SI’s view of the Broncos

Boise State gets a lot of ink, but the Broncos aren’t in Sports Illustrated’s preseason Top 25. Sports Illustrated’s College Football Preview issue arrived in mailboxes Friday. Boise State gets a lot of ink, but the Broncos aren’t in SI’s preseason Top 25. No Group of Five team is. The magazine devotes a few pages to the Group of Five and tabs the Broncos as the top pick for the mid-majors’ guaranteed spot in the New Year’s Six bowls again. The synopsis from Chris Johnson: “After a home opener against Washington, Boise has two chances to boost its resume with games at BYU and Virginia. Even a non-conference loss won’t derail the Broncos as long as they take care of business in the Mountain West—especially their October 16 game at Utah State.” Two trips to the state of Utah this year for Boise State, and so much at stake. Oh, and USU gets the nod as the second-best bet for that New Year’s Six bowl berth.

Of the key match ups for the Group of Five this season, the Boise State-Washington game September 4 is listed on top. “Boise State will have a chance to make its case early,” writes Johnson. “The Huskies will be sure to supply a little extra effort for their coach, former Bronco head man Chris Petersen.” The top two “players who deserve attention” are both from the Mountain West, Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins and San Diego State running back D.J. Pumphrey. Higgins led the nation with 145.8 receiving yards per game last season, while Pumphrey was the Mountain West rushing leader with 1,867 yards.

The most ink for Boise State in the new SI is in a feature called “The Trigonometry Of Trickery,” and you can guess which play is spotlighted. Well, maybe you can’t if you’re choosing between the Statue of Liberty and the hook-and-lateral. It’s “Statue Left” from the 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma. Albert Chen writes that it’s “Sharpied on the Whiteboard of Fame as one of college football’s greatest plays.” It’svividly described, supported by frame-by-frame photos. “The play provided the David-and-Goliath moment that justified the BCS and put the entire affair on any credible list of best games ever.” One thing I’ve always wondered: if it’s called “Statue Left,” is there is “Statue Right” hiding on a scrap of paper somewhere?

The walk-on program has been a staple of Boise State football during its run, and the new local additions are official now: tight end Jake Knight (who has to sit out this year), offensive lineman Hunter Nettles, quarterback Garrett Collingham and linebacker Will Heffner. Word is that two more local preferred walk-ons, running backs Sawyer Shields from Eagle High and Tyrus Zimmerman out of Timberline, will join the Broncos in two weeks. The roster is set at 105 players in fall camp but can go as high as 110 when school starts August 24, hence the wait. Both players worked out with the team this summer. Zimmerman is the son of former Bronco tight end Bernie Zimmerman.

This comes from the “exactly what you’d expect Chris Petersen to say” department. When the Washington coach was asked at his first fall camp press conference Friday about the return to Boise State and if it’s impacting Huskies players, Petersen said, “We’ve had zero conversations about that at all. In my mind, we’re a ways away from that game and we always just need to concentrate on ourselves and worry about getting our guys to play the best football they can play. Heck, we know they’re going to have a really good team so we’re not worrying about that. We’re worrying about how good we can be.” Textbook Coach Pete.

Former Boise State linebacker Blake Renaud got his first taste of NFL action last night in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, OH. And Renaud, now an undrafted free agent fullback for Minnesota, actually had a rushing attempt. With the Vikings backed up on their own two-yard line on first down in the final minute of the first half, he bulled his way for two yards. But Renaud’s role is to block (and block well if he’s to stick with the Vikings), and he laid down a nice one inside to help spring former Utah standout Matt Asiata for an 18-yard gain. Minnesota ended up scoring the game’s first touchdown on the drive. Then Renaud set the lead block on the Vikes’ second TD in a 14-3 victory.

Neil Graham is settling in as the new coach of the Idaho Steelheads, replacing his mentor, Brad Ralph. Graham, a one-time Steelheads player, knows his way around CenturyLink Arena. He’s the first Steelies coach to be promoted from within. His six predecessors, Ralph, Hardy Sauter, Derek Laxdal, John Olver, Clint Malarchuk and Dave Langevin, all came from outside the organization. At age 30, Graham is also the youngest head coach in the ECHL.

From the get-go at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, Troy Merritt’s quest was to get out of last place. There was nowhere to go but up after the former Boise State star carded that disastrous 12-over 82 in the first round. Merritt had a chance to escape the cellar after shooting an even-par 70 on Saturday. But alas, he dipped back to 75 in yesterday’s final round, so he goes from first to last one week after his first PGA Tour victory. Merritt was able to scrape by with a check for $40,750, though. Elsewhere, Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge tied for 33rd yesterday in the Tour’s Digital Ally Open in Overland Park, KS. Martin Piller, the Albertsons Boise Open champion four weeks ago, won the tournament—his second victory of the season.

The Boise Hawks were welcomed home last night with a four-run first inning from the Eugene Emeralds. It couldn’t have been a better start for former Hawks manager Gary Van Tol, spending his first evening in the visitors’ dugout at Memorial Stadium as skipper of the Emeralds. Albert Alzolay, who pitched all of one game for the Hawks last season, came on in middle relief for the Ems and threw three scoreless innings of one-hit ball. Eugene won, 6-3.

Scott Stevens, one of Les Bois Park’s all-time great jockeys and the brother of Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, returned to the Garden City track on the last day of the season Saturday to ride in two Idaho Cup races. Stevens won the $30,000 Idaho Cup Juvenile aboard Top Game and finished third in the Au Revoir season finale riding Maravillosa Marcos. The biggest race of the weekend, the $76,860 Les Bois Challenge Championship, was won by Sign of Corona and jockey Eddie Aceves. Meanwhile, BAM Jam Boise wrapped up yesterday downtown with Tick Tock Media winning the Men’s Elite Over-6’0” division, STADIA taking the Men’s Elite Under-6’0” championship, and Hapa Lolo winning the Women’s Elite division. Tick Tock Media was led by former Boise State standout Reggie Larry. Mountain West Nugget of the Day: The conference has prided itself on bowl success, and it has made up at least a little ground after a disappointing 2012 bowl season. Over its first 13 seasons, the Mountain West posted a 31-20 bowl record and captured the Bowl Challenge Cup four times from 2005-11. But the MW went just 1-4 in the 2012 postseason, with Air Force, Fresno State and San Diego State all suffering poundings in their bowl games. The league was 3-3 in 2013, but the three teams that lost, Boise State, Fresno State and UNLV, did so decisively. Last season the Mountain West was 3-4 in bowls but was on the short end of only two routs (Colorado State and Fresno State), and, of course, the Broncos capped it with their Fiesta Bowl win over Arizona.

This Day In Sports…August 10, 2011:

Boise State president Bob Kustra announces that athletic director Gene Bleymaier is being relieved of his duties after almost 30 years at the helm. Kustra pointed to the ramifications of an NCAA investigation into the Bronco program as the core issue. Bleymaier masterminded the installation of the blue turf in 1986, guided Boise State into Division I-A in 1996, and oversaw a football program that became one of the sport’s biggest stories of the new century, with a regular spot in the Top 25 and two Fiesta Bowl victories. The swiftness and suddenness of the move shocked many Bronco supporters.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)