Turning back the hands of time

The best thing to come out of the Mountain West’s agreement with ESPN was the kickoff time. The best thing to come out of the Mountain West’s agreement with ESPN Friday to televise the conference championship football game was the recognition by commissioner Craig Thompson of the importance of the kickoff time. It’ll be on Saturday, December 5, at 5:30 p.m. Mountain time, as opposed to the 8 p.m. start last December on the blue turf. At that time, it was just a late-night slot to fill on some CBS programming grid. It didn’t draw many viewers anyway—and that being the case, what difference does it make if it’s going up against another conference title game this year? Finally there’s some relief for fans, in whatever city they may be when the 2015 matchup is set.

Also Friday, ESPN’s kickoff time for Boise State’s game at Virginia on Friday, September 25, was set for 6 p.m. Mountain time. That 8 p.m. in Charlottesville, but they’re used to that sort of thing in the Eastern time zone (consider Sunday and Monday Night Football). That leaves five Bronco start times to be determined, three of them on Saturdays in Albertsons Stadium: Hawaii on October 6, Wyoming on October 24, and New Mexico on November 14. Could at least one of them be played in the afternoon, ESPN? It used to be that Boise State would play night games in September and October and afternoon games in November/December. Well, the Broncos didn’t have a single day game on the blue turf last season, and they had only one in 2013. And that one was the home opener against Tennessee-Martin on September 7.

Boise State coach Bryan Harsin tweeted out a “Go Broncos!” at about noon Saturday. And just like that, BSU had a new wide receiver in the fold. Austin Cottrell, a 6-3, 200-pounder from Scottsdale Community College, has committed to the Broncos at a position that needs some good news. Cottrell can play this season and will have three years of eligibility remaining, plus a redshirt year if needed. With Rick Smith’s status in limbo, Tanner Shipley’s career ended by a medical retirement, and Troy Ware’s senior year wiped out by a torn ACL, Cottrell comes along at just the right time. Now it’s time for some summer cram sessions on the Boise State playbook. It’ll be interesting to see what Cottrell brings—he has big upside, but he made only 12 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown last season.

Assuming Matt Johns stays healthy through September, he’ll be starting at quarterback for Virginia when Boise State visits. But now there’s not much behind the junior signal-caller. The Cavaliers have lost two QBs since last Thursday, including a guy who started nine games last season. Grayson Lambert, who finished spring football No. 2 behind Johns, tweeted his intention to transfer Saturday. Redshirt freshman Corwin Cutler had left the program two days earlier.

Firing Line had the second-beat odds at post time Saturday in the Preakness Stakes, but Gary Stevens couldn’t prod a premium performance out of the three-year-old. Firing Line ran last for much of the race at Pimlico and finished seventh in the eight-horse field, in stark contrast to his second-place finish by a length at the Kentucky Derby. Stevens says the thunder and downpour just before the race had something to do with it. “He was not a happy camper,” Stevens said. “He kept looking back at me and it was like, ‘Buddy, what are we doing out here in this? I’m not supposed to be out here in this stuff. Let’s go back to the barn.’”

The old “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” adage comes to mind in regard to Kristin Armstrong’s comeback, even though a cycling time trial is a sprint. Armstrong finished third at the Tour of California time trial Friday in her first competitive race since winning her second Olympic gold medal in London in 2012. All in all, it wasn’t a bad start to her latest exit from retirement. A last-minute change moved the race from Big Bear Lake, elevation 6,700 feet, to Santa Clarita, closer to sea level. The higher elevation may have helped Armstrong, since she’s accustomed to training in it.

Boise’s Brian Scott started in the No. 3 position and held up well yesterday, finishing fourth in the XFinity Series 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway. Scott didn’t lead at any point of the race, but he was consistent enough to earn 40 points in the XFinity driver standings. He moved up one spot to fifth, 42 points behind leader Chris Buescher, who won yesterday’s event.

Former Boise Hawk Justin Bour broke up the no-hit bid of Atlanta’s Shelby Miller with two outs in the bottom of the ninth yesterday, but it wasn’t enough to save Miami manager Mike Redmond’s job. The Marlins fired Redmond after Miller finished the game with a two-hit shutout in a 6-0 victory. There are high expectations in Miami this season with all the offseason moves it made, but they’re still only six games below .500—and it’s still mid-May. Bour, who has primarily been a late-inning replacement for the Marlins and already has had one stint in the minors this season, is now hitting .440. He was a Hawk in 2009 and batted .258 with two home runs and 27 RBI.

We need every drop of rain we can get, but it sure wreaked havoc with state tournaments over the weekend. It seemed to benefit local teams, though, as 17 different Treasure Valley high schools won state championships in four sports (including the girls softball competition in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls). In 5A, Timberline won the baseball crown, Capital captured the boys track and field championship, Boise was the girls track and field and boys tennis winner, and Eagle took the title in softball and girls tennis. At the Mountain West Outdoor Track and Field Championships in San Diego, meanwhile, Boise State finished sixth in both the men’s and women’s competition. The Broncos had two multiple winners—Marisa Howard in the 3,000 and 5,000-meter steeplechase, and Mackenzie Flannigan in the 100 and 200-meters.

This Day In Sports…May 18, 2004:

At the age of 40, Randy Johnson becomes the oldest pitcher ever to toss a perfect game in Arizona’s 2-0 win over Atlanta. The Braves never threatened the Big Unit as they went 27 up, 27 down. It was only the 17th perfecto in big league history, and it was the crowning achievement of a career that included five Cy Young Awards and a world championship with the Diamondbacks in 2001.