The most experienced current Bronco in games against the Troy Trojans wasn’t even a Bronco last season. Boise State, of course, opened against Troy a year ago. But Bronco linebacker Tony Lashley has seen the Trojans since then. In fact, he was in Veterans Memorial Stadium last November. The graduate transfer from Idaho had 11 tackles as the Vandals gave Troy a scare before falling 24-21 in front of 20,341 fans. Lashley also had three stops against the Trojans in the Kibbie Dome in 2016. He played a number of games in the South in his Sun Belt days at Idaho. He was on the field on a sticky day last September at South Alabama, and he faced Louisiana Monroe and Appalachian State on the road two years ago in October, when the humidity can still be smothering.
Now Lashley is member of the defending Mountain West championship team and is eager for a ring of his own. Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos says Lashley’s assimilation into the Bronco locker room has been seamless. “Tony is a great young man, and that’s what has made this experience enjoyable,” said Avalos. “He’s had to come in and learn not only our defense, but our culture and how we do things. He’s been tremendous.” Lashley piled up more than 100 tackles each of the past two seasons at Idaho, including 123 last year—the most by a Vandal in 10 years.
How important are Emmanuel Fesili and Matt Locher Saturday? We don’t know yet. But they are listed as Boise State’s backups at defensive tackle behind David Moa and Sonatane Lui. Moa’s status is still unknown for the game at Troy. Even if he can go, you know he won’t be playing 75 snaps. So it’s likely that Fesili and Locher, who are both being leaned on for depth this year, will be rotated in liberally. Fesili, a junior from the legendary Long Beach Poly program, started to break through with five tackles and a sack last season. Locher is also a junior from Los Alamitos, CA—he had 11 tackles and a sack in 2017. There’s quite a size disparity between the two; Fesili tilts the scales at 319, while Locher is 269.
Yes, the 2018 season is already here for Boise State. The Broncos leave tomorrow afternoon for Troy, AL, as they get serious about building on last year’s Mountain West title and Las Vegas Bowl win. This is where I go into my “fountain of useless information” mode (I’ve been saving this). Boise State was 11-3 last season for the first time in school history. The Broncos have been 14-0, 13-0, 12-1, 12-2, 11-2, 10-3 and 10-2, but never 11-3. You can file that away. By the way, the Boise State-Troy game is one of only two during Week 1 that matches FBS conference champions from 2017. The other is Florida Atlantic (Conference USA) at Oklahoma (Big 12).
Idaho faces old foe Fresno State Saturday night to open the 2018 season. But things are so very different now, as the Vandals prepare for their first game since returning to the FCS and the Big Sky following 22 years in the FBS. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are picked to win the West Division of the Mountain West and return to the conference championship game. Fresno State and Idaho played every year from 2005-11 when they were both members of the WAC. The teams last met in non-conference play in the Kibbie Dome in 2013, when Derek Carr—in his senior year—had his way in a 61-14 victory. Fresno State has won 10 straight in the series.
A three-point loss at Eastern Oregon last week shouldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of College of Idaho fans as the Coyotes host Montana Tech in their home opener on Saturday. Should be a perfect day for football, and a typical Yotes throng is expected at Simplot Stadium. This will be C of I’s fifth season since reinstating football following a 37-year hiatus. Has it worked? Well, fans have been loving the small-college product and atmosphere. The Yotes led the NAIA in average attendance last season at 3,380 per game and were second in the NAIA during the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons.
You may remember Kamalei Correa in the Hall of Fame Game four weeks ago, going off with six tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and a 19-yard interception for Baltimore. I don’t know if the Ravens saw that as an aberration, but they have traded Correa to Tennessee for a sixth-round draft choice. Correa left Boise State after his junior year and was Baltimore’s second-round pick in 2016. But he hasn’t gained a foothold yet in the NFL. If it appears the Ravens don’t want Correa anymore, there’s evidence the Titans do. He’s a known quantity to Tennessee defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who held the same post in Baltimore the past two seasons. There’s another reunion in store—Correa and Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota were high school teammates in Honolulu.
He may have had just a cup of coffee in Boise, but this former Hawk and current Chicago Cub is right in the middle of the National League MVP race. His name is not Kris Bryant—it’s Javier Baez, whose offense is now matching his always-stellar defense. Baez is leading the NL in runs batted in with 97, is eighth in home runs with 28, and is seventh in stolen bases with 21. A sample of his deeds this season? Baez’s 481-foot home run in last Thursday’s 7-1 win over Cincinnati was the longest at Wrigley Field this season and tied for second-longest in the majors this year.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!
August 29, 1998…20 years ago today: The New York Yankees beat the Seattle Mariners 11-6 for their 98th win in 134 tries, clinching a post-season spot the earliest in the team’s storied history. The Yankees would win 114 games in ’98, the most in American League history until the M’s eclipsed that in 2001. The Yanks would add another 11 in the post-season for a total of 125—a major league record.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)