Circling the wagons on sack attacks

Boise State held its first scrimmage of fall camp last night at Albertsons Stadium, closed to the media and public. One hope is that the offensive line held its own. The O-line was makeshift in the spring, but that happens. That unit in particular was hard to judge. But this time of year, the Broncos have to identify a group they can glue together, as it determines so much of what the offense will be able to do. Third-round NFL Draft pick Rees Odhiambo and Marcus Henry are gone, but Boise State has experience returning at every position. Odhiambo missed the final five games of last season and was primarily replaced by Archie Lewis, and Henry was out in fall camp last August. That’s when Meridian High grad Mason Hampton, now a starter, received invaluable reps at center.

There is one glaring facet of the offensive line’s play that has to improve this year. Going into the Poinsettia Bowl last December, there was a danger of Boise State yielding more sacks than it made for the first time since 2001. The Broncos’ phenomenal defensive performance in the 55-7 rout of Northern Illinois saved the day, as they recorded five sacks and gave up two. The final tally for the campaign was 33 sacks for and 31 against. That 31 is not a good number, though. Boise State’s offensive line had high expectations going into the season but struggled at times to protect Ryan Finley—and then Brett Rypien.

The sacks have indeed been trending upward. They jumped in 2013, as Boise State gave up 26 sacks after yielding 10 or fewer the previous four seasons. Those 31 allowed last year were the Broncos’ most in the new century. Let’s reflect on Kellen Moore in relation to sack totals. He stayed injury-free during his spectacular four-year career at BSU. Part of it was his uncanny ability to take two steps and avoid the pass rush and his quick decisions and quick release. But a huge key was Moore’s offensive line in pass protection. During Kellen’s four seasons, Boise State yielded 34 sacks. Combined. In 2009 there were only five.

College of Idaho Fall camp begins tomorrow, and suddenly there are lots of upperclassmen. Guys like safety Cory Brady who were part of the Coyotes’ “zero year” program in 2013 when the football program was revived are juniors now. Brady, the Bishop Kelly grad, leads the Yotes defense coming into the season, bringing nine career interceptions with him. C of I’s offensive centerpiece is tight end Marcus Lenhardt of Eagle, another junior who was a “zero year” participant. Lenhardt’s first two seasons produced 83 receptions for 1,271 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The NFL exhibition season (you can still call it “exhibition”) opened last night. There were nine Boise State products in action—let’s zero in on the rookies and the guys trying to catch on with new teams. Kamalei Correa, Baltimore’s second-round draft pick, played against Carolina but didn’t log a tackle. Ryan Clady started at left tackle for the Jets versus Jacksonville, his first game action in a year and a half. Kelsey Young did not play for Washington against Atlanta. Billy Winn got in for Denver versus Chicago and didn’t have a tackle. Marcus Henry got a shot for New Orleans against New England. Across the way in that game, Shea McClellin made four tackles in his first appearance in a Patriots uniform.

Olympic golf is taking on the feel of bowl games (outside the New Year’s Six, anyway). The golfers who really want to be there have a competitive advantage. Graham DeLaet is excited to be in Rio, and he played well for Canada in the first round of men’s medal play yesterday. The former Boise State star fired a five-under 66 that included six birdies, four of them on the front nine. DeLaet is tied for second with British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden, three shots behind Marcus Fraser of Australia. Stateside at the John Deere Classic near Chicago, Troy Merritt bogeyed two of the first three holes but then settled down to card a one-under 70. Tyler Aldridge was one-under through 10 holes before play was suspended.

Boise State will be playing under international rules as it begins its tour of Costa Rica today with a doubleheader against two Canadian teams, Brock University and the University of Ottawa. Games will consist of four 10-minute quarters versus two 20-minute halves in the NCAA (that’s not a big deal). But there’s a longer three-point distance, a wider lane, a 24-second shot clock, and an eight-second limit on backcourt violations. The Broncos will have to learn how to play faster—and stronger. Tomorrow they’ll face the Costa Rican national team, and they’ll wrap up the slate Sunday with a rematch versus Ottawa.

It was “Thirsty Thursday” at Memorial Stadium last night. And fittingly, the Boise Hawks were hosting the Hillsboro Hops in the finale of their three-game series. The Hops were frothing early again last night, building a 6-1 lead midway through the third inning and holding on for a 6-5 victory that ended with Willie Abreu grounding into a double play with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning. That spoiled another solid night from the Hawks’ Garrett Hampson, who went 3-for-5 and knocked in three runs. Hampson’s batting average is just about back to .300 (it’s .299). The Hawks open a five-game home series tonight versus the Tri-City Dust Devils.

Maybe we should call him a temporary Boise Hawk instead of a former one, but we’ll still take note of Colorado Rockies rookie David Dahl matching a modern-day major league record with a hit in each of his first 17 career games. The 22-year-old centerfielder set the mark with a single yesterday in the Rockies’ 12-9 track meet victory over the Texas Rangers. Dahl, who was called up by Colorado on July 25, is now batting .358. He paid a rather nondescript visit to the Hawks last summer on a rehab assignment and went 3-for-24 in six games.

Idaho Steelheads coach Neil Graham is piecing together his roster for the 2016-17 season, with training camp eight weeks away. The Steelheads have agreed to terms with defenseman Joe Faust, a one-time fourth-round NHL draft pick of the New Jersey Devils. Faust has played parts of two seasons in the AHL and finished last season in the ECHL with the Adirondack Thunder. Prior to turning pro, Faust played four seasons of Division I hockey at Wisconsin.

I was deservedly called out on Idaho SportsTalk’s Negative Instant Messages yesterday for attaching “Tarheels” to North Carolina State. When I heard that on IST, I didn’t believe it, so I had to look it up in the column. There it was. I know what happened. I was concentrating so hard on “Wolfpack” being one word, unlike Nevada’s version, that I wrote “Tarheels,” making sure it was one word (somehow that got into my head) . Are you buying this? Really, that was it. Sorry for the error.

This Day In Sports…August 12, 1994:

One of baseball’s darkest hours, as MLB players go on strike, ultimately wiping out the rest of the season and—for the first time—the World Series. The teams with the best records at the time were the New York Yankees and, incredibly, the Montreal Expos. The ordeal would last through spring training and into the 1995 season, 233 days in all. Many fans said they’d never come back. But, as they always do, most eventually did.

(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.)