The test of Boise State’s mettle

The standard lines at Boise State are “next man up,” and “carry the flag.” The standard lines at Boise State are “next man up,” and “carry the flag.” When there’s an injury, the goal is to forge ahead. This time it’ll be more difficult, as left tackle Rees Odhiambo is out until at least the Broncos’ bowl game—and maybe for the duration—after breaking his left ankle in the fourth quarter against Wyoming Saturday night. Odhiambo has been injury-plagued during his Boise State career, but this is the worst of his maladies. The 6-4, 309-pounder from Mansfield, TX, has had more ups than downs as a Bronco and has developed into an NFL prospect. And Odhiambo has been a leader as a senior. There hasn’t been anyone else on the roster who has proven he can consistently handle the left tackle spot.

So what happens now? The makeshift offensive line could be the difference between an 11-2 (or 12-2) season and something less than that. Coach Bryan Harsin said yesterday Boise State will “hopefully” have combo guard-tackle Mario Yakoo back for this Saturday’s game at UNLV. Yakoo was in street clothes Saturday night on the Albertsons Stadium sideline. He would seem to be the natural first choice as Odhiambo’s replacement, but Archie Lewis is listed as the starter this week. Harsin said guard Steven Baggett can also slide out to tackle. The coach specifically mentioned Andres Preciado as a guy who could move into the rotation against the Rebels. Preciado is a 6-6, 277-pound redshirt freshman from Imperial Beach, CA. “He’s been doing it at practice,” said Harsin. “It’s just a matter of getting more reps.”

Darian Thompson’s senior season has not disappointed, and the Boise State captain has been named as one of 16 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award that goes to the top defensive back in college football. Thompson is the lone representative from the Mountain West and one of only three from Group of Five schools. The three finalists will be named November 23rd. Thompson leads the Broncos this year with four interceptions and 49 tackles. He has 18 picks in his career, tied for the most in Mountain West history.

Which untested unit won out Saturday night—the Wyoming wide receivers or the Boise State cornerbacks? By all accounts, it was Bronco true freshman Tyler Horton and junior college transfer Raymond Ford, who were filling in for the injured Donte Deayon. Wyoming’s Jake Maulhardt, the go-to guy with leading wide receiver Tanner Gentry injured, caught six passes for 76 yards and a 15-yard second-quarter touchdown. But two of the receptions and 43 of the yards came in the final 45 seconds of the game. Only one other Cowboys wideout made a catch—true freshman Joe Parker with one for five yards. Horton logged one tackle and a pass breakup, and Ford made three stops on the night.

Here’s your bowl eligibility notebook. Boise State is bowl-eligible for the 18th consecutive season and will be going to its 16th bowl in the past 17 years in a couple months. The Broncos’ only absences during the period were in 1998—they were 6-5 at a time when mid-majors with that record didn’t get bowl invites—and in 2001, when they missed out after going 8-4 in Dan Hawkins’ first season. That spurred the 2002 slogan “Prove It,” and Boise State has not been left out since. The Broncos’ overall bowl record is 10-5.

The euphoria over a two-game winning streak at Idaho has been tempered by the indefinite suspension of Dezmon Epps. The oft-disciplined star wide receiver has been shelved for allegedly slapping his girlfriend in the face early Sunday morning. According to the university’s official statement, “There is an on-going investigation into the allegations. At the conclusion of the investigation, depending on the outcome, Epps’ status with the team may be reconsidered.” He shouldn’t have status right now. He has had a bottomless pit of chances with the program. Epps leaves behind 61 catches for 762 yards and two touchdowns this season. He was suspended for all of 2014.

What a rush for Makena Simis, the Capital High grad and son of Eagles’ coach Todd Simis. Makena has been named Big Sky Co-Offensive Player of the Week after tying Montana’s school record with six touchdown passes in the Grizzlies’ 42-16 romp over North Dakota in Missoula Saturday. He now shares the Griz record with Jordan Johnson and the legendary Dave Dickenson. Simis had begun the season as Montana’s No. 3 quarterback, but he moved up the depth chart as injuries struck starter Brady Gustafson and his backup, former Idaho Vandal Chad Chalich. Simis was 15-of-22 for a whopping 323 yards, 21.5 yards per completion.

Mopup from Boise State basketball’s first public appearance of the 2015-16 season (the Saturday night scrimmage). Senior guard Mikey Thompson sat out the session after arthroscopic knee surgery, and Montigo Alford was missing with a sports hernia. Thompson is expected to be ready when the Broncos play their exhibition game against Northwest University a week from Friday, and the staff is optimistic Alford will return in time for the season opener at Montana November 13. The best news is Leon Rice’s righthand man, longtime assistant Jeff Linder, is back from a medical leave of sorts and has resumed his coach duties. To help Linder ease back in, director of basketbaIl operations Isaac Williams will handle Linder’s recruiting duties for the time being.

Kyle Wilson, who has been relegated to the shadows in the New Orleans secondary, finally found the limelight again as the Saints beat the reeling Indianapolis Colts 27-21 on Sunday. The former first-round draft pick out of Boise State recorded the first fumble recovery of his career on an Indy kickoff return in the second quarter, setting up a Saints touchdown. Wilson also nabbed his first interception of the season, picking off Andrew Luck at the New Orleans one-yard line near the end of the half and returning it 20 yards. It’s been a quiet season for Wilson, who parted ways with the Jets last winter after five rocky years in New York. He has five total tackles in 2015.

Now that the Utah Jazz own the Idaho Stampede, it appears the NBA club is going to be very active with its D-League affiliate. On Sunday, the Jazz signed a pair of point guards, former Missouri star Phil Pressey and ex-Notre Dame standout Eric Atkins. Then Utah waived both players yesterday with the intent of placing them on the Stampede’s roster, just like they did with former Oregon star E.J. Singler last week. Pressey is particularly interesting. He played 125 games over the past two seasons for the Boston Celtics and was in training camp with Portland this month. Atkins played last season in Greece and the past two months in Hungary.

This Day In Sports…October 27, 1973:

Boise State clinches its first-ever Big Sky Conference football championship before November even arrives, beating Montana 55-7 in Bronco Stadium. Quarterback Ron Autele and halfback John Smith each ran for over 100 yards as the pass-happy Broncos ambushed the Grizzlies by rolling up 531 yards on the ground—still a school record.

(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.