Nothing has developed yet out of the report by Tony Pauline at DraftInsider.net that Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols is departing early for the NFL. It wouldn’t be surprising if it happens, of course. McNichols’ season ledger: 1,663 rushing yards, plus 32 catches for 450 yards, with a nation’s-best 27 total touchdowns. What else does his resume tape need? It’s just that the issue is a little unsettling going into the Cactus Bowl. Defensive ends Kamalei Correa and DeMarcus Lawrence didn’t declare until after the Broncos’ bowl games in 2015 and 2013, respectively. But running back ios a position that gets everybody worked up. Jay Ajayi announced his decision well before the 2014 Fiesta Bowl. Coach Bryan Harsin’s pre-Cactus Bowl press conference is tomorrow—perhaps something will come out of that.
Time will tell what this really means, but competition at quarterback can’t be bad for Brett Rypien going into his junior year. Boise State has received a commitment from Rathen Ricedorff, a QB from Mesa Community College in Arizona who threw for 4,082 yards and 47 touchdowns against eight interceptions this season. The quarterbacks room in the Bleymaier Football Center will be full again next spring, as Ricedorff joins Rypien, Tommy Stuart, current redshirt Jake Constantine and high school commit Chase Cord.
As we await the Cactus Bowl and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, let’s hit a few season-to-season comparisons—a statistical shake-out, if you will. First, the Boise State offense. It’s been good, if not consistent, this season. Everything’s down slightly from 2015, though. Total offense is down by 21 yards per game, from 501 to 480. Rushing yards are down by nine per game, passing by 12, and scoring by 3½ points per game, from 39.1 to 35.6. By all rights, the game against Baylor December 27 is going to be high-scoring, so the Broncos will have to get the most out of that side of the ball.
With everything the Boise State defense lost after last season, the defensive numbers were expected to slip a bit this year. Things started off really well, but then came some bumps in the road. Now, defensive yield is up by 61 yards per game, from 318 to 379. Rushing is the main culprit, up by 72 yards per outing. Passing yards have actually dropped by 11 per game, and opposition scoring is up by 2½ points. There’s a killer bottom line to this thing, though. Turnover margin has flipped, from plus-9 last year to minus-7 this season. The Broncos have forced only eight turnovers, tied for last in the country with East Carolina.
The story behind Idaho’s climb to 8-4 is clear as the Vandals prep for Colorado State. It’s the defense. There’s been phenomenal progress this year for that unit. Yards allowed per game are down from 487 per game to 414, with the rushing average is down by a whopping 129 yards. Passing yards are up by 56, but scoring is way down, from 42.1 points per game to 29.8. Read between the lines, and there’s that turnover margin: minus-6 for Idaho last year and plus-8 now.
Their teams are winning, but their yards-per-carry aren’t setting the world on fire. Former Boise State star Jay Ajayi rushed 20 times for only 48 yards yesterday, 2.4 yards per tote, in Miami’s 26-23 win over Arizona. Production from Ajayi is going to be more important moving forward as there’s fear that quarterback Ryan Tannehill tore an ACL in that game. Fellow former Bronco Doug Martin scored Tampa Bay’s only touchdown in a 16-11 win over New Orleans, but he was held to 66 yards on 23 attempts, just 2.9 yards per carry, and he was nailed in the end zone for a Saints safety. The play of the day by a BSU product in the NFL was George Iloka’s 21-yard interception of Robert Griffin III on a flea-flicker in Cincinnati’s 23-10 win over Cleveland.
A Boise State team that had traversed four time zones and more than 9,000 miles over a three-week period now gets a long winter’s nap after its game against Portland was postponed Saturday. The pilots, those who fly and those who play basketball, couldn’t get out of Portland International Airport Friday. The Mountain West, meanwhile, appeared to be napping in the three higher-profile games it played Saturday. San Diego State fell at home 74-63 to Arizona State and actually heard some boos in Viejas Arena, New Mexico lost 84-71 at rival New Mexico State, and UNLV was destroyed by Duke 94-45 in Las Vegas’ new T-Mobile Arena. Nevada’s the team to beat in the Mountain West. Last night in Seattle, the Wolf Pack edged Washington 87-85.
Earlier in the day at Washington, the Boise State women saw a player the likes of which they don’t experience often. Kelsey Plum, the nation’s leading scorer, put up 44 points—22 in each half—to lead The Huskies to a 92-66 romp over the Broncos. Plum became the top scorer in Pac-12 history while putting an end to Boise State’s undefeated start, dropping the visitors to 8-1. Marijk Vanderschaaf led the Broncos with 16 points while Brooke Pahukoa was being held to eight points on 3-for-10 shooting.
Other campus doings: the College of Idaho men returned to Cascade Conference play yesterday, still missing Joey Nebeker and Talon Pinckney. Never mind, though, because the Coyotes romped to a 95-57 win at Walla Walla. The Yotes got 19 points from Roosevelt Adams and 15 from former Timberline High standout Gibson Berryhill. And Mike Medina picked up his first dual meet victory as Boise State wrestling coach Saturday night when the Broncos downed Utah Valley 32-14. The win snapped an eight-match losing streak for Boise State, which is why Mendoza was brought in from Cal State Bakersfield.
No need to panic, but the Idaho Steelheads are anxious to his the reset button after a three-game sweep at the hands of the Colorado Eagles. Captain Jefferson Dahl returned Friday night from a short stint on the reserve list and scored the Steelheads’ first goal, but that was it in a 2-1 loss. Dahl tallied again Saturday night and Anthony Luciani scored twice, but Colorado peppered Idaho goalie Philippe Desrosiers with 47 shots, 44 of which he rejected. The game went to a shootout, and the Steelheads lost 4-3. They’ll try to get back on track Wednesday night against Rapid City at CenturyLink Arena.
This Day In Sports…December 12, 1981:
A Boise State-Idaho State matchup for the Division I-AA national championship is ruined by Eastern Kentucky, who avenges the loss to the Broncos in the previous year’s title game. The Colonels got past BSU, 23-17, in Bronco Stadium to advance to the final the next week against ISU. The Broncos’ last chance was snuffed when Gerald DesPres, the lead-footed but inspirational French-speaking Canadian quarterback, misunderstood the play call and tried a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-three (though he did come up just a yard short).
(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.)