One key position battle continues into summer

Boise State’s backup running back spot behind Jeremy McNichols remains undecided after the Blue & Orange Game. Boise State’s backup running back spot behind Jeremy McNichols remains undecided after Saturday night’s Blue & Orange Game. Devan Demas had a tough go in the spring game last year, losing two fumbles and dropping two passes. And he didn’t log a single carry in the Broncos’ last six games of the 2015 season. But Demas looked like he was back in the good graces Saturday, leading the regulars with 42 yards on seven carries and scoring on a 21-yard touchdown run. Ryan Wolpin was not the factor in the Blue & Orange Game that he was in the previous week’s scrimmage, totaling just nine yards on three carries. Cory Young, working with the second and third units, rushed for 30 yards and a TD. But he was helped off the field with a leg injury in the fourth quarter.

One of the biggest roars from the crowd Saturday night at Albertsons Stadium came in the first quarter on a third-and-three. Brett Rypien dropped back to pass—then he tucked it away and rambled around the left side for 14 yards and a first down. That was exciting for Boise State. Hey, Rypien is a better runner than Kellen Moore was. But seriously, Rypien is moving well in the pocket and isn’t shy about scrambling, and he’s doing it without happy feet. Last year he had 63 positive rushing yards and 135 negative ones, mostly on sacks. That facet of Rypien’s game should improve this year.

There were three cities preparing to seek NCAA certification for new bowl games this year. Forty-one wasn’t enough? Well, actually it is, for now. The NCAA has slapped a moratorium on any new bowl games until after the 2019 season. The fact that three 5-7 teams had to be pulled into the postseason last year finally struck a sour note. The other line that was crossed was at the new Arizona Bowl last December, when two Mountain West schools were forced to face each other. Some reward that was (Nevada beat Colorado State, 28-23).

Utah State, which ended up with a losing record after its trip to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last year, held its spring game Saturday. Like most spring finales, it’s hard to tell what’s real. USU’s defense did force 11 three-and-outs, broke up nine passes and intercepted two. The Aggies, of course, have to replace star linebackers Kyler Fackrell and Nick Vigil. One of the heirs-apparent appears to be junior Alex Huerta, who had a team-leading five tackles and two sacks (those touch-football sacks that spring football is famous for). Utah State is minus one tight end, though, as Chris Copier was arrested and charged yesterday with seven felonies, including possession or use of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

Idaho’s second spring scrimmage in the Kibbie Dome Saturday morning featured a more manageable 108 snaps. On paper, it sure looks like the Vandal offense had its way with the defense. Jake Luton threw for 431 yards on just 19 completions, with Deon Watson making nine catches for 216 yards and four touchdowns, and Reuben Mwehla adding seven grabs for 158 yards and three TDs. Aaron Duckworth continues to lead the running backs—he went for 122 yards and two scores on 14 carries.

Boise State moved quickly to replace basketball assistant Danny Henderson, who was hired last week by Oklahoma State. The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Nebraska assistant Phil Beckner will replace Henderson on Leon Rice’s staff. Beckner has been on Tim Miles’ Cornhuskers staff for just one season. Published comments by Miles make it sound like the decision to part was mutual. But Beckner had a solid track record at Weber State, where he was an assistant for seven seasons. Portland Trail Blazers star Damon Lillard embarked on one of the best careers in Big Sky history while Beckner tutored him with the Wildcats.

Troy Merritt finished 11-over at the Masters, but he had plenty of company in his struggles. So the former Boise State star feels pretty good about his week. “I think they should give us a green jacket just because we didn’t have any three-putts,’’ Merritt joked in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “That’s hard to do here, I hear.’’ As he makes his way back home, Merritt has his sights set on a return to Augusta. “I’d love to play here every year,’’ he said. “I know I have to work really hard to achieve that. That will be my goal going forward. I don’t want to miss this one anymore.”

When the Idaho Steelheads open the Kelly Cup Playoffs at defending ECHL champion Allen Thursday night, they’ll be facing the newly-crowned league scoring king. The Americans’ Chad Costello took the title for the second straight season with 103 points. Costello, who was named first-team All-ECHL last week, also led the league with 79 assists, 33 power-play assists and 40 power-play points. He’s only the second player in ECHL history—and the first in 15 years—to win back-to-back scoring crowns. The Steelheads’ leader this season was Rob Linsmayer, who collected 57 points.

The Idaho Stampede are not alone in seeing their franchise moved and rebranded. The Arizona Republic reports that the Phoenix Suns are taking full control of their D-League operation by moving the Bakersfield Jam to Prescott Valley, AZ. That means that 19 NBA teams will now have D-League clubs “in their metro areas or a drive away next season,” according to the Republic. One thing the story points out is that the Suns will be able to have their D-Leaguers practice with the big club while still playing D-League games. That’s probably an underappreciated bonus of the Utah Jazz having the team formerly known as the Stampede in Salt Lake City now.

Former Boise Hawk Robinson Chirinos is on the 60-day disabled list after a remarkably unfortunate at-bat Saturday night. The Texas Rangers catcher had an inside pitch deflect off his bat and careen off his right arm against the Angels. In obvious pain, Chirinos continued, not knowing he had broken his forearm. He then amazingly reached the edge of the rightfield warning track as he flied out. Chirinos was batting .267 with one home run over the first five games of the season. He was a second baseman for the Hawks back in 2002, helping them to the Northwest League championship while batting .247 with eight homers and 38 RBIs.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by CLEARVIEW CLEANING…where green really means green.

April 12, 2004: Giants outfielder Barry Bonds catches his godfather, Willie Mays, for the number three spot on baseball’s career home run list. The suspiciously bulked-up Bonds deposited a pitch out of what is now AT&T Park and into McCovey Cove on Opening Day in San Francisco, the 660th homer of his career. He would pass Mays the following day and set his tainted sights on Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.

(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.)