KTIK’s John Patrick has dusted off a legendary old Dirk Koetter soundbite this week as ticket sales have lagged for tomorrow’s Boise State opener against Troy. We harken back to November of 2000, when the Broncos were rolling, but attendance had not quite caught fire. With Utah State coming to town for a crucial Big West matchup, Koetter ranted about fan turnout. He finished by famously saying, “If we’re going to say Boise’s a football town, then let’s be a football town. If we’re not going to be a football town, let’s quit sayin’ we are.” I’ve said this many times before; the only football towns in the West are Eugene, Provo and Missoula. Boise, like so many others in the West, is an event town. And that’s okay.
There are issues tomorrow, like 95-degree temperatures, the gratifying living room TV experience, and ticket prices. But I think Labor Day Weekend is a bigger bugaboo than we know. Boise State actually hasn’t been in this holiday weekend pickle in a long time. This is the first time the Broncos have played a Saturday home game on Labor Day weekend since 2008, when the they beat Idaho State 49-7 in Kellen Moore’s first game. The crowd that night was 32,318. Since then, they have played Oregon on a Thursday and Washington on a Friday, and fans still had the holiday weekend at their disposal. To be sure, attendance is a concern nationwide. Perspective? Troy set a school record for attendance last season at 22,534 per game.
This is the first game of the rest of Brett Rypien’s life The Boise State quarterback has been very good the past two years—this fall he has to be great. Rypien recognizes what everybody else does. “The biggest thing I’ve learned over these two seasons is how to deal with adversity,” he said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk. “How to deal with certain situations—and hopefully I can carry that into games.” There were three glaring days of adversity last season. First, the one at Wyoming that ended in a safety when Rypien had the ball knocked out of his hands. There was the Air Force game, when he went an inexplicable 9-for-26. And the year ended at the Cactus Bowl, where it appeared Rypien had lost some confidence against Baylor. Now, his slate is clean for 2017. People are pulling for him.
Boise State running back Alexander Mattison has indeed been practicing this week—we’ll find out tomorrow how far that has taken him. It seems pretty certain Mattison won’t be carrying the ball 25 times versus Troy. That thrusts Ryan Wolpin into the spotlight. Can the former walk-on find creases in a fresh, first-team defense? We’ll also see how the staff feels about Robert Mahone’s fall camp—and whether it was a major step forward over the spring. And as much as we’ve heard about true freshman Drake Beasley, is he ready to step into the FBS fire? Here’s one stat to absorb as we look at this unfold: Troy’s defense held opponents to just 2.26 yards per rush on third down last season, the 15th-best mark in the country.
Josh Allen says he dreams of playing for the San Francisco 49ers, the team he grew up rooting for in Central California. The Wyoming quarterback, hyped as a possible No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, will get a feel for whether that’s possible tomorrow when the Cowboys open at Iowa. It’s a fitting proving-ground stage against a Big Ten school, as there are still questions about a guy who threw 15 interceptions last year. The Hawkeyes are favored by 11½ points. The other marquee game involving the Mountain West is the Rocky Mountain Showdown tonight between Colorado State and Colorado at Sports Authority Field in Denver. CSU is looking for a second straight win over a Pac-12 foe. The Rams can run, and the Rams can throw. Can the Buffaloes keep pace?
Idaho’s defense kept Sacramento State under its thumb last night, while a workmanlike Vandal offense wore the Hornets down for a 28-6 win in the Kibbie Dome. Matt Linehan threw only 19 times, covering 163 yards and two touchdowns, including a spot-on 35-yarder to Ruben Mwehla. The only thing that slowed Linehan down was two interceptions. The Idaho running game ruled the night, with Aaron Duckworth rushing for a career-high 142 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Vandals held Sac State to just 190 total yards. They’ve now won six games in a row, their longest streak in 23 years. In Pocatello, Idaho State quarterback Tanner Gueller threw for 299 yards and three TDs to help the Bengals past Western Oregon 37-6 in Rob Phenicie’s head coaching debut.
College of Idaho faces its first Division I opponent (FCS-style) since reinstating its football program in a test at Northern Colorado Saturday. Technically, it’s the Coyotes’ first Division I foe ever. During the initial era of C of I football (1905-77), the Yotes played 15 teams currently at the NCAA Division I level (Boise State, BYU, Cal Poly, Eastern Washington, Hawaii, Idaho, Idaho State, Montana State, Nevada, Sam Houston State, San Jose State, Southern Utah, Utah State, Washington State and Weber State). However, all of those teams were either junior colleges, or members of the NAIA or NCAA Division II at the time. So tomorrow is a landmark day. The Yotes, coming off a tough 16-14 opening-season loss at Montana Western, face a UNC team in Greeley coming off a 6-5 season (4-4 in the Big Sky).
Will he or won’t he be part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster when the weekend is over? Jeremy McNichols has been a star of this season’s edition of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” and it hasn’t been pretty. Last night McNichols led the Bucs in rushing in their final preseason game, a 13-10 loss to Washington, with 36 yards on 10 carries. But that’s 3.6 yards per carry against basically camp bodies and draft picks. Will that be enough? We await the former Boise State star’s report card. Final cuts have to be made by 2 p.m. our time on Saturday. Ex-Bronco Jonathan Moxey made four tackles for Tampa Bay as he, too, experiences the pins and needles. Both McNichols and Moxey could end up on the Bucs’ practice squad.
Correction: the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston starts today and wraps up Labor Day, so Graham DeLaet is on the course this morning for the first round with Bubba Watson and Adam Scott. The Web.com Tour Finals did begin yesterday, though, with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Columbus, OH. The four-tournament series includes the Albertsons Boise Open in two weeks. Notable: Sam Saunders, the grandson of the late Arnold Palmer who got his professional start at the Albertsons Boise Open in 2009, is two shots off the lead after a four-under 67.
This Day In Sports…September 1, 2007, 10 years ago today:
Regarded as the biggest upset in the history of college football, Appalachian State goes into the “Big House” at Michigan and stuns the Wolverines 34-32 before 109,000 fans. The two-time defending Division I-AA national champions dominated the first half but saw Michigan take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Mountaineers then booted a 24-yard field goal with 26 seconds left—and blocked a Wolverine field goal attempt on the final play of the game to put a dramatic exclamation point on the victory. It was the first time a I-AA team had ever beaten a ranked I-A school.
(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.)