The initial on-field exam of 2018 happens today for Boise State players with the first scrimmage of spring football. Coach Bryan Harsin has raved about the Broncos’ knack for making every rep count so far. “We’ll find out how we are after a little bit of live ball,” said Harsin. It’s different than it was a year ago right now. Brett Rypien’s backup was going to be Jake Constantine, who got most of the second-team reps. Constantine played well in the spring game, going 13-of-28 for 123 yards. Then Montell Cozart joined Boise State in May, and Constantine left the team midway through fall camp. Redshirt freshman Chase Cord would seem to be more entrenched at No. 2 behind Rypien than Constantine was then. “Chase Cord has had a really good camp so far,” Harsin said.
Harsin noted on Idaho SportsTalk in January that Cord’s skill set compares to that of former Bronco quarterback Grant Hedrick, and he’s repeated it since then. Hedrick broadened the horizons of the Boise State offense, extending plays with his feet. Cord has that ability, too, plus two more inches on his frame (he’s 6-2). His high school passing numbers at Sunrise Mountain High in Peoria, AZ, were almost at a Kellen Moore level—a state of Arizona career record 137 touchdown passes against just 20 interceptions. Cord threw for 9,493 yards. However, he also rushed for 2,393 yards during his career, scoring 38 TDs on the ground.
Going into his senior year, Rypien has thrown for 9,876 yards in his college career—he’s set to finish second in Boise State history behind Moore in that category. Rypien has 60 touchdown passes, 22 behind No. 2 Ryan Dinwiddie (Moore, with 142, is way out of reach there as well). There is one record that is well within striking distance, though. Despite his early-season struggles, Rypien did record three more 300-yard games last year and now has 14 for his career, tied for second in program history with Dinwiddie and just two behind Moore.
Is the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge relevant again? That’s what we have in the Sweet 16 tonight. The much-scrutinized series between the two conferences hasn’t done much for Mountain West RPIs over the years, but now here comes Loyola Chicago against Nevada on a grand stage. The Wolf Pack has to play 40 minutes tonight instead of 10. Against Texas and Cincinnati in the first two rounds, the Pack looked like it had one hand tied behind its collective back until desperation kicked in. It’s not surprising that a guy named Martin led Nevada in scoring against Cincy with 25 points. But it wasn’t Caleb Martin, the Mountain Player of the Year, but his twin brother, Cody. I still can’t get over the fact the Wolf Pack turned the ball over only twice, though. The Pack ranks second nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio.
How about this: USA Today rates all the teams in the Sweet 16 based on their potential of winning the national championship, and it has Nevada (12th) above Gonzaga (13th). I don’t buy that. The Zags have been there, done this as they go into their matchup against ninth-seeded Florida State tonight in L.A. Free throw shooting will probably bite the Bulldogs at some point, though. Like the Wolf Pack, Kentucky is in Atlanta tonight and will play the late game against Kansas State. The Wildcats are sure to have one eye on the early matchup between Nevada and Loyola Chicago, but coach John Calapari would really rather they not. “Don’t drink that poison,” said Calapari of all that stuff being written about Kentucky’s easy road to the Final Four. “If they drink the poison, we’ll be done on Thursday.”
The first Mountain West player to declare early for the NFL Draft this year is San Diego State’s Jalen McDaniels, but he has a Chandler Hutchison-type asterisk. Henderson will not hire an agent, so he’ll be able to return to the Aztecs in advance of the draft. The Broncos’ Hutchison didn’t hire an agent a year ago, and his workouts for NBA teams served as invaluable training that launched his monster senior year. McDaniels certainly has NBA potential, but not quite yet. The 6-10 redshirt freshman forward needs some meat on his bones, for one thing. He weighs only 195 pounds. McDaniels made a big impression against the Broncos last month when scouts were in Viejas Arena to check out Hutchison, scoring 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting with 10 rebounds in SDSU’s 72-64 win.
How in the world did the Idaho Steelheads latch onto Tomas Sholl? The 23-year-old goaltender came within 2:10 of his third consecutive shutout last night before Rapid City’s Alex Baer scored to send the game into overtime. Sholl got the victory nevertheless when the Steelheads’ Charlie Dodero potted the deciding tally in the shootout for a 2-1 victory in CenturyLink Arena. All told, Sholl went more than 210 minutes over three-plus games without allowing a goal. He is now unbeaten in regulation in 13 ECHL appearances this season (the first eight of them were with Adirondack).
While the big names are playing the World Golf Championships Match Play in Austin, Troy Merritt and the rest of the PGA Tour core are in the Dominican Republic for the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. Merritt didn’t play the weekend two weeks ago at the Valspar Championships after three straight made cuts. From the fairways to the slopes—at the US Alpine Ski Championships in Sun Valley, officials moved up the Women’s Alpine Combined from today and paired it with the Men’s Combined yesterday due to weather concerns. On the women’s side, 17-year-old AJ Hurt was the winner, while Olympian Ryan Cochran-Siegle took the men’s title.
Back to football—multiple reports say former Chicago Bears coach John Fox is in line to become an NFL analyst on ESPN. Fox related well to players as a 25-year-old secondary coach for Boise State in 1980, the year the Broncos won the Division I-AA national championship. His voice has taken a beating over the years from sideline pontifications, but he actually has a personality that should resonate on TV. Fox was fired by the Bears in January after going 14-34 in three seasons. Prior to Chicago, he was 46-18 in four years at Denver and 73-71 over nine seasons with Carolina. Fox lead each team to a Super Bowl.
This Day In Sports…March 22, 1958, 60 years ago today:
Kentucky defeats Seattle University 84-72 to win the championship game at the NCAA Tournament. Seattle was led by Elgin Baylor, who poured in 25 points and was the tournament’s top scorer. He also had 19 rebounds in the title game. Baylor had transferred to Seattle after starting his collegiate career at the College Of Idaho in Caldwell.
(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.)