. “I’ve already got that in my mind, you know, that I’m going to be the best.”

Lawrence, a second-round pick of the Cowboys in 2013, wants to be remembered for more than what transpired (or didn’t) last year. “When my son grows up, I want him to say, ‘Man, my dad was a beast,’” said Lawrence. Writes Bergman: “If Lawrence is able to follow through on his words and become a ‘beast,’ he’ll be in line for a nice pay day. Lawrence is in the final year of his rookie contract and the NFL is a pass rush-starved league. ‘My goal is 10-plus sacks all the time. I feel like I can be a Pro Bowl player, I just haven’t lived up to those expectations dealing with the injuries and my personal issues.’” That sums it up. Lawrence, by the way, says his ailing back is “feeling great.”

Two days after the death of Duane Dlouhy, I thought I’d give a first-person recap of his major moment in Boise State history—if only for the sake of helping Bronco Nation newcomers appreciate the team’s past. In the 1980 Division I-AA national championship game in Sacramento, Eastern Kentucky had just scored on a 60-yard pass to take a 29-24 lead with 55 seconds left in the game. Boise State quarterback Joe Aliotti, limping noticeably from an ankle injury suffered the week before against Grambling, went to work from the Broncos’ 20-yard line. Consecutive completions of 19, 13 and 34 yards to Kipp Bedard took BSU to the Colonels’ 14 with 35 seconds still remaining.

Then, three straight incompletions from Aliotti. And suddenly it was fourth-and-10 with 20 seconds left. Aliotti dropped back to pass, and EKU’s star nose guard, Buddy Moore, burst into the backfield and gave chase. But Moore slipped on the loose turf of Hughes Stadium, buying time for the QB known for having eyes in the back of his head. Aliotti looked and looked and looked—and finally let it fly, hoping his career-high passing day would end at 358 yards instead of 344. And there was Dlouhy, having worked himself into wide-open space in the opposite back corner of the end zone. Dlouhy made the catch over his shoulder with 12 seconds left. That play remains at the root of Bronco football as we know it today.

Boise State has made one major promotion and has filled one other spot on its men’s hoops staff, as coach Leon Rice has elevated Phil Beckner to associate head coach. Beckner enters his second season this fall after joining the Broncos from Nebraska. Rice has also added David Moats as his new director of basketball operations. Moats has served in the same post the last three seasons at Weber State as the Wildcats went to the postseason twice (once to the NCAA Tournament). Moats was a graduate assistant at Florida from 2012-14 and finished his Gators stint with a run to the Final Four. Rice still has to fill the assistant’s position vacated by John Rillie, who moved on to UC Santa Barbara.

The Mountain West is coming off an unprecedented two straight seasons as a one-bid league in the NCAA Tournament. Conference presidents just finished their Board of Directors meetings, and according to the MW, they unanimously endorsed a series of recommendations to improve the overall quality and competitiveness of men’s basketball. Included are specific metrics to be used in scheduling non-conference games, and a recommendation that Athletic Directors work directly with coaches in constructing non-conference schedules, as is typically done in football. The Mountain West has slipped drastically since 2015, when it sent three teams, San Diego State, Boise State and Wyoming, to the NCAA Tournament. In 2013 there were five teams, including the Broncos, in the field of 68.

From now on, the Mountain West men’s hoops coach of the year honor will be known as the Steve Fisher Coach of the Year Award. The conference Board unanimously approved a recommendation to salute the recently-retired San Diego State coach by adding his name to the trophy. Fisher retired eight weeks ago as the winningest men’s basketball coach in Mountain West history after guiding the Aztecs to a 386-109 record over 18 seasons.

The Idaho Steelheads will be seeing the defending Kelly Cup champions a lot next winter. That’s because the new champs come from the Steelheads’ division. Colorado innocently began the ECHL’s playoffs with a 4-2 loss to the Steelies in Loveland on April 14. Monday night, the Eagles captured their first Kelly Cup championship with a 2-1 win over the South Carolina Stingrays in Game 4 of the Kelly Cup Finals. It’s the first sweep in the Finals in 15 years. Colorado won its final eight games of the postseason, and the Eagles had six overtime wins during the playoffs to set a new league record. They’ll be back in CenturyLink Arena November 1.

Northwest Nazarene’s Payton Lewis, the Nampa Christian High graduate, has been named Great Northwest Athletic Conference Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Lewis won the NCAA Division II national championship in the pole vault last month. The NCAA Division I Championships begin today at legendary Hayward Field in June. Allie Ostrander, Sadi Henderson and Clare O’Brien will be representing Boise State in the distances. Ostrander and Henderson compete tomorrow night in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 800-meters, respectively (the semifinals in both cases).

This Day In Sports…June 7, 2012, five years ago today:

Boise State’s Kurt Felix wins the national title in the decathlon at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, IA. Felix, already ticketed to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London to represent Grenada, finished first in the long jump and javelin and recorded personal bests in four other events to win the competition by 106 points. Felix became the fourth Bronco ever to win an individual event at outdoor nationals, joining Jake Jacoby in the high jump in 1984, Eugene Greene in the triple jump in 1991, and Gabe Wallin in the javelin in 2004 and 2005. He has since been joined by Emma Bates in the 10,000-meters in 2014.

(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.)