It was on August 10 that hearts sank throughout the Mountain West, as the conference announced the postponement of the entire fall football season. Spirits went the other direction Thursday night when the league confirmed that there will be a season after all, featuring eight-game slates beginning October 24. Mountain West championship game will be December 19. Boise State’s schedule hasn’t been revealed yet, but we do know this: there are some great master-planners inside the Bleymaier Football Center, and the Broncos are ready to start.
There are lots of other things to sort out. Will Boise State play the same three West Division opponents as originally planned? When will practice start? Tomorrow? And how many fans will be allowed inside Albertsons Stadium? The presumption before the season was temporarily scrapped was 25 percent of capacity, which would amount to about 9,000 fans. We’ll get some more clarity midday today, with press conferences from the Mountain West and from Boise State coach Bryan Harsin.
HAPPLE HOPS AWAY
There was an unexpected revelation from Jordan Happle on Thursday. And the timing is especially odd considering the Mountain West reboot announcement later in the evening. But the senior safety told KTVB he has decided to leave Boise State and go on the market as a graduate transfer. Injuries have limited Happle to 27 games over the past three seasons, including just six last year, but he’s been good when he’s been in there. The Broncos saw Kekoa Nawahine graduate and DeAndre Pierce go to Arizona State to play under his dad as a grad transfer, but the team is still pretty deep at safety. Rising star JL Skinner, a sophomore, is joined by sixth-year senior Evan Tyler, and nickels Kekaula Kaniho and Tyreque Jones are available, too.
ROAD WARRIORS, PART IV
My Friday edition of Road Warriors skips ahead to 1998, Dirk Koetter’s first season as Boise State’s head coach. And we march right back to Salt Lake City, where one of the most storied drives in Boise State football led to a 31-28 upset of Utah. With 2:08 left in the game, quarterback Nate Sparks replaced Bart Hendricks, who had put together a pretty good night. But Koetter had a hunch. The Broncos had the ball on their own one-yard-line, trailing 28-24. Sparks marched Boise State 99 yards, capping the drive on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Smith with 45 seconds left. The Broncos finished 6-5 that year, their first winning season as a Division I-A school, and their first of 22 straight winning campaigns—a streak that continues to this day. Without that win over the Utes, history would have been delayed.
GEORGIA SIDEBARS, 2011
Boise State’s 35-21 takedown of Georgia in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Kickoff is next in KBOI’s Decade of Dominance retro series Saturday night. This is from the Scott Slant column following the game: “If Boise State fans had a sinking feeling after Friday’s announcement that Geraldo Boldewijn, Cedric Febis and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe weren’t on the trip to Atlanta, how did they feel when they saw fullback Dan Paul decked out in jersey and jeans in pregame warm-ups at the Georgia Dome? You had to keep reminding yourself that Paul wasn’t out there as the Bronco running game struggled in the first half against Georgia. Yet Doug Martin and D.J. Harper clawed for every yard. Boise State had to show it would and could still run to change things up while Kellen Moore was surgically dissecting the Bulldogs.” Ah, remembering the late Dan Paul.
Two other footnotes. The Boise State defense was lights-out against Georgia that night. Subtract Brandon Boykin’s surprise 80-yard touchdown run, and the Broncos held the Bulldogs to just 57 yards on the ground, less than two yards per carry. The six sacks the Broncos laid on UGA’s Aaron Murray contributed nicely to that number. The win provided closure for the 48-13 loss to Georgia in 2005 in Athens, a game that stuck in the craw for so long. Boise State won 71 of its next 79 games and won two Fiesta Bowls, but the rout suffered between the hedges was brought up annually in national discussions of the Broncos’ worthiness, as irrelevant as it became.
TIDE HAS TURNED FOR MCNICHOLS
Former Boise State star Jeremy McNichols went into last Sunday’s Tennessee Titans game against Jacksonville with two carries for four yards in his NFL career. McNichols doubled his carries and more than doubled his yards, running twice for sven yards versus the Jaguars. Now, McNichols has a spot on Tennessee’s 53-man roster after being signed from the practice squad. He did play in the first two games of the season, but that was because he was one of two practice squad players elevated to the roster for gameday under a new rule put in place this season to help teams deal with COVID-19. According to the rule, McNichols returned to the practice squad each week. He’s never played in more than two games in a season in the NFL. McNichols should eclipse that Sunday at Minnesota.
FINLEY: A REAL BOISE STATE ALUM
I’ve been called on the carpet for saying the other day that Kellen Moore is the only Boise State quarterback ever to take a regular-season NFL snap. The name Ryan Finley comes up immediately. It’s easy to overlook Finley because he left the Broncos in 2016 and played his final three seasons at North Carolina State (and played very well). But he’s a legit former Bronco—in fact, he’s a legit Boise State graduate. Finley was a fourth-round pick of Cincinnati in the 2019 NFL Draft and is now backing up Joe Burrow for the Bengals. He replaced Andy Dalton as Cincy starter for three games last fall, going 0-3. For the season, Finley completed 47 percent of his throws and passed for 474 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
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September 25, 2015, five years ago today: True freshman Brett Rypien makes his first career start at quarterback for Boise State and leads the Broncos to their largest margin of victory over a Power 5 school in a 56-14 win at Virginia. Rypien threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Thomas Sperbeck, and earned high marks for his poise in the pocket in the face of intense pressure from the Cavaliers. For its part, the Boise State defense was recording a safety and forcing five turnovers. The Broncos had two pick-sixes, with one coming on the first play of the game by defensive tackle Justin Taimatuia.
(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.)