Scott Slant Wednesday Weekly: Norvell’s grand return in green and gold

A little over a year ago, Jay Norvell was in Albertsons Stadium wearing Navy blue and leading Nevada to a 41-31 win over Boise State, the Wolf Pack’s first on the blue turf in 24 years. A couple months later, he stunned everyone in Reno by leaving for a conference rival, Colorado State. Norvell’s reasoning was thinly-veiled: CSU had better resources, far better facilities and, theoretically, better community support. And the Rams were going to pay him a lot more money than cash-strapped Nevada. Now, past the halfway point of his first season in Fort Collins, the reality of the rebuild has set in. Colorado State is 2-5 and has not scored 20 points in a game yet this year going into a matchup with the defense-happy Broncos this Saturday. Not to say that Norvell won’t get it done at some point, but this is tough.


Colorado State’s relationship with the transfer portal is the stuff of legend. There were more than 50 new players on the Rams roster at the start of the 2022 season. The big news there: 11 players left Nevada and followed Norvell to CSU. Included in the exodus: current Colorado State starting quarterback Clay Millen, leading rusher Avery Morrow and leading receiver Tory Horton. Morrow has three straight 100-yard games, and Horton (brother of former Boise State cornerback Tyler Horton) is second in the Mountain West in receiving yards. But the Rams are averaging only 267 yards per game and are converting just 18 percent of their third downs. CSU’s depth is sapped, as since the season began, 15 players have either entered the portal or announced their intention to do it.


The fact that Boise State was shut out in the second half of the 19-14 win at Air Force last Saturday will not sit well with Dirk Koetter. But his offense was facing massive adversity—having to operate without its one-two punch at running back, George Holani and Ashton Jeanty. The Broncos went with Elelyon Noa as their primary back after halftime, and he performed admirably, getting tough yards despite netting only 45 yards on 17 carries. But Boise State needed Noa. It was surprising that Taylen Green didn’t carry the ball more in that scenario—witness the game-saving 15-yard run he made on third-and-11 with just over a minute left.


The biggest question of the week went unanswered Monday by Andy Avalos, as in, will either Holani or Jeanty play against Colorado State? Both? Neither? Avalos just won’t go there. Not that the Broncos would take anything for granted against the Rams, but they could probably go with Noa in this one and be fine. Things might open up more for Noa versus CSU than they did against the Falcons defense. And wouldn’t you love to see Tyler Crowe get an opportunity? Good things happen when he touches the ball—like a big 26-yard catch from Green in Colorado Springs. Hey, Crowe got the game-clinching first down last year at BYU. The former Skyview star would work in this scenario.


I had a Scott Slant reader email me and say she could listen to Koetter all day. Boise State’s interim offensive coordinator puts it all out there. Why didn’t quarterback Green run more at Air Force? “The secret’s out that Taylen’s a pretty good runner and pretty fast,” said Koetter on Monday. “So teams have changed the way they’re playing our read game, and they’re doing more to box him in.” He also acknowledges he’s been “super conservative” in the red zone. Among the things contributing to that, says Koetter: the Broncos have Jonah Dalmas, they’ve been playing with the lead for 10 of the last 12 quarters, and they have a pretty darn good defense. On the other hand, Koetter has stressed to his offense: “There’s going to come a time where we can’t be 1-for-3 on touchdowns in the red zone.”


Jonah Dalmas must have been caught up in the bad karma at Oregon State when he uncharacteristically missed two field goals. While many were afraid that game was a bad omen for Boise State, not many were worried about Dalmas. Since then, the Rocky Mountain grad has connected on 13 straight field goals, including those four big ones in the win at Air Force, and Dalmas has earned another Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week award. He is now 47-of-52 in his career—the 90.4 percent accuracy rate is second in the nation among active kickers. And those 47 makes put Dalmas third on the all-time Boise State list. He is four behind Mike Black for second, and 20 behind career leader Kyle Brotzman. Reminder: Dalmas is only a junior, and half of his freshman season was wiped out by COVID.


Let’s go into a little detail on the job Boise State’s defense did at Air Force. The Falcons came in as the nation’s top rushing offense at 360 yards per game. For only the second time this season, the Falcons were held to under 200 yards on the ground—175 to be exact—and their 3.5 yards per carry was their lowest mark of the season (they had been averaging 5.9). Brad Roberts, the Mountain West’s leading rusher, came in No. 6 in the nation, and he was held to 90 yards and just 3.6 per carry. Quarterback Haaziq Daniels had his moments, with a 14-yard TD run and a 27-yard gain during Air Force’s fourth quarter touchdown drive, but outside of those, the longest run by the Falcons all night was seven yards. Considering the circumstances: the best defensive effort of the year.


Brett Rypien was better than his stats indicate in his second start for Denver. The former Boise State star went 24-of-46 for 225 yards and an interception in Sunday’s 16-9 loss to the New York Jets. While he did make some marginal decisions, Rypien did make some nice throws. On some of the incompletions, he simply needed his receivers to make plays. More criticism is being leveled at coach Nathaniel Hackett than Rypien. Why did Hackett have him throw 46 times? No word yet on Russell Wilson’s status for this Sunday’s game in London against Jacksonville. But with what’s been called a partially-torn hamstring, many say it would be surprising to see Denver play Wilson across the pond.


It’s the showdown of the year to this point in the Big Sky, a game that sure didn’t carry that label at the beginning of the season. Idaho and Sacramento State, both 4-0 in conference, meet Saturday night in the home of the Hornets. Sac State is No. 2 in the FCS, while the Vandals have risen to No. 14 in what has turned into a special season. One of the underappreciated reasons is turnovers. Idaho is a robust plus-12 in turnover margin after its 56-21 romp over Portland State. The Vandals defense picked off the Vikings three times, with Tommy McCormick snagging his fourth interception of the season and the third in four games. Murvin Kenyon III grabbed his third interception of the season. McCormick now has as many picks by himself as Idaho had as a team last season.


No rest for the weary, as College of Idaho returns from its long trip to Dillon, MT, undefeated no more. The usually-stout Coyotes defense was gashed for 558 yards in a 40-35 loss to Montana Western. The Yotes are still in first place in the Frontier Conference, though, with the remaining three games of the season all serving as the back-ends of home-and-home series. Coach Mike Moroski said on KTIK Tuesday that playing conference teams twice is a necessary evil with so few non-conference options available for NAIA teams in the Northwest. The first such matchup is Saturday at Simplot Stadium versus Southern Oregon, a team C of I beat 42-24 in Ashland in September.


The NBA and its G League developmental circuit are more aligned than ever, so Abu Kigab’s selection in the first round of the G League Draft this week is significant for the former Boise State star. Kigab was taken by the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Indiana Pacers affiliate. NBA eyes will be on him. Kigab’s leadership and defense carried the Broncos to the Mountain West championship and the NCAA Tournament last season. He was the MW Tournament MVP to boot.


Is it too early to say the Idaho Steelheads are on a roll? The Steelheads are back for their home debut against the Utah Grizzlies Friday night after opening the season with a decisive sweep of the Iowa Heartlanders last weekend. The Steelies put up 12 goals versus the Heartlanders, including an opening night hat trick from Ryan Dmowski. Adam Scheel, newly-arrived from the AHL’s Texas Stars, made 26 saves in net in that one for the victory. KTIK’s John Patrick pointed out that Scheel’s last game in college in 2021 at North Dakota was one of the longest in NCAA history. It went 142 minutes and 13 seconds—the equivalent of almost 2½ games—and Minnesota-Duluth won it 3-2 on a goal by Luke Mylymok, son of Steelheads legend Jeremy Mylymok.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…payroll, process and prosperity for your business.

October 26, 2007, 15 years ago today: In the most-hyped game in the San Joaquin Valley since Fresno State’s 2005 win over Boise State, the Broncos go back to Bulldog Stadium and dominate their WAC rival, 34-21. With star tailback Ian Johnson out due to a bruised kidney, freshmen backups D.J. Harper and Jeremy Avery each posted 100-yard games, with 153 and 124 yards, respectively. Avery scored three touchdowns and Harper one. In turn, the Boise State defense stopped the vaunted Fresno State running game. The victory launched the Broncos back into the Top 25 at No. 21 in the AP Poll and No. 22 in the Coaches Poll. They had been out of the rankings since a September loss at Washington.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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