We can ask questions now, knowing there could be answers in the foreseeable future. Such as, which Boise State players will flirt with newfound star status this season? The two I’m eager to watch on the offensive side of the ball are wide receiver Octavius Evans and left tackle John Ojukwu. For Evans, it’s been a arduous road. He and CT Thomas began their careers together in 2017 and showed promise. Some saw Evans as Cedrick Wilson’s heir-apparent. He was then graced with the No. 1 jersey at the 2018 spring game, but his sophomore season was derailed by injuries, and he played only five games. And that was one over the limit for Evans to retain a redshirt year. Last season he had 19 catches for 211 yards and a touchdown. Is this the season it all comes together for the 6-1, 204-pound senior?
To be sure, Ojukwu is worth watching. Not only does he have to handle the enormous responsibility of playing left tackle, but he also needs to fill the leadership void left by his four graduated teammates on the offensive line. Ojukwu is suddenly the O-line mentor as he enters his junior season. Four years ago he was a dominating offensive lineman at Boise High who, when he committed to the Broncos, told KTVB’s Jay Tust he had gained 100 pounds in the previous year. At that time Ojukwu was seen as a 6-6, 280-pound project as a college player. He is now a svelte 301, and he is skilled.
NEW YEAR’S SIX RACE: FOREGONE CONCLUSION?
The Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West and MAC were eligible again for the polls this week. All those 0-0 teams were back in the mix. Five of them made the AP Top 25, and none of them were from the Mountain West. That in itself isn’t surprising right now, but no team from the conference received so much as a vote in either poll. Not even one 25th-place vote for Boise State. Now that is strange. It tells you that the American Athletic Conference has a six-week head start on the MW in the race for a New Year’s Six berth, and it’ll be almost impossible for a team like the Broncos to catch up. UCF is No. 11 in AP and Cincinnati No. 15. The College Football Playoff committee isn’t beholden to the AP and Coaches polls in its rankings. But by late October, the AAC will have a body of work that’ll be tough to overcome.
RYPIEN’S UNEXPECTED JUMP
From an assumed assignment back to the practice squad to a quarterback controversy for Brett Rypien. Yes, the former Boise State star was operating for Denver in mop-up time of a game that had been decided Sunday (a 28-10 loss to Tampa Bay). And Rypien did finish his only drive by throwing an interception in the end zone. But leading up to that, he completed the first seven passes of his NFL career and finished 8-of-9 for 53 yards. Broncos coach Vic Fangio was non-commital Monday on who he would start at QB Thursday night against the New York Jets, but it will not be newly-signed Blake Bortles. Rypien showed enough to be side-by-side with Jeff Driskel in No. 1 practice reps this week. Many see this as the perfect opportunity to see what Rypien can do.
BRONCOS IN THE BOX SCORES
It probably wasn’t a record number of NFL participants among former Boise State stars on Sunday—that would have been several years ago. But it could have set the standard for guys with stats. KTVB’s Jay Tust researched this nugget on Cedrick Wilson: his 107 receiving yards for Dallas against Seattle Sunday were the second-most ever by a former Bronco in the NFL. And Wilson was just three yards behind Legedu Naanee, who is tops with a 110-yard game in 2011 with San Diego. The only other two 100-yard games by Boise State products: 103 yards by David Hughes of the Seahawks in 1981 and an even 100 by Titus Young with Detroit in 2012.
In addition to Rypien and our friends with the Dallas Cowboys, it was Alexander Mattison versus Jeremy McNichols in Minnesota. Mattison had eight carries for 27 yards, while McNichols didn’t have a rushing attempt but caught one pass for five yards. McNichols’ Titans team got the victory 31-30. The newly-activated George Iloka had one tackle for the Vikings. John Hightower’s career NFL receiving yardage is in positive territory now after he made two grabs for 19 yards in Philadelphia’s 23-23 tie with Cincinnati. As you recall, Hightower had one catch for a loss of two yards in his debut. And Billy Winn was activated off the practice squad by Green Bay for Sunday Night Football and knocked down a Drew Brees pass attempt in the Packers’ 37-30 victory at New Orleans.
PLAYOFF DIZZINESS & FORMER HAWKS DEBUT
Today through Friday features a frenzy never before seen in Major League Baseball. The coronavirus version of the playoffs features 16 teams—six division champions, six second-place teams, and four wild cards—playing eight best-of-three series over four days. Meanwhile, in a wrap as it relates to former Boise Hawks on teams that missed the postseason, a couple of them made their major league debuts just in the nick of time.
Antonio Santos, who was a mainstay in the 2016 Hawks rotation, made his first three career appearances for the Colorado Rockies this month. It didn’t go so well, as Santos allowed 11 earned runs in six innings pitched. Elliot Soto was a Hawk 10 years ago and finally debuted with the Angels at he age of 31. Soto, who played 867 minor league games, went 2-for-6 with a double and two runs scored in three games for the Halos.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by MAZ-TECH AUTOMOTIVE…helping Boise vehicles thrive since 1985!
September 29, 1990, 30 years ago today: Boise State faces a coaching legend in a game at Long Beach State. George Allen had come out of retirement to coach Long Beach—and would pass away early the following year. Allen gained fame as an NFL mastermind, winning 119 games with the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins, reaching Super Bowl VII with the latter. He would pass away on New Year’s Eve that year. By the way, Boise State dominated the game but lost to Long Beach State on the scoreboard, 21-20.
(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.)