Five takeaways from Phil’s encyclopedia

Phil Steele’s magazine is 352 pages, and that’s saying something, because it’s in tiny type (as usual). With Mountain West Media Days now a week away, it’s time for a 2015 Boise State primer. And no better source than Phil Steele’s College Football Preview. Steele must sleep about three hours a night—he has once again compiled a monstrous magazine packed with every little fact. It’s 352 pages, and that’s saying something, because it’s in tiny type with lots of abbreviations (as usual). The first takeaway from Steele’s publication is his prediction that the Broncos will again win the Mountain West—for one thing, they don’t have to face San Diego State, Fresno State or Nevada this year. Steele sees Boise State’s biggest impediment to the trophy the October 16 game at Utah State, the Broncos’ third road test in a four-week stretch (the other two trips are to Virginia and Colorado State).

Other takeaways: Steele recognizes that the loss of Jay Ajayi to the NFL isn’t disastrous for Boise State. Even if—as Steele points out—the Jay-Train gained 32.8 percent of his school-record 1,823 rushing yards in the fourth quarter last year. (There are lots of “I did not know that” stats in the magazine.) The Broncos have had a 1,000-yard rusher in six straight seasons. Can someone like Jeremy McNichols make it seven? Last season McNichols was nicknamed the “Weapon”; Steele calls him “McWeapon.” McNichols averaged 13.9 yards per touch in 2014. And it’s duly noted that Stanford transfer Kelsey Young is a positive addition to the roster.

If championships start in the trenches, Steele’s position ratings bode well for Boise State. He has the Bronco offensive and defensive lines ranked No. 1 in the Mountain West. Another “did you know?” item: BSU had a first-team all-conference left tackle on the O-line for nine straight seasons until Rees Odhiambo, struggling to stay healthy, was named second-team All-Mountain West last year. But despite sporting their least-experienced offensive line in a decade, Steele says, the Broncos produced their best rushing number, 214 yards per game, since 2006.

Boise State’s lowest Mountain West position group ranking in Steele’s College Football Preview is its No. 7 for special teams. The Broncos will be missing Dan Goodale, who led the nation in touchbacks last season with 65. And they averaged only 18.8 yards per kickoff return last season. Still, writes Steele, “Given their history with this unit, I expect a move up in my special teams rankings.” Steele doesn’t talk much about punter Sean Wale, but he was one of Boise State’s most improved players last year. Wale’s wobblers of August and September turned into boomers by the end of December, when he set a Bronco bowl and all-time postseason record by averaging 49.5 yards per punt in the Fiesta Bowl.

Steele also has statistical footnotes on Boise State’s first two games of the season. The first one, of course, is against Washington. The Broncos have won 13 straight home openers—by an average of 33 points per game. There you go. The second game is at BYU. Boise State is 5-5 in road openers over the past decade but has lost three straight. And the Broncos’ last trip to Provo, in 2013 when Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill was healthy and active, produced a 37-20 loss, their only one in the five-game series between the two schools.

Boise State athletic Hall of Famer Arnell Jones is proof positive that there’s no tolerance today for domestic abuse. Jones, the 1987 Big Sky men’s basketball Player of the Year, was arrested in Boise last week on four felony counts. His name is besmirched. There’s certainly no tolerance for current athletes. San Jose State football coach Ron Caragher has dismissed true freshman wide receiver Kanya Bell Jr. from the football team after an on-campus arrest last Saturday for domestic battery involving a female. Caragher said San Jose has “zero tolerance” for that behavior. And Colorado State basketball player Gian Clavell was jailed overnight last Friday after an altercation with a female student that was witnessed by CSU campus police. Clavell, the Rams’ top returning scorer, has been suspended by coach Larry Eustachy.

Another bad inning looked like it was going to do in the Boise Hawks last night. Spokane plated five runs in the fifth to take a 7-1 lead at Memorial Stadium—then the floodgates opened on the other side of the dam. Incredibly, the Hawks scored 13 unanswered runs from there and won going away, 14-7. Five of the tallies came in the seventh despite only one hit. In only his third game with the Hawks, Nate Causey went 3-for-4 with five RBIs on the night and was a home run short of the cycle. The rubber match of the five-game series against the Indians is tonight.

How about the game former Hawk Kyle Schwarber had last night? The Chicago Cubs rookie clocked the first multi-homer game of his career, hitting a two-run shot to tie the game in the ninth inning—and a solo homer in the 13th to beat the Reds in Cincinnati, 5-4. Schwarber went 4-for-7 with four runs batted in. He’s now hitting .410, with 10 RBIs in 11 games as a Cub.

The Idaho Steelheads have Rob Linsmayer back, and that’s a good thing. The 25-year-old forward out of Holy Cross has agreed to terms and will join the Steelies for his third professional season. Over the first two, Linsmayer skated in 74 total games with Idaho, scoring 20 goals and adding 24 assists. He missed much of last season with an injury, but once he was activated he contributed 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 17 games with a plus-10 rating. Two of Linsmayer’s three goals were game-winning tallies.

The Meridian-based FC Nova Nationals played to a 0-0 draw against the Beadling SC Thunder of Pittsburgh in the first round of the U.S. U19 Girls Youth Soccer National Championships yesterday. The Nova Nationals next meet Tampa Bay United Premier this morning at the tournament in Tulsa, OK. Tampa Bay comes in as the Region III champion. Round robin group play continues tomorrow—the top two teams advance to Saturday’s national championship game.

A couple hoops notes: Boise State has drawn UC Irvine in the first round of the Wooden Legacy tournament on Thanksgiving Day in Anaheim. The survivor meets the winner of the Michigan State-Boston College game the following day. Matchups on the other side of the bracket pit Arizona against Santa Clara and Providence versus Evansville. And Mountain View star Destiny Slocum’s floor time is increasing at the FIBA U19 World Championships in Russia. Slocum logged 14 minutes yesterday, scoring four points and dishing out four assists in the Americans’ 104-41 annihilation of Egypt. Team USA, undefeated in the tournament, now moves on to the round of 16 versus Argentina.

This Day In Sports…July 22, 2012:

In a classic meltdown, Adam Scott lets a four-shot lead with four holes to play slip away at the 141st British Open. Scott bogeyed each of the final four holes at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, allowing steady South African Ernie Els to finish a rally from seven strokes back in the final round for the victory. Els, the first Albertsons Boise Open alum to win one of golf’s major tournaments (US Open, 1997), claimed his fourth major and first in 10 years. Els was as surprised as anyone.

(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.)