Touchdown machines unite

Time-out from the Boise State quarterback forum. Is the McWeapon headed for the record book? Time-out from the Boise State quarterback forum to scan other areas of interest going into the Broncos’ Friday night tilt at Virginia. Jeremy McNichols scored three more touchdowns against Idaho State last Friday and has been named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week. Is the McWeapon headed for the record book? Here’s how other historic Bronco scorers did in their first three games. Brock Forsey had three TDs at this point in his monstrous 2002 season; he ended up with a school-record 32. Ian Johnson was at seven touchdowns three games into the 2006 season and finished with 25. And Jay Ajayi had scored four touchdowns at this point last year—he went on to tie Forsey’s record at 32. McNichols has trumped ’em all with eight so far. Where will it go from here?

An effective Boise State ground game would provide some relief for Brett Rypien and Tommy Stuart at Virginia. The Broncos were sluggish on the ground most of the first quarter versus the Bengals before Devan Demas scored BSU’s first touchdown of the season by a guy not named McNichols (then Demas raced down and made the tackle on the ensuing kickoff). Brothers Kelsey and Cory Young each had personal mini-drives against Idaho State. Kelsey’s came after the “punt” by ISU’s Zak Johnson’s that looked like a topped tee shot (the video of which has gone viral). He capped it with the first of his two touchdowns on the night. Cory’s drive came in the fourth quarter, when he rushed six times for 58 yards before being stopped on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line.

Tanner Vallejo got credit for a blocked punt on the aforementioned Idaho State mis-hit, since it nailed him on the arm (he then recovered it). Vallejo was also identified as the guy who got a piece of Johnson’s 36-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter. The Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP thus has a Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week award in his pocket.

Here’s one area in which Boise State needs to circle the wagons at Virginia: sacks. Rypien and Stuart won’t be able to function smoothly in that environment without protection from their offensive line, and that’s been a concern through the first three games of the season. After yielding 28 sacks last year, the Broncos have already allowed nine this season, tied for 111th in the country and on pace for 39 over a 13-game campaign. Things are a bit different than they were in 2009, when Boise State led the nation by allowing only five sacks in 14 games. One theory is that Rypien’s quick release and anticipation will neutralize the Broncos’ sack problem as he gets comfortable.

I hope you’re sitting down, because I know this will really surprise you. The Boise State-Hawaii game a week from this Saturday at Albertsons Stadium will kick off at…8:15 p.m. At the earliest. Home game start times still to be announced are the Wyoming game October 24 and the matchup against New Mexico November 14. I think the kickoff against Idaho State, coming an hour and a half earlier as it did, helped draw 33,868 last Friday night. The payoff for the Broncos in the game against the Rainbow Warriors is the $500,000 Mountain West check they earn for appearing on a Saturday on ESPN2.

What can you say about the Mountain West? After the worst non-conference week of football in league history, MW teams lost every one of their contests against FBS schools over the weekend. There weren’t as many routs as in Week 2, but the loss column was bloated again. In matchups against ranked teams, Air Force was decent at No. 4 Michigan State before falling 35-21, and Nevada hung in at No. 17 Texas A&M before falling 31-17, but Fresno State was not very representative in its 45-24 home loss to No. 21 Utah. Utah State couldn’t keep pace with Coach Pete’s crew at Washington, falling 31-17. And Colorado State, the conference’s best shot versus the Power 5 the past two weeks, lost 27-24 in overtime to Colorado in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. The Rams were defeated by Minnesota in OT the previous Saturday. One big ouch.

A Kellen Moore update: the former Boise State star had better be ready to keep a stiff upper lip again. In the absence of injured Tony Romo, ESPN reports the Dallas Cowboys are bringing in Christian Ponder, Matt Flynn and Josh Johnson for tryouts before they consider promoting Moore to the active roster from the practice squad. If Kellen could only get a shot. Elsewhere, Doug Martin continues to carry the load in Tampa Bay as he tries to carve out a comeback season with the Buccaneers. Martin gained 78 yards on 21 attempts in the Bucs’ 26-19 win over New Orleans at the Superdome Sunday. He also had two receptions for 20 yards. Martin, however, fumbled twice and lost both. It’s not a done deal.

A couple other Nevada notes: former coach Chris Ault is back on the sideline a long, long way from home. Ault, now 68 years old, will coach Rhinos Milano, a team in the upstart Italian Football League, just for the love of the game. Ault retired from the Wolf Pack after the 2012 season—he said he’ll still employ the Pistol offense he invented at Nevada in 2005. And the Pack men’s basketball program has picked up perhaps its highest-profile recruit ever, getting a verbal from four-star power forward Arlando Cook, one of the top junior college players in the country. Cook picked Nevada over his other finalists, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Missouri and Memphis. He averaged 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds during his freshman season at Connors State College in Oklahoma.

And one more Fresno State note: 2013 must seem so long ago to fans in the San Joaquin Valley. After the home rout at the hands of Utah, Bulldogs quarterback Zach Greenlee was arrested for public drunkenness early Sunday morning. Greenlee had lost his starting job to true freshman Chason Virgil for the Utah game, only to have to come in to replace Virgil when he broke his clavicle. Greenlee then threw three touchdown passes against the Utes. Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said yesterday that he’ll seek a medical redshirt for Virgil, who is out for the year. The Bulldogs play at San Jose State this week and are 3½-point underdogs to the Spartans. When’s the last time that happened?

It’s a big day for cyclist Kristin Armstrong. Boise’s two-time Olympic gold medalist guns for the world championship in the time trial at Richmond, VA. If she so much as makes the podium (top three) she’ll qualify for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. It won’t be easy, as defending champion Lisa Brennauer of Germany is back, along with 2013 winner Ellen van Dijk of the Netherlands. Armstrong’s third comeback from retirement has gone well—she finished third at the Tour of California time trial in May, her first major race back. Then she won the U.S. national championship, guaranteeing her spot at worlds. And oh by the way, she’ll be at the Boise State-Virginia game Friday night.

The Idaho Stampede held their annual open tryouts over the weekend, with more than 45 players coming in for a shot at the D-League. Included were former Boise State sixth-man sparkplug Rob Heyer, former Idaho Vandal Glen Dean, and former College of Idaho Coyote Josh Wilson. A one-time Stampede player was also on the invitation list, Aaron Dotson, who appeared in three games last season before a concussion cut his season short. The number of invitations issued to the Stampede’s training camp the first week of November will depend on how many spots the Utah Jazz organization makes available.

This Day In Sports…September 22, 1993:

Pitching legend Nolan Ryan plays in his final game as the Texas Rangers fall to the Seattle Mariners 7-4. Ryan was 46 years old and was completing his 27th big league season. He finished the year 5-5 with a 4.88 ERA, but he retired with 324 victories, a record seven no-hitters, a record 5,714 strikeouts, and a career ERA of 3.19. Ryan later became a baseball executive and spent almost five years as president and part-owner of the Rangers.

(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.)