Deciphering Blue & Orange Game doings

Conclusions are hard to come by in spring football outside of individual superlatives. Conclusions are hard to come by in spring football outside of individual superlatives. And even those solo performances can have asterisks. Tomorrow night in the annual Blue & Orange Game at Albertsons Stadium, we’ll try to figure out if the rebuilding project on the Boise State defensive line is really ahead of schedule—or if this spring’s makeshift offensive line is a factor. The truth is probably somewhere in between, as the young O-line operates without the rehabbing Mario Yakoo and Archie Lewis.

You keep hearing three names this spring on the D-line: Gabe Perez, Jabril Frazier and David Moa. Perez’s return from injury is now being appreciated. He was a great complement to Kamalei Correa during the 2014 season, and he pushed Correa to be better. Frazier persevered through academic ineligibility two years ago, and worked his way back. He was still getting used to FBS football during much of last season, but he’s fully acclimated now and is everybody’s pick for a breakout this year. And Moa had praise heaped upon him this week by defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. The 6-3, 268-pound sophomore had one sack last year.

The indication from Boise State coach Bryan Harsin Wednesday was that Brett Rypien has indeed separated himself from fellow quarterbacks Ryan Finley and Tommy Stuart. Rypien was the best one out there at last Saturday’s scrimmage, although the Bronco offense was flat overall. That brings up another facet of Rypien’s game that he can draw on tomorrow evening: leadership. If his offensive teammates are “lethargic,” as co-offensive coordinator Scott Huff said last Saturday, Rypien should be a guy who can guide them out of their funk. He had the look of a plaer older than his years last fall when Boise State won each of his first four appearances by a combined score of 204-24. Then Rypien learned a lot about adversity in losses to Utah State, New Mexico and Air Force. He’s pretty experienced for a sophomore.

Spring football continues elsewhere. Idaho holds its second spring tomorrow morning in the Kibbie Dome, with Aaron Duckworth on stage in the backfield. Now that Elijhaa Penny has departed, Duckworth is getting a good look at running back. The 5-8, 201-pound junior produced in last week’s scrimmage at Lewiston with 103 yards and three touchdowns on just 14 carries. College of Idaho is wrapping up its second week of spring ball, with first-year co-offensive coordinators Mike Cody and Mitch Dahlen installing some new wrinkles to the offense. The Coyotes don’t scrimmage until next Saturday.

Troy Merritt is on the bubble to make the cut in his first Masters. A solid round today, and the former Boise State star will play the weekend. Too many bogeys today, and he won’t. Merritt (“I’ll be nervous on the first tee,” he told Golf.com early in the morning) carded a two-over 74 yesterday at Augusta, taking a bogey on the first hole until settling down and parring each stop on the rest of the front nine. He’s tied for 43rd entering today’s second round. Merritt said he worked a lot on his short game during his time off at home in Meridian the past two weeks, and he did not miss a green in regulation on his first-ever day at the Masters.

James Webb III discussed his departure from Boise State yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk, giving a shout-out to fans. “I just hope everybody can put themselves in my shoes,” said Webb. He says his prep for the NBA Combine includes getting his weight up—and showing some things that maybe he hasn’t. “I didn’t shoot the ball well (this season),” Webb acknowledged. “But at the end of the day, I did some things better than I did last year.” Reality is setting in that the Bronco team will essentially be an entirely new one next winter. With Webb gone in addition to Anthony Drmic and Mikey Thompson, Boise State has lost its top three scorers.

The Idaho Steelheads face Missouri for the first time ever this weekend, with the Mavericks serving as guests for the final two games of the regular season in CenturyLink Arena. The Steelheads are trying to hang on for the ECHL West Division title, but whatever happens, the series will provide perfect playoff prep. Missouri, at 51-14-5, has the league’s best record by far. The Mavericks aren’t totally unfamiliar, as former Steelies Jesse Root and David de Kastrozza are on their roster. Unfortunately, Josh Robinson is not right now. Robinson, one of the best goalies ever to come through Boise, tops the ECHL by a wide margin with a 1.84 goals-against average and a stunning record of 27-1-1 for Missouri. He went 40-15-1 in two seasons with the Steelheads. Robinson is on loan currently to Stockton of the AHL.

Boise State men’s tennis may have turned the corner now, having picked up a key 4-1 win at New Mexico last Sunday to extend its win streak to four matches. In fact, all those victories came on the road. Now, the Broncos return home after beginning the season with 16 matches on the road and just five at home. Tonight’s match is a big one. Fresno State is at the Appleton Center with new coach Luke Shields, a former star player and top assistant of Boise State coach Greg Patton. The General has already been ambushed by another prize pupil, Luke’s brother Clancy, who’s the head coach at Utah State. The Aggies beat the Broncos 4-3 last month. Earlier today, the Bronco women host New Mexico at noon, with Patton and friends serving free lunch.

Brian Scott is grinding it out on the NASCAR circuit. The Boise driver is 25th in Sprint Cup Series standings and third on the rookie list after a 26th-place finish last Sunday at the STP 500 in Martinsville, VA. Scott was coming off his best career Sprint Cup finish, his 12th-place result two weeks ago at the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, CA. “Right now, our motto is we’re stacking pennies,” Scott told NASCAR.com before the Martinsville race. “It’s a motto that (crew chief) Chris Heroy shared with me. He’s like, ‘You’ve just got to keep stacking pennies until you make a dollar.’ And that’s what we’re doing. We’re taking small steps in the right direction.”
 Next stop is tomorrow at Texas Motor Speedway.

We didn’t talk last year about Stephen Fife the way we normally do, and there’s a reason for that. To refresh, the Borah High grad became only the second Boise native ever to win a game in the big leagues when he grabbed his first victory for the L.A. Dodgers in 2013 (on the same day Yasiel Puig made his major league debut). But Fife underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014 and missed the entire 2015 season. He’s now in the Chicago Cubs organization and is set to start tonight for Triple-A Iowa. Fife told KTIK’s John Patrick his arm feels as good as it has in five years. In parts of three seasons with the Dodgers, Fife was 4-6 with a 3.66 ERA.

Former Boise Hawk Kyle Schwarber was in a nasty collision with fellow Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler at Arizona last night, and Schwarber looks like he’ll be out awhile. He taken off the field on a cart with an apparent left ankle injury in the second inning of the Cubs’ 14-6 win over the Diamondbacks. Schwarber, who started his pro career in Boise less than two years ago, burst on the Chicago scene the second half of last season with 16 home runs and 43 RBIs as a rookie. He’s 0-for-4 so far this season.

This Day In Sports…April 8, 1974:

In a game plugged into national prime time TV, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hits the 715th home run of his career to break Babe Ruth’s record. Al Downing of the Dodgers served it up. It would be Aaron’s final season with the Braves, as he would finish his career the following year with the Brewers in Milwaukee, former home of the Braves. Hammerin’ Hank’s homer record, of course, ended up at 755, and it lasted 33 years until the infamous Barry Bonds eclipsed it in 2007.

(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.)