There probably isn’t another team in the country that has three senior defensive linemen returning who didn’t play last season. There probably isn’t another team in the country that, like Boise State, has three senior defensive linemen returning who didn’t play last season. At least that’s the case with two of the three, Deuce Mataele and Justin Taimatuia. The third, Tyler Horn, was lost to a knee injury in the opener last August against Ole Miss. Horn is the veteran one among the trio. The Mountain View High grad is the only remaining Bronco who was once an active teammate of Kellen Moore. Horn played as a true freshman in 2011. How’s this for a memory-maker? His first tackle was in the opener, the 35-21 win over Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. Horn has jockeyed between end and tackle throughout his career, and he may yet do that this year.
Taimatuia has a different memory to draw from going into his senior season. The defensive tackle from American Samoa missed last season after a heel injury developed in fall camp. But Taimatuia was thrown right into the fire as a junior college transfer two years ago, logging extensive time in the humbling 38-6 loss at Washington in the season opener and making two solo tackles. Mataele has no on-field memories with the Broncos. He was declared ineligible by the NCAA in 2013—he was allowed to return to the team in 2014 but was banned from playing until this year. The buzz surrounding Mataele is just as strong as it was two years ago.
Boise State defensive line coach Steve Caldwell has a whopping 20 D-linemen on the official roster right now. There could easily be three sets of four trenchmen rotating in. The Broncos should be fresh up front in the fourth quarter. How does Caldwell tell all these players apart? With the big laminated name strips taped across the front of their helmets. The most interesting guy in practice is Mataele. Virtually everyone except Mataele has his last name on his helmet. Deuce has his real first name, “Tutulupeatau,” on the strip. Try saying that 10 times real fast, Mr. Caldwell.
Jerry Palm, the CBSSports.com bracketology/bowls expert and a frequent guest on Idaho SportsTalk on KTIK, has unveiled his outlook for the 2015 college football bowl season. Palm has Boise State grabbing the Group of Five’s automatic bid to the New Year’s Six bowls again and predicts the Broncos will face USC in the Fiesta Bowl. That despite the projections that the College Football Playoff committee would not send Boise State—if it were fortunate enough to get that far—back to Glendale a second straight year (the Peach Bowl would be more likely).
Palm’s bowl profile magnifies the separation of power in the Mountain West, as he sees the Broncos, Utah State, Colorado State and Air Force going bowling out of the Mountain Division. Only San Diego State will make it out of the West, according to Palm. That would mean no one other than the Aztecs in the West Division will log a winning record (the only 6-6 team Palm foresees making a bowl is Boston College). That would also mean one of the MW’s six bowl slots this year would go unfilled. Palm says it would be the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, in which he pairs Akron against Troy, a wild card out of the Sun Belt. Yikes. In that case, let’s hope Idaho out of the Sun Belt is bowl-eligible.
Here we go with the meat of the NFL exhibition season. Twelve of the Boise State products currently on NFL rosters will be in action tonight (11 if Jay Ajayi is uable to go for Miami against Chicago with his ailing hamstring). Dolphins teammate Jamar Taylor is slated to play versus one-time BSU teammates Shea McClellin and Charles Leno Jr. of the Bears. The guy to watch is McClellin, the former Marsing Husky. After having the fifth-year option on his contract declined by Chicago, the 2012 first-round draft pick is at a crossroads going into his fourth NFL season. But he’s getting good reviews as he gets a fresh start under coach John Fox. McClellin has been moved to inside linebacker, his third position with the Bears, and has been working with the starters. His first three seasons didn’t go so well.
The preseason is Kellen Moore’s time of the year in Detroit. The winningest quarterback in college football history has never taken a regular season snap in the NFL, but he’s taken plenty in exhibition games. Moore and the Lions host the New York Jets tonight. Elsewhere, former Jet Kyle Wilson makes his first appearance in a New Orleans uniform when the Saints visit Baltimore. The same goes for Jeron Johnson, late of the Seahawks, as he suits up for Washington against Cleveland and Billy Winn (if Winn’s able to play with his ankle sprain). And Austin Pettis’ second chance in San Diego begins tonight when the Chargers host Orlando Scandrick, Tyrone Crawford, Demarcus Lawrence and the Dallas Cowboys. Pettis was cut loose last fall during his fourth season with the Rams.
Ryan Watkins is on the move in Europe. The former offensive rebounding specialist at Boise State will play this season for Helsinki in Korisliiga, Finland’s top pro basketball league. Watkins averaged a double-double (naturally) with 14.6 points and a league-best 10.3 rebounds per game last season for Aris Leeuwarden in Holland’s top division. Meanwhile, former Bronco star Derrick Marks is settling into his new life in Italy. Last season’s Mountain West Player of the Year signed with Orsi Derthona Basket Tortona in Italy’s A2 league this summer after a cup of coffee with the Philadelphia 76ers. Marks is a projected starter with his new team.
Troy Merritt tries to steady the rollercoaster today as he tees off in his first major, the PGA Championship. The former Boise State star began the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week with a 12-over 82, his first round in the 80’s on the PGA Tour. Two weeks ago, of course, Merritt was winning his first tour event, the Quicken Loans National, and was taking home more than $1.2 million. That’s what got him into the PGA Championship. His wife’s cousin, Minnesota Twins pitcher A.J. Achter, can relate to Merritt’s adventures. During his tough time in Akron last week, Merritt swung up to Cleveland to watch Achter, whose thrill was being called up to the majors. Achter’s agony: he allowed four earned runs and four hits, including a homer, without recording an out in the Twins’ 17-4 loss to the Indians.
A rare solid pitching performance kept the Boise Hawks ahead of the Tri-City Dust Devils into the eighth inning last night. Logan Sawyer allowed three hits with four strikeouts while tossing five shutout innings. But the Boise bullpen let what was once a 3-0 lead get away. Tri-City eventually pulled even at 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth—then won it 4-3 on a walk-off RBI double in the 10th. The Dust Devils’ Mason Smith, the former Rocky Mountain High star, went 0-for-3 and is now batting .215 with two home runs and 25 RBIs. The Hawks have now lost eight consecutive games for the first time since 2010.
KTVB.com Mountain West Nugget of the Day: The Mountain West is the site of the latest great experiment—a high school coach trying to make the jump to the FBS. Tony Sanchez, who built Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas into a national power, takes over at UNLV, which has had just two winning seasons in the last 20 years. The 41-year-old Sanchez knows the murmurs. Will he be the next Gerry Faust? The next Todd Dodge? Faust left legendary Moeller High in Cincinnati to become head coach at Notre Dame in 1981. He was 30-26-1 in five seasons before resigning after a 5-6 campaign in 1985. That would actually be a major accomplishment with the Rebels. The other name that comes up in relation to Sanchez is Dodge, who at one time was a dominant high school coach in Texas. Dodge was 6-37 in four seasons at North Texas before being fired in 2010.
This Day In Sports…August 13, 2008:
Kristin Armstrong becomes Boise’s first-ever Olympic gold medalist and only the second American ever to take a gold in women’s cycling when she wins the time trial in Beijing by 24 seconds over Britain’s Emma Pooley. Armstrong had been a promising triathlete before osteoarthritis forced her to give up running in 2001. She switched to cycling, first trying the hometown HP Women’s Challenge in 2002, finishing seventh. Armstrong then made the U.S. Olympic team in 2004 and won the world championship in the time trial in 2006. She won the world title again in 2009—then retired—then began an amazing comeback.
(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.)