Heisman push propels Pumphrey, Aztecs

Boise State fans wish the Broncos were playing San Diego State during the regular season, and the feeling is mutual. I’ve been saving this from USAToday.com last week, if only because it’s great offseason fodder for Boise State fans. They wish the Broncos were playing San Diego State during the regular season, and the feeling is mutual around Montezuma Mesa. The Aztecs have heard all the talk about Houston—and, to a lesser extent, Boise State—carrying the Group of 5 banner this year. San Diego State feels it is a New Year’s Six bowl candidate, because it’s the one with a Heisman Trophy candidate. That would be Donell Pumphrey, the senior running back who has led the Mountain West in rushing the past two seasons. USA Today’s Paul Myerberg sees Pumphrey as “the heir to Marshall Faulk’s legacy” at SDSU.

Pumphrey keyed San Diego State’s 10-game winning streak to end the 2015 season, capped by a rout of Cincinnati in the Hawaii Bowl. He rushed for 1,653 yards last year after a school-record 1,867 the season before. In 40 career games for the Aztecs, Pumphrey has scored a touchdown in 27 of them. “I would put him against anybody,” SDSU offensive coordinator Jeff Horton said of Pumphrey. “He’s a special kid, a special talent.” Pumphrey will have to be really special to be on the same Heisman page as a certain player 450 miles to the north, one Christian McCaffery of Stanford.

Writes Myerberg: “For Pumphrey, all that’s missing is a spotlight. San Diego State doesn’t enjoy the same television platform as members of the Power Five, let alone the publicity afforded to Boise State, its primary rival in the Mountain West Conference. San Diego State’s push for an invitation to a New Year’s Six bowl will boost Pumphrey into the Heisman mix, just as his own production will ensure the Aztecs challenge for an unbeaten regular season.” The Aztecs and Broncos are in the second season of their two-year football hiatus due to the Mountain West’s scheduling rotation. Maybe San Diego State and Boise State will indeed meet the first Saturday in December.

There has been a new position added to the Boise State football staff, and the Broncos have hired a high-profile Texas high school coach to fill it. Chris Ross, the head coach at Prosper High, will be the director of program development at BSU. Recruiting will be key among his duties (and the Texas pipeline will remain open). Ross coached Boise State incoming freshman running back Robert Mahone at Prosper.

Boise State appears to have replaced the measurables of departed seniors Anthony Drmic and Mikey Thompson. Now the Broncos just need to replace the stats and intangibles. Boise State yesterday officially announced the signing of Cameron Oluyitan, the 6-6 transfer guard from Gillette College in Wyoming. Now the Broncos have landed a commitment from 6-2 point guard Marcus Dickinson from Norman, OK. Dickinson averaged 20.1 points per game last season and shot 57 percent from the field, an extraordinary number for a guard. He also likes the other end of the floor. According to BroncoCountry.com, Dickinson told Sportstalk 1400 in Norman, “I feel like I’m one of the best defenders in the state. I love to step up to the plate and guard the opposing team’s best player, and I like to stop them.”

Well, it lasted less than one year for Mark Coyle at Syracuse. The former Boise State athletic director has left the same post at Syracuse to become the new AD at Minnesota. He must have really enjoyed his previous time in the Land of 10,000 Lakes—he was associate athletic director at Minnesota from 2001-05—because he really left the Orange in the lurch. Coyle had been with the Broncos for 3½ years before taking the Syracuse job last June. He has a repair job awaiting with the Gophers thanks to myriad off-field problems and on-court futility. The Minnesota men’s basketball team went 8-23 this past season.

Graham DeLaet has the first tee time this morning at The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, looking to get back in a rhythm on the PGA Tour. Making the cut is better than the alternative, but finishing last among those who play the weekend is not glorious. That’s what happened to DeLaet last weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship. Troy Merritt is also in the field. He took last week off, but he had pretty much the same experience as his former Boise State teammate two weeks ago at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Merritt made the cut but finished in a tie for 72nd.

The Northwest Nazarene baseball team is in rare territory, hosting the 4th annual Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships today and tomorrow at Vail Field in Nampa. The Crusaders go into the three-team, double-elimination tournament as the top seed after tying for first place in the GNAC last weekend. First pitch is set for noon today, with No. 2 seed MSU Billings taking on No. 3 seed Western Oregon. NNU then plays at 3:30 p.m. versus WOU, followed by the Crusaders and MSU-Billings tonight at 7 p.m. The championship round will be played tomorrow afternoon. NNU is led by newly-named GNAC Player of the Year Tyler Davis and Coach of the Year Rocke Musgraves.

Boise State distance running star Allie Ostrander will be absent from the Mountain West Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which begin today near Fresno. Ostrander is still rehabbing an injury suffered during the indoor season, forcing her to drop out of the 5,000-meters at the NCAA Indoor nationals two months ago, and it’s almost certain she’ll be able to redshirt the outdoor season. The true freshman’s target for a healthy return is the U.S. Olympic Trials in early July. Ostrander produced stunning success during the cross country season last fall, finishing second at the NCAA Championships, and again during the winter when she was named Mountain West Women’s Indoor Athlete of the Year.

Before they’ve even flipped and stuck for Boise State, two incoming freshman for the Bronco women’s gymnastics team will have Olympic experience. Panama’s Isabella Amado and New Zealand’s Courtney McGregor will compete individually in the women’s artistic all-around at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. The duo will become the first Bronco gymnasts in school history to compete at the Olympics. Amado and McGregor are two of just 38 gymnasts to qualify as individuals in Rio.

This Day In Sports…May 12, 1970:

Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub”, hits his 500th career home run in a game against the Atlanta Braves. Banks slugged 512 homers all told—he led the National League in dingers twice: in 1958 and 1960. He was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999 and was the first Cub ever to have his number retired (his iconic No. 14). Banks loved the game; you can still hear him saying, “Let’s play two!” Banks died in January of last year—man would he love what’s going on at Wrigley Field today.

(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.)