It used to be called “reading your press clippings.” Now I guess it’s “press postings.” At any rate, now that Mountain West Media Days have passed, with praise heaped upon Boise State, players have to ignore the hype. “That’s one thing I really enjoy about our team,” said senior cornerback Tyler Horton. “We really don’t buy into that talk. Day in, day out, we know if we don’t put the work in, none of this means anything.” It’s not easy, especially when the hoopla hits a crescendo like it has this summer. “It takes a tremendous amount of focus,” said quarterback Brett Rypien. “After you win, maybe you don’t concentrate as much on your footwork in practice, or on your filmwork. We can’t allow ourselves to do that.”
On the expectations front for those unanimous Mountain Division favorites, ESPN.com took a look yesterday at the over/under on win totals for FBS teams. Westgate posts odds on about half of the teams, while South Point lists all 129. The two Las Vegas books both had Boise State at 10.0 victories this season. Next in the Mountain West is San Diego State at 8.5 and Fresno State at 8.0. Interestingly, South Point tabs Utah State at 7.5 wins and Wyoming at 6.5. Also of note, Oklahoma State comes in at 8.0 victories, and BYU is at 5.0 (oh, that would not be good coming off that 4-9 last year).
The most talked-about Boise State game of 2017 at Mountain West Media Days was not the Las Vegas Bowl, nor the Mountain West title tilt. It was the victory at Colorado State, where the Broncos rallied from a 25-point deficit to win 59-52 in overtime last November. “I was going for two if we had scored (in OT)—we were about to score,” said CSU coach Mike Bobo. But, of course, Leighton Vander Esch forced a fumble, and Horton recovered it to end the game. Rams running back Izzy Matthews, who missed the game with an injury, feels his team didn’t handle success too well when it was 35-10. “I think we got a little head of ourselves—we were a little overconfident,” said Matthews. “To beat Boise State, who’s been the dynasty in this conference for I don’t know how long, that’s kind of where it showed.”
While answering a question about improvements to Albertsons Stadium Tuesday, Boise State coach Bryan Harsin flipped the subject to the blue turf. “It had better be replaced when the season’s over,” said Harsin, pointing out the surface is falling apart. The latest carpet was installed back in 2010—we are indeed up against the typical life span of artificial turf. And Harsin, noticing that the lines on the field can be a little wobbly, said BYU’s Fred Warner would have been out of bounds on a 2016 pick-six had the lines been straight. Members of the media laughed, but Harsin was serious. I looked at the video on YouTube, and the shot isn’t tight enough to tell. But whatever. Boise State athletic director Curt Apsey said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk his goal is to replace the blue before the 2019 season kicks off.
The NCAA has packaged watch list season into a two-week window this year, and yesterday was the second-to-last day. Rypien was named for the Wuerffel Trophy, and Boise State cornerback and kick returner Avery Williams was tabbed for the Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the nation’s most versatile player. This marks Williams’ first-ever watch list nod, two days after he was named Mountain West Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year. Williams ran two punts back for touchdowns last season, and both were huge—at home versus Troy and at San Diego State. But his most important return of the year came in the Mountain West championship game, when he took a Fresno State punt 39 yards to the Bulldogs four-yard line, setting up one of only two Bronco touchdowns in their 17-14 victory.
The Hornung Award watch list is a natural landing spot for Idaho senior linebacker and tight end Kaden Elliss. He is most certainly versatile. Elliss has 228 career tackles—including 32 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks plus five interceptions—and was a second-team All-Sun Belt ‘backer last year. But he also made an impactful debut on offense last season, taking snaps at tight end, slot receiver and fullback. Elliss caught seven passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns and is expected to have an expanded role on the offensive side of the ball this year.
High winds and potential lightning strikes suspended play in the first round of the RBC Canadian Open yesterday, with Troy Merritt still on the course in Oakville, Ont. Merritt came out of the gate a mere mortal after shooting a 62 to open the Barbasol Championship a week ago, leading to his second PGA Tour victory. The Meridian resident and former Boise State star was even-par through 12 holes. The leader in the clubhouse is Robert Garrigus, whose only tie to Idaho is that he was born in Nampa. But he’s worth a mention. Garrigus fired a nine-under 63 at the Glen Abbey Golf Club.
Outside of a two-run third inning, the Boise Hawks couldn’t muster any clutch offense last night in a 5-2 loss at Hillsboro. The Hawks went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Elsewhere, former Hawk Gleyber Torres returned to the New York Yankees lineup Wednesday night—he had been out since the 4th of July with a right hip strain. Torres has gone 1-for-7 with one run scored in the two games since. When he was sidelined, he was hitting .294 with 15 home runs and 42 RBIs. The apparent two-man race for American Rookie of the Year honors may have flip-flopped, as Angels dual-threat phenom Shosei Ohtani returned from the DL about the time Torres was hurt. Ohtani has only appeared at the plate since coming back, though. He hasn’t taken the mound again yet.
This Day In Sports…July 27, 2011:
The Seattle Mariners end the longest losing streak in their history with a 9-2 win over the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium. The Mariners had been at .500 on July 5, 2½ games out of first place in the American League West. Then they lost 17 games in a row, the longest streak in the majors in six years. The M’s hit just .218 as a team during the skid. But they posted 17 hits against the Yanks, four of them from Ichiro Suzuki, and rode the pitching of reigning Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez to finally escape the misery.
(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.)