Rams trying to shake the albatross

Colorado State has never beaten Boise State. The Rams have had November 11 circled on the calendar all year, and they figured that their game against the Broncos would be significant. Well, Saturday night’s event in Fort Collins is significant now as a CSU season-saver. The Rams have lost two games in a row, so in order for them to win the Mountain Division of the Mountain West, they have to 1) beat Boise State, 2) hope the Broncos also lose to Air Force or Fresno State, and 3) hope Wyoming drops two of its final three games. If Colorado State loses Saturday, it’s eliminated from the race for the Mountain West championship game. Will the Rams be pressing against Boise State—as they appeared to be in Laramie last week? Or will they let their hair down and turn it loose as if they have nothing to lose?

Colorado State’s Nick Stevens started the season as an afterthought as an All-Mountain West quarterback, despite being the most efficient QB in the country over the final six games of last season, throwing for 1,896 yards and 19 touchdowns with just three interceptions. Now, going into his head-to-head matchup with Boise State’s late-blooming Brett Rypien, Stevens is No. 1 this season in the Mountain West in pass efficiency, passing yards and touchdown passes. As for Rypien, his efficiency rating has climbed 20 points in the past two games after solid performances against Utah State and Nevada. One of his target areas of improvement this season was accuracy. Well, it is indeed happening now. Rypien is the conference leader in completion percentage at 65.2 percent.

Montell Cozart has to thank his lucky stars he decided to finish his career at Boise State. His team has a winning season secured, and he’s going to get to play in a bowl game, and that was his goal. The only thing to top this would be a Mountain West championship. Cozart’s former school, Kansas, fell to Baylor last week 38-9 and is now 1-8. For Baylor, by the way, it was their first regular season victory in over a year, interrupted only by the Bears’ Cactus Bowl win over the Broncos. This season, Cozart has thrown for 684 yards and nine touchdowns against one interception and has completed 65.4 percent of his throws (he doesn’t have enough attempts to qualify for the Mountain West lead). So it’s Rock Chalk, Jayhawk—not. Kansas was 0-12 two years ago and 2-10 last season.

As the Boise State defense has become more suffocating this season, fans have muttered, “I hope we can hang onto Avalos.” This won’t help, I guess. Andy Avalos, the Broncos’ defensive coordinator, is a nominee for the 2017 Broyles Award, given annually to college football’s top assistant coach. There are 56 nominees, so there’s some whittling still to be done. But Avalos is doing an excellent job this season with a unit that is fraught with new starters and youth (there’s only one senior starter, outside linebacker Gabe Perez). The Broncos are 15th in the country in total defense, allowing just 308 yards per game. They’re eight against the run allowing an average of 106 yards.

When Boise State hosts San Diego State on the blue turf next fall, will the Broncos be facing the Something-Elses? The San Diego State University faculty senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to retire the Aztec mascot and explore dropping the Aztecs name overall. The SDSU Senate Chair told the Daily Aztec newspaper she’s confident the resolution will not be approved by the school’s president, but it would still would send a message and begin a discussion. The San Diego Union-Tribune notes that “the origin of a mascot dressed as ancient Aztec ruler Montezuma II has been traced to halftime of a 1941 football game. The Aztec mascot has been controversial for years, and the school has responded by making some changes to the image, including dropping the old Monty Montezuma mascot in 2002.”

Two former Boise State standouts have seen their 2017 NFL seasons come to an end. A week after being replaced at left tackle by the newly-acquired Duane Brown, Seattle’s Rees Odhiambo is set to undergo surgery due to multiple dislocated fingers on both hands. “His fingers are busted up,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll yesterday. And Shea McClellin is done for the season after hoping to return to the New England Patriots active roster this week from injured reserve. The Marsing High grad has been back in practice with the Pats the past two weeks but has suffered an undisclosed “setback.” McClellin missed multiple games due to a concussion last year, and another head injury sent him to the IR in September.

College of Idaho coach Mike Moroski certainly isn’t trumpeting this, but there’s extra motivation this week as the Coyotes prepare for their regular season finale Saturday against Montana State-Northern, a 1-9 team, at Simplot Stadium. Frankly, the Yotes should win this game. And if they do, they’ll not only have their first winning season since football returned in 2014, they’ll be scoreboard-watching, as the NAIA Playoffs could come calling. I’m told that these things would have to happen: Rocky Mountain would have to lose to Montana Western (possible), and Montana Tech would have to lose to Southern Oregon (probable). That way C of I would be tied for second in the Frontier Conference and would have a tiebreaker advantage (the Frontier gets two playoff berths). Who’d a thunk after the Yotes’ 0-3 start?

It was a busy National Letter of Intent Day for Boise State men’s basketball yesterday. The Broncos signed five players (do the math—in hoops, that’s a lot). One is Bishop Kelly standout Max Rice, the son of coach Leon Rice. Max, a 6-4 guard and the reigning SIC 4A Player of the Year, will forego a scholarship since he’ll be getting free tuition through dad. Rice averaged 18.4 points a game last season for the Knights. Also aboard are 6-7 forward Jaycson Bereal of Tulsa, OK, 6-10 post Mikey Frazier of Salt Lake City, 6-8 forward Riley Abercrombie of Houston (originally from Australia), and Pat Dembley, a 6-1 JC transfer guard from Iowa Western Community College. Boise State officially opens the season tomorrow night against Eastern Oregon in Taco Bell Arena.

Troy Merritt is back on the course today as the PGA Tour goes to Mexico for the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. The Boise State product has made two out of three cuts so far in the 2017-18 season, but his top finish has been the tie for 51st he posted last week in Las Vegas. Merritt looks to make more of a statement before the tour goes on hiatus for the Holidays four weeks from now. Graham DeLaet hasn’t played since his bad back forced him to withdraw from the CJ Cup in South Korea three weeks ago.

This Day In Sports…November 9, 2002, 15 years ago today:

Boise State avenges the pounding it absorbed at Rice the year before by pummeling the Owls 49-7 in Bronco Stadium. It was BSU’s eighth consecutive rout, and the next day the Broncos would make history with their first-ever Top 25 ranking. BSU was voted No. 23 in the Coaches Poll and would enter the AP poll the following week. Boise State rode the nation’s leading offense and leading scorer, Brock Forsey, to a Top 15 finish in both rankings at the end of the season.

(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.)