It’ll be full. It’ll be loud. And it’s hard to imagine it not being the largest crowd in Albertsons Stadium history. It’ll be full. It’ll be loud. And it’s hard to imagine it not being the largest crowd in Albertsons Stadium history when Boise State and Washington meet on the blue turf a week from tonight. When the facility opened 45 years ago, the capacity was 14,500. Now, officially it’s 36,387. Twice they’ve been able to squeeze in more fans that than—both times versus BYU. The record attendance is 36,864 at the 2012 game against the Cougars, followed by 36,752 last year. The Boise State athletic department announced the other day that there are 175 season tickets left for sale, and that is it. If they use the “every nook-and-cranny” routine—maybe a set of extra little bleachers here and there—37,000 here we come.
Boise State’s announcement this week also said there are 21,362 season tickets on the books, up by 223 over last year (and the first increase since 2012, when the Broncos sold a record 24,109). The Coach Pete homecoming—and the solid Pac-12 opponent that comes with him—was the obvious catalyst. So how many of those seats were purchased solely for access to the Boise State-Washington game? And what happens the rest of the season? The next home game is against Idaho State September 18. Yes, it’s an FCS opponent, but it’s an in-state foe. Hopefully Bengals fans will make the easy drive from the east to help fill the stadium and have some fun in the capital city.
The reincarnation of the old Bronco Athletic Association luncheons will start in style Monday with featured speakers Korey Hall and Ian Johnson (in addition to President Bob Kustra). It’s the first of six events in the new Bronco Luncheon Series. Both Hall and Johnson, of course, were centerpieces of Boise State’s first Fiesta Bowl championship team in 2006. Hall was WAC Defensive Player of the Year and kick-started the Broncos’ run with a three-interception performance against Oregon State in the second game of the season. Johnson? Statue of Liberty, The Proposal, ‘nuff said.
The Group of 5 becomes more anonymous, bit by bit. Example: Kirk Herbstreit’s 2015 “Herbie Awards.” The ESPN mainstay hands out 12 awards in traditional and non-traditional categories, and only two Group of 5 players were even candidates, Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty and Boise State defensive end Kamalei Correa. Doughty, who threw for 4,830 yards and 49 touchdowns last season, won the “Best-Kept Secret” award. Correa was one of five nominees for “Best Pass Rusher.” That honor went to Ohio State’s Joey Bosa.
I must admit, when talking about Doug Martin I’m tempted to throw in “Muscle Hamster” the way we did when he was a senior at Boise State in 2011. But I know better. Martin is still on the warpath against the nickname. During the Monday night game this week, the NFL’s official Twitter account posted a tweet of Martin “bouncing off defenders and breaking tackles like 2012 Muscle Hamster.” He thanked the NFL for the shout-out but asked that they stop using that name. Earlier this year in an interview with USA Today’s Tom Pelissero, Martin leaned into the microphone and said, “The name ‘Muscle Hamster’ is the worst nickname possibly ever given to somebody. I hope it changes, and I hope that I play to a level where my nickname changes. That’s what my goals are.” Martin has been running well—the goal is achievable.
That conjurs up memories of Martin’s famous public protestation in 2013: “Stop calling me Muscle Hamster. I’m just telling everybody right now: Stop calling me Muscle Hamster. Dougernaut, Dougernator, Muscle & Hustle, any of those are fine,” he said. “But Muscle Hamster has to stop. Doug is fine, also. The Muscle Hamster has to stop. Stop it.” I choose “Dougernaut.”
One of Martin’s successors at Boise State, Jay Ajayi, has been a disappointment in Miami, according to Florida Sun-Sentinel beat writer Omar Kelly. Ajayi has been hampered by a bad hamstring, and Kelly predicts he won’t play in tomorrow’s preseason game against Atlanta. The injury is putting Ajayi in a hole with the Dolphins, whose vice president, Mike Tannenbaum, famously said earlier this summer the fifth-round draft pick wouldn’t see the field if he couldn’t pass-block. “I don’t think pass-blocking is Jay Ajayi’s issue,” countered Kelly yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk. Running with authority, a must for an NFL back, is. Who’d a thunk? Ajayi is looking like a special teams guy. “I have a hard time believing he’s going to do it as a running back right now,” said Kelly. “He’s at least No. 4 on the depth chart, and I think I’m being generous.”
The Cougs playing in the Kibbie Dome? It’s a long shot. And if it happened, the game wouldn’t be against their Palouse buddies from Idaho. But with wildfires still plaguing Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington, Washington State athletic director Bill Moos is considering numerous options in case it’s too smoky to play WSU’s season opener against Portland State at Martin Stadium a week from tomorrow. According to the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, “Sources indicate that the Cougars have reached out to the University of Idaho about potentially holding the game in the Kibbie Dome, likely a worse-case scenario given that venue holds 16,000 seats. ‘The Kibbie Dome would not be the only option in my mind, there are other options where maybe we could go,’ Moos said. ‘We want to play the game.’” The Vandals’ opener versus Ohio is next Thursday.
Simplot Stadium is all dressed up and ready to go tomorrow as the College of Idaho’s 2015 season opens against Eastern Oregon. Coming off a rebirth season that produced an overachieving 4-7 record, the Coyotes return all 11 starters on offense. That group is led by Eagle’s Marcus Lenhardt, the All-Frontier Conference pick who led all NAIA tight ends last year with 43 receptions and 698 receiving yards. The Yotes have another local standout back to lead the defense. Safety Cory Brady out of Bishop Kelly led the team with 64 tackles and six interceptions in 2014. Eastern Oregon swept the C of I last season, winning 47-7 in LaGrande and 45-21 in Caldwell.
Troy Merritt hung in there yesterday at The Barclays, the first leg of the PGA Tour’s FedExCup Playoffs. The problem for the former Boise State star? A killer double-bogey on the 18th hole that bumped him from one-under to a one-over 71. That leaves Merritt on the bubble to make the cut today—he’s tied for 58th. Fellow former Bronco Graham DeLaet was unable to shake off the rust from more than a month off. He carded a six-over 76 with a disastrously uneven finish to his round. Over the final seven holes, DeLaet logged two birdies, four bogeys and a double-bogey.
Boise Hawks manager Frank Gonzales is all fired up about his team’s hot streak, so much so that he experienced his first ejection of the season yesterday during an afternoon matinee in Vancouver. Gonzales was booted for arguing a call in the second inning. From there, the Hawks went on to a 5-3 victory, their fourth straight win (a season high). Boise starter Ryan McCormick matched his longest outing of the season, pitching five innings and allowing one earned run on eight hits while getting a no-decision. The day was capped by Steven Leonard’s first professional home run in the ninth.
After two seasons away, the Idaho Steelheads will have forward Andrew Carroll back this season. Carroll was productive during a 36-game stint with the Steelheads in 2012-13, putting up 31 points. The 30-year-old also appeared in 15 playoff games that season, scoring three goals and adding five assists. His biggest moment came in Game 6 of Idaho’s first-round playoff series, when he scored the game-tying goal with less than two minutes left in regulation and the game-winning goal less than two minutes into overtime to clinch the series and advance the Steelies to the Western Conference semifinals.
This Day In Sports…August 28, 1981:
Sebastian Coe of Great Britain sets his second world record for the mile in 10 days, lowering the standard to 3:47:33 at a meet in Belgium. Fellow Englishman Steve Ovett, whose record Coe had broken, had just taken the mark back three days earlier. On this day. Coe smashed the standard by 1.2 seconds, the largest quantum leap in the event since 1975.
(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.)