The Broncos’ record-breaking ball-toters

(TOM SCOTT’S COLUMN WILL RETURN THURSDAY.)
Fans have had to make some tough calls as voting for Boise State’s 30-Year All-Blue Team has progressed since June 1. At running back, it’s basically a four-way race involving four of the most popular players in Bronco history. How do you decide between Brock Forsey, Ian Johnson, Doug Martin and Jay Ajayi? Forsey is the local, a walk-on from Centennial High who was in on the ground floor of Boise State’s Golden Era. All he did was become one of college football’s top all-time scorers. Johnson was the icon, the sophomore sparkplug of the undefeated season in 2006, when he set the Broncos’ single-season rushing record and capped it with the most famous two-point conversion and wedding proposal in college football history.

Martin was the most NFL-ready player of the group, displaying power-running never before seen on the blue turf (once he was permanently moved over from defense). Martin scored the winning touchdown in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, the game-changing 84-yard TD in the 2010 Las Vegas Bowl, and the game-opening 100-yard kickoff return in the 2011 Las Vegas Bowl. And Ajayi’s Jay-Train whistle-pump became the signature of the 2014 Fiesta Bowl campaign as he eclipsed Johnson’s season rushing record and Forsey’s single-season mark for rushing touchdowns. There is no wrong answer this week.

In my role as recapper of candidates from the Division I-AA portion of the blue turf era, I first go to 1986-87, the first two seasons on the blue. Chris Jackson’s junior year ended prematurely in 1986 with a knee injury, but he was a centerpiece of the Boise State offense in 1987. Small and shifty, Jackson rushed for 1,273 yards, at the time the second-most in school history. Chris Thomas was a four-year mainstay at tailback from 1988-91. Thomas never recorded a 1,000-yard season, although he came close all four seasons (he would have had one in 1990 if postseason stats counted at the time). And K.C. Adams played only one year—but what a season it was. Adams was the showman on Pokey Allen’s 1994 team that made it to the I-AA national championship game.

Boise State has done all sorts of things to integrate former football players into the current scene, mainly through its Varsity B arm. Bronco strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman has a new twist for that alumni camaraderie. Pitman announced on Facebook that he’s “beginning a tradition of ‘passing the torch’ from former players running decks to our current players.” Friday morning marks the wrapup of summer conditioning, and the final session of the infamous running of the decks at Albertsons Stadium. Former players are invited to spread out throughout the upper decks encouraging players, as Pitman puts it, “to get it on!”

Mountain West Media Days begins tomorrow in Las Vegas, and there’ll be the usual discussion of each team’s hopes of winning a championship. But there will also be questions about what the Mountain West has to do as a whole to be considered the premier Group of 5 conference. Sure, the league sent eight teams to bowl games last year (two of them played each other, of course), but the MW was 9-29 against non-conference FBS competition in 2015, and its champion, San Diego State, was relegated to the Hawaii Bowl versus Cincinnati, the sixth-place team from the AAC. The Mountain West mustered just three victories versus Power 5 schools, and Boise State had two of them, defeating Washington and Virginia.

A Scott Slant reader contributes this factoid as NFL training camps approach this week: Only three times in NFL history have two head coaches who hailed from the same college been in that position at the same time, and two of the sets are current. Two of the schools are in the FCS, and the other dropped football 20 years ago. First, there were Sean Payton and Mike Shanahan (Eastern Illinois). And currently: Cleveland’s Hue Jackson and Seattle’s Pete Carroll (University of the Pacific) and Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis and Tampa Bay’s Dirk Koetter (Idaho State). How about that. Thanks, Andy.

The Boise State men’s basketball squad is slated to begin practicing this week for its foreign tour of Costa Rica August 11-16. This is the perfect summer to make this trip as coach Leon Rice has to reinvent the team without key departees James Webb III, Anthony Drmic and Mikey Thompson. The Broncos will play a different game now. At least one of their big men, David Wacker, Zach Haney and Robin Jorch, will have to step it up. In terms of style, those guys are 180-degrees opposite of Webb, but they’ll be called upon to replace the rebounding void. Just as important will be the leadership roles handed to Chandler Hutchison and Paris Austin in Drmic’s and Thompson’s wake.

Las Vegas is buzzing not about Mountain West Media Days, but about a hoops announcement a few days ago. UNLV and Duke will meet in T-Mobile Arena, the new venue on the Strip, on December 10. This will be the first meeting between the teams in 25 years, since the Blue Devils upset the 34-0 Rebels 79-77 in the Final Four in 1991. UNLV had routed Duke 103-73 the year before to win the national championship.

The Boise Hawks managed only six hits last night, but they scored five runs, and that was enough to top Spokane 5-3. The key knock came from Willie Abreu, who clubbed his third home run of the summer with a man aboard in the seventh inning. The Hawks have split the first four games of their series with the Indians. Tonight the Hawks reach the midway point of the season when they wrap up the set against Spokane with Game No. 38. Boise goes in with a record of 16-21, with a chance to avoid sole possession of last place in the first-half Northwest League standings for the South Division. With a win tonight and a loss by Salem-Keizer, the Hawks will tie the Volcanoes for third.

Longtime Boise Hawks watchers can appreciate this. Yesterday in Cooperstown, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame, and both were opponents of the Hawks in the early days. Even in 1987, fans knew about Griffey when he played at Borah High’s Wigle Field as a Bellingham Mariner. Junior had been the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft that year. But few people who saw Piazza as a Salem Dodger during the Hawks’ first season at Memorial Stadium in 1989 will remember him. He was drafted in the 62nd round—the 1,390th selection overall—in 1988. You never know which guy out there might make it.

Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge was a contender in the first two rounds of the RBC Canadian Open. But a pair of one-over 73’s over the weekend dropped Aldridge into a tie for 32nd in Oakville, Ontario. Yesterday he took a double-bogey on No. 6 and posted three more bogeys on the back nine. Meridian’s Troy Merritt actually passed Aldridge over the final two rounds, going 69-70 and finishing in a tie for 32nd. Graham DeLaet, beset by what they’re calling “another case of the chip yips,” missed the cut on Friday. The Saskatoon native and former Boise State star was five-over.

This Day In Sports…July 25, 1913:

Washington’s Walter Johnson, a one-time semi-pro hurler in Weiser, strikes out St. Louis Browns pitcher Carl Weilman six consecutive times. Johnson that day strikes out 16 batters in 11 1/3 innings…of relief. The “Big Train” went on to win 417 games during a 21-year career in the majors. He amassed 3,508 strikeouts, a big league record until both Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton surpassed it early in the 1983 season.

(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.)