Those who just scratch the surface when making college football predictions will say this: “Boise State lost its top two receivers!” And that is true.Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson kind of had parallel careers, backing up the likes of Thomas Sperbeck and Cedrick Wilson, and then breaking out with big senior years. Modster and Richardson combined for 210 catches, each of them had just under 1500 receiving yards, and each had 11 touchdowns. They’re now trying to catch on as undrafted free agents in the NFL, Modster in Baltimore and Richardson in Arizona. Any team would miss a duo like that. But holy moly—the talent the Broncos have coming back, and coming in. That could be the story of the 2019 season.
CT Thomas is Mr. Third Down (not to mention fourth down), and returns with 56 career receptions. Akilian Butler has 32 career grabs; he is over the hump. A healthy John Hightower would be deadly this year after 31 catches, 504 yards and six touchdowns last year. The other two returnees with stats, Octavius Evans and Khalil Shakir, have only 17 and 16 catches, respectively. But they’re generating as much excitement as anyone. Evans looks to finally capitalize on his true freshman momentum, and Shakir is the Broncos’ uber-talented Swiss army knife. Throw Steph Cobbs and Billy Bowens in there, and maybe one or two of the true freshmen, and who knows what could happen?
THE QB AND THE RB ARE STILL TBD
Of course, someone has to throw to them, and it’s not going to be Brett Rypien. Takeaways from Boise State coach Bryan Harsin’s comments to the media after Saturday night’s first scrimmage of fall camp: sophomore Chase Cord is rounding into form, even scrambling a few times during live action. And true freshman Hank Bachmeier is “very rarely making the same mistake twice.” There weren’t many individual props from Harsin, as he wasn’t exactly pleased with what he saw Saturday. But, while saying there isn’t a lot of separation at running back yet, he had a shout-out for true freshman George Holani. “He’s starting to elevate himself on that list,” Harsin said.
COWBOYS IN SANTA CLARA
It won’t surprise you that most local eyes in Week 1 of the NFL preseason were on the Dallas-San Francisco game Saturday night. And not because so many 49ers fans have moved here. You have the six former Boise State stars on the Cowboys roster, plus a certain locally-famous offensive coordinator. Noteworthy were Cedrick Wilson’s three catches for 36 yards before leaving the game after being targeted while defenseless by Niners safety Adrian Colbert (who was ejected). George Iloka led Dallas with five tackles, and Darian Thompson added four, while Leighton Vander Esch made one stop in a cameo appearance. Kellen Moore’s offense managed only three field goals in the 14-9 loss, but he was experimenting with the entire rookie-heavy roster. More on Kellen as the week goes on.
MATTISON DOES PLAY—AND DOES SCORE
Rumors of an Alexander Mattison injury were much ado about nothing, and the rookie out of Boise State was a go for Minnesota’s 34-25 win at New Orleans. Mattison started at running back and had had middling numbers on the ground, rushing nine times for 30 yards. But you have to love his receiving stat line: one catch, one yard, one touchdown. Mattison scored the Vikings’ first TD of the night on a pass from Kirk Cousins. Elsewhere, Donte Deacon contributed two tackles for the L.A. Rams as they lost 14-3 in Oakland. Doug Martin did not play for the Raiders.
MERRITT EXTENDS HIS SEASON
A devastating triple-bogey on the fifth hole took Troy Merritt out of contention Sunday at The Northern Trust, but he recovered with five birdies and no bogeys the rest of the way to shoot a one-under 70. The Boise State product was the first round leader last Thursday after a course-record 62. Merritt didn’t break 70 the rest of the weekend, but he tied for 12th, won $175,750, and will advance to the second leg of the FedExCup Playoffs, the BMW Championship next week outside Chicago. Merritt jumped from No. 72 to No. 59 in FedExCup standings.
BIG CAMPUS NEWS
The weekend began with Neil Resnick, co-head coach of the Boise State gymnastics team, announcing his retirement Friday. Resnick and fellow co-head coach Tina Bird have won conference coach of the year honors six times since they replaced the retiring Sam Sandmire in 2008, and the Broncos have won conference championships in nine of their 12 seasons, including the last five in a row. There’s no “co” next to Bird’s name now—she’ll be head coach for the 2019-20 season. Also, Marisa Howard won a silver medal at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, on Saturday. The Boise State alum ran the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 9:43.78. Allie Ostrander was entered in the steeple but came down ill and couldn’t compete.
HAWKS TAKE THE WRONG TURN
Things had been trending in the right direction for the Boise Hawks. They edged Eugene 9-7 Friday night and thumped the Emeralds 10-2 Saturday night. Then Spokane came to town Sunday and launched a 21-hit attack, laying a 17-3 walloping on the Hawks at Memorial Stadium. For those who stuck around, the score was 17-1 until Boise catcher Nic Motley hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning.
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August 12, 1994, 25 years ago today: One of baseball’s darkest hours, as MLB players go on strike, ultimately wiping out the rest of the season and—for the first time—the World Series. The teams with the best records at the time were the New York Yankees and, incredibly, the Montreal Expos. The ordeal would last through spring training and into the 1995 season, 233 days in all. Many fans said they’d never come back. But, as they always do, most eventually did. Baseball’s challenge today is creating new fans.
(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.)