The hidden meaning behind Game 4

Boise State is tracking its participation reports as it hits Game 4 at Wyoming tomorrow. With the new NCAA football rule allowing players to appear in up to four games without burning a redshirt, the Broncos appear to be in excellent shape as they manage their true freshmen. Only three have played so far: wide receiver Khalil Shakir in three games, running game Andrew Van Buren in three and nose tackle Scale Igiehon in two. Those are guys who were probably going to play all season anyway. We have not yet seen true frosh like wide receivers Stefan Cobbs and Billy Bowens, running back Danny Smith, and cornerback Chris Mitchell. We still could.

But what we have seen around the country among teams that have already played four games is, well, some uneasiness—led by Clemson, who saw quarterback Kelly Bryant decide to transfer this week after being demoted from his starting spot (which he had held for 18 games). Bryant still has a redshirt year available, and he can use it. This is an angle that not many people pondered: veteran players bailing on their teams while they can. Can you think of any Bronco upperclassmen who might be similarly inclined? I can’t. But you never know. We’re at the time of reckoning.

On the first day of Boise State fall camp, Octavius Evans made a diving catch that would have been highlight reel stuff had it come in a game. There has not been a game yet for Evans, save for a reported one snap two weeks ago at Oklahoma State. Again, coach Bryan Harsin has indicated that the thick, rangy, athletic sophomore will be full-go tomorrow evening in the pivotal Mountain West opener tomorrow evening in Laramie. So now, where would Evans fit in with a wide receiver group that has been balanced and—for defenses—unpredictable? He provides the same kind of threat John Hightower does. Consider this, based on the first two paragraphs above: Evans has a redshirt year available since he played as a true freshman last year. There are options for him to save a year of eligibility.

It’s easy to forget how stressful last year’s game was on the blue turf. Wyoming led Boise State 14-10 at the end of three quarters before the Broncos rallied in the fourth. The Wyo defense was very good all season long (still is)—and it made things very difficult. One reason was Cowboys star Carl Granderson, who had three sacks, taking down Brett Rypien twice and Montell Cozart once. The first-team All-Mountain West defensive end is an NFL Draft prospect, but he missed some opportunities on big stages this month against Washington State and Missouri. Granderson does not have a sack yet this season. He’s a hungry individual who’s looking for some deja vu.

The storyline on tomorrow’s game between upset-minded BYU and Washington from a Puget Sound perspective is interesting. In yesterday’s Seattle Times, there was a feature reminiscing about the Cougars’ 1984 national championship, when they edged the Huskies by all of 10 points in the AP Poll despite the fact BYU “did not have a win over a team that finished in the top 20.” Zing. This is, by the way, Coach Pete’s first meeting with the Cougars since 2013, his final season at Boise State. Chris Petersen was on the winning side in 2012, the first game in the 12-year series between the two schools. That was the bizarre 7-6 victory on the blue turf. The following year, BYU snapped the Broncos’ 50-game October winning streak with a 37-20 triumph in Provo.

All that’s old is new again at Idaho. Tomorrow marks the Vandals’ first Big Sky game in the Kibbie Dome since 1995, but it’s also their 100th Big Sky home game in their history. Idaho needs this win, and it’s one it should get, as the Vikings come in at 1-3 two weeks after breaking their 15-game losing streak against College of Idaho. The Vandals haven’t fully unleashed Kaden Elliss this season. Elliss, last year’s dual-threat linebacker and tight end, has three catches for 20 yards through the first three games. On defense, Elliss has 14 tackles, three for loss, with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Coincidentally, Elliss’ brother, Christian, is Idaho’s leading tackler with 26.

Oakland coach Jon Gruden continues to utilize Doug Martin in a backup role in his offense. The former Boise State star had nine carries for 43 yards in Oakland’s 28-20 loss at Miami Which is neither here nor there. Somebody’s gotta do something to get the 0-3 Raiders a victory—be it Martin, Marshawn Lynch, Derek Carr, whomever. Oakland hosts the Cleveland Browns and their Baker Mayfield aura on Sunday. On the other side of the field, Tanner Vallejo will also be suited up as he tries to find a niche with his new team. Vallejo, who signed with the Browns after being cut by Buffalo, does not have a tackle yet with Cleveland.

I found this to be very cool. I’ll let the San Francisco Giants website tell the story: “About four hours before Wednesday’s game, AT&T Park saw something a little unusual. Devon Bridges, a Giants’ media-relations intern, took batting practice under the watchful eyes of Bochy and batting coach Alonzo Powell. Bridges was a collegiate softball star at Boise State. Bridges said she took part at the urging of some of the other media-relations staff, who’d looked up her collegiate stats.

“Bochy had been talking for a while about giving her a look, ‘but I never really expected this,’ she said. ‘Did you see our new player?’ Bochy asked the media before the game. ‘She rakes. She has a pretty good swing. She hit some pretty good deep to center.’ Said Bridges: ‘I was rusty. It took a little while to get comfortable. That’s my swing.’” Bridges played for the Broncos from 2011-15 and is the school’s career home runs leader with 52.

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September 28, 2010: Sports Illustrated unveils the cover for that week’s magazine, and it’s Boise State football, three days after the Broncos’ 37-24 win over Oregon State on ABC. The cover story was “Boise State—The Great Debate,” discussing the Broncos’ worthiness as a contender for the BCS Championship Game. It was another national first for the program; the Broncos had been on the cover of SI the previous month for the College Football Preview issue, but that was a regional cover. Amazingly, Boise State remained a in that conversation until late November.

(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.)