The MW running backs podium is crowded

If it wasn’t for Donnel Pumphrey’s ability to keep rushing for 200 yards per game, Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols would be the toast of the Mountain West. As it is, McNichols is second to the San Diego State star in conference rushing (199.7 yards per game to 124.0). But you can make an argument for the McWeapon as a bigger game-changer. Fox Sports 1’s Tim Brando noted Saturday during McNichols’ 70-yard touchdown run at Oregon State, “He’s taking this game over!” He didn’t have a chance to keep that going in the second half, but that’s another story. This was a no-brainer yesterday: McNichols was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week. Now he faces the team he missed last year, Utah State (he sat out the infamous 52-26 loss in Logan with a concussion).

McNichols is a touchdown machine, that we know. Boise State has had touchdown machines before. So compared to those other guys, how is McNichols pacing after the first three games? Brock Forsey had three TDs at this point during his record-breaking senior year in 2002 and finished with 32. Ian Johnson had seven in 2006 and ended up with 25. Jay Ajayi had four touchdowns through three games two years ago before exploding—and tying Forsey’s school record with 32. And the McWeapon himself had piled up eight TDs at this time a year ago and finished with 26. He has nine now. Do the math. McNichols is on pace for 39 touchdowns in 13 games (including a bowl) this year. Could he really pull that off?

Sean Wale’s work may have gone unnoticed by many Saturday, but not by the Mountain West. Boise State’s senior punter was named the conference’s Special Teams Player of the Week after averaging 46.5 yards over six boots in the win at Oregon State, with three punts of more than 50 yards and three landing inside the Beavers’ 20-yard line. Wale stood in well under pressure. The Beavers came perilously close to blocks a couple times, but Wale’s kicks were unaffected. He is averaging 44.0 per punt for the season, ranking 25th in the country.

No word yet on why Tanner Vallejo was in street clothes during the second half Saturday at Reser Stadium Coach Bryan Harsin was, naturally, asked about the standout senior linebacker at yesterday’s Bronco Athletic Association luncheon. “We’ll see,” said Harsin, noting that the team injury report was to come out last night. That’s as much information as we might get. Vallejo is still listed as the starter on this week’s depth chart, but that doesn’t necessarily represent what will happen on the field in this Saturday night’s Mountain West opener versus USU.

Remember Weston Steelhammer? What Boise State fan doesn’t? Air Force’s star safety, who almost single-handedly destroyed the Broncos three years ago today with three interceptions in Colorado Springs, is now a senior—and he still has an edge to him. Steelhammer has been suspended for the first half of the Falcon’s crucial Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy showdown with Navy this week after being ejected for targeting on Utah State quarterback Kent Myers in Saturday’s 27-20 win. The two-time All-Mountain West pick had been a force up to that point, making nine tackles, including one for loss.

Another Bronco nemesis at safety, Washington State’s Shalom Luani, will not face charges stemming from a fight in a Pullman Domino’s Pizza last month. The Whitman County prosecutor released a statement yesterday saying he couldn’t prove Luani didn’t act in self-defense when he threw a punch that broke a man’s nose. Luani had two picks for the Cougars in their 31-28 loss on the blue turf September 10. Three other Washington State football players are still being investigated over other incidents.

Former Boise State star Jamar Taylor didn’t declare revenge in advance of his return to Miami Sunday. But he did make his mark for Cleveland, intercepting Ryan Tannehill’s first pass of the day. “It felt good,” Taylor said of facing the Dolphins and starting the game off with a pick. Believe it or not, it was Taylor’s first career NFL interception. He was unceremoniously drummed out of Miami on a draft night trade last April. Since then, Taylor has beaten out veteran Tramon Williams at cormerback and has played well for the Browns. The problem is, it’s the Browns. The game at Miami, a 30-24 loss capped by Jay Ajayi’s winning touchdown in overtime, may have been Cleveland’s best shot at a victory over the next month.

Las Vegas is just over a year away from its first NHL season, but there’s no news yet on the franchise’s American Hockey League affiliate, according to ArenaDigest.com. The process appears to be moving very slowly. The article points out that arena management in Reno and Fresno don’t seem interested in chasing an AHL franchise, and Salt Lake City wouldn’t work for various reasons. “But Boise,” it says, “an immensely successful ECHL market, may be a candidate for upgrade.” There’s some fun buzz with Idaho Steelheads training camp convening next week.

Former Boise Hawk Steve Clevenger has been in the news the past week for all the wrong reasons. Clevenger was suspended without pay for the rest of the season by Seattle for a pair of knee-jerk tweets about the unrest in Charlotte after the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott last Tuesday. One tweet said that “Everyone involved should be locked behind bars like animals!” ESPN the Magazine’s Mina Kimes pointed out that there’s a difference between “political commentary” and “hate speech.” Clevenger has issued an apology, and his former Baltimore teammate, Adam Jones, a Colin Kaepernick supporter, refuses to be drawn into the conversation. “I know him personally,” said Jones. “I’ve never seen him say this.” Clevenger began his pro career in Boise 10 years ago, batting .286 in 63 games for the Hawks.

The new FloTrack college cross country individual rankings are out, and Boise State has the top two women’s runners in the nation. Allie Ostrander, who was out with an injury over the weekend, remains No. 1, and fellow Bronco Brenna Peloquin has moved up four spots to No. 2 after defeating defending Big Ten champion Erin Finn at the prestigious Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis. Peloquin has also been named the national USTFCCCA Division I Women’s Athlete of the Week. New NCAA team rankings are slated to come out today. In women’s soccer, Boise State’s Raimee Sherle, the true freshman from Rocky Mountain High, has been named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week after netting two game-winning highlight-reel goals over the weekend.

This Day In Sports…September 27, 1998:

Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals hits his 69th—and, in his final at-bat—his seemingly impossible (for good reason, as it turns out) 70th home run of the season. By hitting five homers in his final three games, he finally pulled away from the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa in the home run race, 70-66. Both players had shattered Roger Maris’s 38-year-old major league record of 61 homers in a single 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.)