Mountain West’s best-kept draft secret?

Who besides Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen are upper-echelon this week out of the Mountain West? Many have forgotten about one star rival. “San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny is the potential steal of NFL Draft,” headlines a column by Bryce Miller of the San Diego Union Tribune. “A first-round talent with second-round buzz,” writes Miller, who notes that “Pro Football Focus ranked Penny No. 1 among 58 draft-class running backs for yards after contact when hit at or behind the line (3.32 yards). Saquon Barkley, the consensus first pick among backs, stands at 0.46.” Still, most experts see Penny as a Day 2 guy.

Penny rushed for 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns last season while averaging 7.8 yards per carry. Does he do it all against Mountain West competition? Miller points out that Penny “piled up 353 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns—a 95-yard run, 99-yard kickoff return and 33-yard reception—at Arizona State, ran for 175 yards to topple No. 19 Stanford, and finished as the leading rusher, with a 73-yard touchdown catch, in the Senior Bowl.” That Penny managed only 53 yards on just 2.5 yards per carry in a 31-14 loss to Boise State is beside the point. It really is. That was a tribute to the Bronco defense. The Mountain West needs to root for Penny.

Idaho Vandal fans have been rooting for Penny’s brother Elijhaa in the NFL for three years. The older Penny has 124 career rushing yards and two touchdowns for the Arizona Cardinals since he made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Now, Penny will be joined by fellow Idaho alum Benson Mayowa, who has been signed by Arizona after being waived by Dallas in early March. Mayowa has 77 career tackles, nine sacks and three fumble recoveries with the Seahawks, Raiders and Cowboys. In fact, three of the four former Vandals currently in the NFL are now on the same roster, as the Cardinals look for offensive tackle Mike Iupati to come off injured reserve. The fourth, linebacker Korey Toomer, plays for the 49ers.

Well, the magnitude of Boise State’s game on the blue turf against Fresno State may offset this, but the Broncos have been assigned one of those 8:15 p.m. November kickoffs for their clash against the Bulldogs. The Mountain West announced its TV slate yesterday, and the conference’s marquee game has been moved to Friday, November 9, in ESPN2’s late slot. Fingers are firmly crossed that Boise State’s other two November home games, Saturday dates versus BYU and Utah State, won’t meet the same fate. Another game has been switched to a Friday, the road tilt at New Mexico November 16.

All six of Boise State’s home games will be shown on the ESPN family of networks, with two (Colorado State and Fresno State) guaranteed on ESPN2. Theoretically the Broncos won’t be relegated to ESPNU or online to ESPN3 if they’re winning, right? We’ll find out about the UConn game in June, while San Diego State, BYU and Utah State likely will be announced within 12 days of the game. All four of the Broncos’ Mountain West road games will be telecast on CBS Sports Network. The contests at Troy and Oklahoma State are still to be determined.

The rumors have become reality, as Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice has landed a top assistant with a wealth of experience. It is indeed Tim Duryea, recently fired as head coach at Utah State. On Rice’s staff, Duryea will replace Phil Beckner, who is exploring other opportunities (probably in the NBA). Before becoming the Aggies head coach three years ago, he was an assistant during 14 of Stew Morrill’s wildly successful 16 seasons in Logan. Ironically, Duryea ended his USU career by ushering the Broncos out of the Mountain West Tournament with that 78-75 upset in the quarterfinals last month.

They see this as a seamless transition—College of Idaho associate head coach Colby Blaine has been promoted to replace Scott Garson, who has taken an assistant’s post with Santa Clara. Blaine knows high-performance hoops, not only from his time under Garson at C of I, but from his five seasons as an assistant at College of Southern Idaho, during which time CSI won the 2011 national junior college championship. Blaine should also have a good beat on recruiting. The Boise High graduate has coached with the Select AAU Program for the past nine years, working with some of Idaho and Montana’s top high school prospects. Blaine met with the Yotes squad Monday night and can hit the floor running.

I’ll be darned if it’s not going the distance. The Idaho Steelheads, once down three games-to-none in the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, forced a Game 7 by routing Allen 6-3 last night in CenturyLink Arena. Finally, the Steelheads scored first in this series, putting up three goals in a wild first period. And they kept the heat on. Shane Hanna tallied twice for the Steelies, and Max French and Cole Ully contributed one goal and two assists apiece. Coach Neil Graham danced with who brung him between the pipes, sticking with Philippe Desrosiers and getting 33 saves from the 22-year-old goaltender. So tonight, somebody’s 2017-18 campaign will come to a close. The home team has the momentum.

This Day In Sports…April 25, 2008, 10 years ago today:

The Idaho Stampede wrap up their 10th anniversary season with the only championship in franchise history, taking the NBA D-League crown with a 108-101 win over the Austin Toros. The Stampede, who had the best regular season record in league history at 36-14, were coached by Bryan Gates and featured local favorites Cory Violette, Roberto Bergersen and Jason Ellis, and all three played key roles in the D-League Finals. But the heart and soul of the team was future Stampede coach Randy Livingston, the 13-year pro who played in four different seasons with the Stamps and ended his playing career that night with a trophy.

(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.)