Most of Boise State’s young hopefuls at wide receiver spent some time with the first-team offense Saturday. With Thomas Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson sitting out Saturday’s Blue & Orange Game, apparently by design, we got to see most of Boise State’s young hopefuls at wide receiver spend some time with the first-team offense. So there were some clues as to who’s going to get significant snaps this fall. Sophomore A.J. Richardson led the way with six receptions, including a great snag of a Brett Rypien pass that had been batted in the air for a 20-yard gain. What you have to like about Cedrick Wilson is what he does on third down—two of his catches, going for eight and eleven yards, moved the chains for the Broncos. Again, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Wilson starting alongside Sperbeck and Anderson this season. Sean Modster got the oohs-and-ahhs Saturday night, with touchdown catches of 21 and 52 yards from Rypien. That’s a good sign.
The evidence of Rypien having separated himself at quarterback this spring was there for all 10,000 fans to see. The returning first-team All-Mountain West pick threw for 234 yards and the two touchdowns to Modster and went without an interception (all the QBs did, as a matter of fact). The only downer for Rypien was his pass percentage, just 54 percent on 20 completions in 37 attempts. Some of his deep balls sailed on him. But Rypien sure has a command of the offense. His play-fake on the 21-yard TD to Modster was masterful.
One of Boise State’s new names who made his bid on defense Saturday night was safety Darreon Jackson. Fans love offense in the spring game, but they roared when Jackson rocked tight end Matt Pistone with a hit in the first quarter. Jackson followed with a stonewalling of Cory Young for a two-yard loss on a swing pass, and added a sure tackle of Devan Demas when Jackson was the only thing between Demas and massive daylight. Jackson is a 5-11, 191-pound redshirt freshman. His first-team opportunities were aided Saturday by the absence of Chanceller James (coach Bryan Harsin didn’t elaborate on the situation).
The evening started with a tribute to 100-year-old Lyle Smith, the Father of Bronco Football (I prefer “Father” to “Godfather”). Smith was there, standing at the 50-yard line aided only by his walker, as he waved to the crowd and took in a couple standing ovations. One of the stock single-wing plays from Smith’s old Boise Junior College offense from the 1950 Little Rose Bowl was shown on the big-screen. Then, as a tribute to Lyle, the current Broncos ran the play just before the scrimmage started (scoring a touchdown, of course). On Friday night, an estimated 350 former players paid tribute to Smith as they gathered for the annual Gridiron Social.
Boise State can trace a number of recent recruits directly to the Bronco staff’s presence at satellite camps in California and Texas. In fact, Harsin said Saturday night that 13 of the 24 players BSU signed out of high school in February came via satellite camps. Those camps are no more, as the NCAA outlawed them on Friday. The decision is being roundly criticized as steered by the SEC, and unfair to financially-disadvantaged prospects who can’t afford to attend schools’ camps all over the country. One such example is safety De’Andre Pierce, who signed with the Broncos two months ago out of Long Beach Poly in California. Tweeted Pierce: “That’s how I got Boise State and how you can expose yourself to college coaches without paying expenses. Stupid.”
After eight seasons in Denver, Ryan Clady is going to have a new address in the Big Apple. The highest draft pick ever out of Boise State (12th overall in 2008) was traded from the Broncos to the Jets Saturday along with a seventh-round draft choice in exchange for a fifth-rounder. Denver has gone a new direction at left tackle, signing free agent Russell Okung from Seattle. The Jets were looking for a replacement for recently-retired star D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Interestingly enough, the Seahawks were considering Clady, too. Clady is a two-time All-Pro pick and has played in four Pro Bowls, but he’s missed 30 of the last 48 games due to foot and knee injuries. He sat out two Super Bowls, including this year’s after tearing his ACL last May.
The Masters was brutal this year, and Troy Merritt certainly felt it (not in a Jordan Spieth kind of way, though). But Merritt will always be able to say he made the cut in his first-ever trip to Augusta. The former Boise State star was in good shape Friday, finding himself in a tie for 15th after shooting a one-under 71, one of only three players under par in the windblown second round. Then came a birdieless seven-over 79 on Saturday and a three-over 75 yesterday, when a pair of double-bogeys early on the back nine took the air out of Merritt’s balloon. He tied for 42nd and pocketed $37,000 for his efforts.
Hoisting banners for division championships is not part of most ECHL teams’ DNA. So the fact that the Idaho Steelheads lost the West Division title to Colorado on the final day of the season is not devastating. It’s the Kelly Cup Playoffs that count. The Steelheads, after dominating the league’s best team 4-2 Friday night, fell to those same Missouri Mavericks Saturday night, 3-1. I mentioned that former Steelie star Josh Robinson would miss the series, as he was on loan from Missouri to the AHL. But the ECHL’s top goalie returned in time for a homecoming at CenturyLink Arena. Idaho got Robinson Friday (only his second loss of the season). But he clocked 37 saves in the finale to notch his 28th win. The Steelheads now open the playoffs on the road, facing the Allen Americans in Game 1 of a best-of-seven series on Thursday night.
Campus notes from the weekend: the Boise State men’s tennis team and coach Greg Patton beat their former star player and assistant coach, Luke Shields, now the head coach at Fresno State, in a 4-2 win over Friday night. But Nevada, who came into the match 4-13, stunned the Broncos 4-3 yesterday at the Appleton Center, snapping BSU’s five-match winning streak. And the College of Idaho baseball team was swept over the weekend by Lewis-Clark State, the No. 2 team in NAIA. The Coyotes were blasted 11-1 and 10-0 in a twin bill Saturday, but they bookended that with losses of just 4-2 and 10-9 to the Warriors in Lewiston.
One of the best performances by a former Boise Hawk over the weekend came from Rich Hill, the much-traveled lefthander who pitched Oakland to a 6-1 victory over Seattle Saturday night at Safeco Field. Hill, now 36 years old and playing for his seventh major league team, struck out 10 Mariners in just six innings to earn his first win of the season. The past two-plus years have been unbelievable for him. In early 2014, Hill lost his two-month-old son Brooks due to multiple health issues. He began the 2015 season with the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League, but he worked his way back to the bigs and finished with the Red Sox. Hill signed with the A’s in the offseason. From the “you never know” department, he was a Boise Hawk in 2002 and 2003, and he posted a 1-8 record.
This Day In Sports…April 11, 2001, 15 years ago today:
The division champion Idaho Steelheads open the WCHL Taylor Cup Playoffs innocently enough against last-place Anchorage but find themselves in an epic battle with the Aces. Trailing 3-1 with just over a minute left, the Steelheads got two goals in 23 seconds from Cal Ingraham to send the game into sudden death overtime. The Steelies won, 4-3, changing the opening tone of the playoffs entirely. They would sweep Anchorage and Colorado before falling to San Diego in the Taylor Cup Finals.
(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.)