Life without DeAndre Pierce and David Moa

Word had leaked out on DeAndre Pierce’s status, but not David Moa’s. On the other hand, the news on Pierce confirmed by Boise State coach Bryan Harsin yesterday is more surprising than that of Moa. Pierce, the playmaking junior safety, did not suit up Saturday for the 19-13 loss to San Diego State. Turns out he has been diagnosed with a lacerated spleen suffered at Wyoming and is out for the rest of the year. The seriousness of the injury didn’t become evident until after the game in Laramie. This is where the NCAA’s new redshirt rule becomes a plus for an upperclassman. Because Pierce has played in only four games this season—and because he played as a true freshman in 2016–he can use his redshirt year and return as a junior in 2019.

Redshirt freshman Tyreque Jones replaced Pierce against San Diego State and made four tackles. Jones had to exit the game briefly with an injury, and Evan Tyler spelled him. Boise State also has sophomore Jordan Happle at that safety spot. And Kekaula Kaniho is fully capable of playing there if necessary. Moa, whose 2018 season consists of just a couple of series at Oklahoma State, has finally been shelved for the rest of the fall as well with the calf injury he’s been battling since fall camp—although Harsin said an appearance in a bowl game was remotely possible. Boise State also may apply for a medical redshirt for Moa. If he wants one, anyway. Moa is an NFL prospect, although his portfolio could have used a highly-productive senior year.

Brett Rypien’s pass efficency rating took a definitive hit after the San Diego State game. Rypien went in ranked 13th in the nation with a rating of 171.6 (which is excellent). He came out with a 151.6 rating for the season, down to 39th in the country. And there was no one area in Saturday’s box score that was largely responsible for the drop. It was a complete slippage. Rypien completed only 51 percent of his throws against the Aztecs. But, with just one completion longer than 15 yards Saturday, his yards-per-attempt was the most glaring number. After topping nine yards per attempt over the first four games, Rypien went for just 4.1 versus SDSU.

There are still four teams in the Mountain Division that control their own destinies in the Mountain West race. One, despite the downer of Saturday’s doings on the blue turf, is Boise State. Should the Broncos win the remainder of their conference games they’ll still go to the Mountain West championship game on December 1. But, just as discussion of a New Year’s Six bowl was premature before the season, talk of a league title is now. Boise State’s schedule looks a lot tougher now, especially at home. Fresno State and Utah State are still to come. First, there’s Nevada-Nevada-Nevada in Reno this Saturday. The Aggies are undefeated in Mountain West play, as is one of the Broncos’ other divisional foes: New Mexico. They’re both 1-0, but they hold the cards for now.

Leighton Vander Esch had big numbers again, amassing 14 tackles, 11 of them solo, in the Cowboys’ 19-16 overtime loss at Houston on Sunday Night Football. What’s it all mean? Pro Football Focus says the former Boise State star is the highest-graded rookie defender through Week 5 of the NFL season. In the first three games, Vander Esch only saw the field for a total of 77 snaps, but he’s starting now for Dallas due to Sean Lee’s latest injury. Writes Brent Rollins, “In turn, he’s basically not come off the field the past two weeks, playing 130 of a possible 134 snaps with only one missed tackle. His 88.2 overall grade ranks second behind Seattle veteran Bobby Wagner, and his run-defense and coverage grades rank third and sixth, respectively, among NFL linebackers with 125-plus defensive snaps on the year.”

A bummer of major proportions for Jay Ajayi. The Boise State product tore his ACL in Philadelphia’s loss to Minnesota on Sunday. Ajayi was already played with a “traverse francture” in his back suffered in Week 2. Now all the references to Ajayi’s “injury-prone” nature are being dredged up. “Chronic knee issues factored into Ajayi dropping to the fifth round in 2015, as well as the Dolphins trading Ajayi to Philadelphia last year,” contributes Jeff McLane of (thank you very much). Ajayi is an unrestricted free agent after this season—this development seriously hampers any leverage he might have. He’ll always have that Super Bowl ring, though.

For a long time we thought Boise State would have two representatives in the NBA this season. There’s first-round draft pick Chandler Hutchison in Chicago, of course, and James Webb III was still hanging on with Brooklyn this summer. But Webb has opted for security across the pond, and in August he signed with Telekom Baskets Bonn in Bonn, Germany. The club is part of Basketball Bundesliga, the top German pro circuit. Webb played 10 games with the Nets last season, averaging 12 minutes, 1.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. Hutchison, meanwhile, is averaging 5.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in his first two NBA preseason outings with the Bulls.

There are some former Boise Hawks left in the MLB postseason. Just not very many. The Cubs’ 2-1 13-inning loss to the Rockies last week in the National League’s extra “sudden death” game last week took six former Hawks out of the equation. Brandon Guyer and Josh Donaldson were eliminated yesterday when Houston routed Cleveland 11-3. Donaldson was traded to Cleveland from Toronto at the end of August. The former American League MVP went 1-for-11 versus the Astros in the ALDS. Guyer got into one game in the series and went 0-for-2. The Rockies and Chris Rusin were already gone, thanks to Milwaukee. Who’s left? There’s Houston’s Marwin Gonzales, the Dodgers’ Rich Hill and the Yankees’ Gleyber Torres.

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October 9, 2010: A 57-14 rout of Toledo on the blue turf typifies a dominant Boise State season. The Broncos rolled the Rockets behind three touchdown runs by Jeremy Avery, three touchdown passes by Kellen Moore, and a five-turnover performance by the defense. The most exciting takeaway was a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown by Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin right after halftime. With South Carolina’s upset of Alabama that day, the Broncos’ 19-game winning streak became the longest in the nation.

(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.)