The playing field seems to have leveled between Boise State and Air Force, because it sure wasn’t that way five years ago. “We have a lot of history with Air Force, in the games we’ve played going back to 2014,” said coach Bryan Harsin in an understatement. The Falcons beat the Broncos three times in a row from 2014-16, the first team to pull off such a feat in 15 years. That included Air Force’s shocking 37-30 win on the blue turf in 2015. Since then, it’s Boise State which has taken three straight in the series, including what now looks like the Broncos’ biggest win of the season in 2019, 30-19 at home last September. Remember that the Falcons went on to a school-record 11 wins and were ranked one spot ahead of Boise State in the final AP Poll.
No Mountain West team has been affected more by the coronavirus this year than Air Force in terms of opt-outs, though, hence the 14-point spread. A quarterback change has affected the Falcons’ outlook, too. This summer, Donald Hammond III was named to the watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award, which goes to college football’s best QB. Some had him ranked ahead of Boise State’s Hank Bachmeier. But in July, Hammond was “no longer a cadet in good standing” and could not represent the Academy in outside activities. He rushed for 13 touchdowns last season and passed for another 13 scores. Plan B would have been Isaiah Sanders, but he went to Stanford as a graduate transfer. So Haaziq Daniels, a sophomore from Franklin, MO, is calling the signals now.
TREASURE VALLEY RISERS
It’s always nice to have local stars shine at Boise State. Boise High’s John Ojukwu is established at left tackle, Homedale High’s Scott Matlock is on the rise at defensive tackle and Rocky Mountain High’s Keeghan Freeborn is emerging at nose tackle. Matlock had only two tackles against Utah State, but I saw him all over the FS1 telecast. Freeborn quadrupled his career tackles count, registering three versus the Aggies. But Rocky’s Jonah Dalmas is the sentimental favorite here. His perch on the depth chart as placekicker last week was not window dressing. It was indeed Dalmas who took the field after all six Broncos touchdowns, and he converted the PAT on all six. Next up for the former Idaho Gatorade Soccer Player of the Year: a first career field goal attempt.
THIS CENTURY’S LOCAL FEET
Dalmas is Boise State’s fourth Treasure Valley kicker of the 21st century. The first was Tyler Jones out of Borah High, who led the nation in scoring in 2004 with 141 points. Then came Meridian High’s Kyle Brotzman and his well-chronicled career from 2007-10. There’s one unfortunate kick that too many fans choose to remember, but Brotzman was the highest-scoring kicker in college football history when he was finished. Dan Goodale of Timberline High succeeded Brotzman in 2011. Goodale had an unfortunate kick of his own that season, but he ended on the upside in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl, where he contributed a 36-yard field goal in the win over Arizona.
SECRET’S OUT: SCALE SHOULD BE OKAY
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin has a policy of not discussing injuries unless they’re season-ending. But defensive line coach Spencer Danielson let a little cat out of the bag yesterday when he called nose tackle Scale Igiehon’s injury against Utah State a mild ankle sprain. He also said Igiehon should be back for the Air Force game. One media member joked on Twitter to the effect that Danielson is probably in line for a talking to. But if Igiehon is indeed good to go Saturday evening, he’d take up some serious space in the middle against the Falcons’ vaunted triple-option.
SIMPLIFYING THE DALLAS PLAYBOOK?
Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is figuring out how much to put on rookie Ben DiNucci’s plate as the Cowboys prepare for a lot of eyeballs against Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football. Andy Dalton was still in the NFL’s concussion protocol as the team returned to practice Wednesday, suffering from the late hit that knocked him out of the game last Sunday at Washington. “Ben’s been up here, relentlessly here in the last 48 hours,” said coach Mike McCarthy of DiNucci. Maybe he can absorb more of Kellen’s playbook than we think. But it’s still a tough row to hoe. DiNucci is a 6-2, 209-pound seventh round draft pick out of FCS power James Madison.
ON THE PHILLY SIDE
The Eagles’ John Hightower will be able to look across the field Sunday night and see his Boise State predecessor, Cedrick Wilson. Going back to last Thursday, Hightower made perhaps the most important play of the night for Philadelphia. Trailing the New York Giants 21-10 late in the fourth quarter, Hightower pulled in a 59-yard bomb from Carson Wentz, his only reception of the game, to set up an Eagles touchdown (Philly went on to win 22-21). His first career catch in September went for minus-two yards. Hightower’s last two receptions have covered 109 yards.
WAY OUT IN THE ATLANTIC
Former Boise State stars Troy Merritt and Graham DeLaet are both in the field for the Bermuda Championship, teeing off this morning at Port Royal Golf Club in Southhampton Parish. For both, it’s their first tournament since the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas three weeks ago. Merritt tied for 43rd in that one and earned $21,665. A five-under 66 in the second round kept him away from the cut-line. DeLaet has played three events since finally returning to the tour seven weeks ago and has missed the cut in each as he and his healing back try to find a groove.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!
October 29, 2003: At the time we wondered how significant it would be over time, but it’s now a landmark day in pro basketball history. Six months after the third and final retirement of Michael Jordan, LeBron James made his much-anticipated NBA debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 18-year-old phenom was impressive, scoring 25 points with nine assists and four steals in a 106-92 road loss to the Sacramento Kings.
(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.)