Monday, April 3, 2017.
There’s not much to make of Boise State’s second scrimmage of spring football Saturday. It was kind of a dress rehearsal for this Saturday’s Blue & Orange Game (full disclosure: I wasn’t there). But one of the details that dribbled out was a solid performance by backup quarterback Jake Constantine, who I talked about last week. His day was highlighted by a 75-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Richardson. Let’s look at the possibilities for Constantine. He’s a redshirt freshman this year, so he’ll be a junior when Brett Rypien (and Rathen Ricedorff) are done. He’ll likely have Chase Cord, this year’s incoming freshman QB, to contend with. Cord would be a redshirt sophomore in 2019. And there’ll be a young quarterback-to-be-named or two in the mix as well. But if Constantine can hang in there and work hard, he’ll have a shot.
Spring football’s “great offensive line project” has one week to go. In the past month, Boise State has had Scott Huff leave the O-line coach’s seat and Brad Bedell come in. And the Broncos have been working without Mason Hampton, Archie Lewis, Garrett Larson and John Molchon, all four of whom are rehabbing after offseason surgeries. But there is hope in the Bleymaier Football Center. Hampton and Larson have resumed snapping in practice, and Molchon is also doing drills on the sideline (no contact for any of them, of course).
The opportunity for work has been invaluable for highly-touted redshirt freshmen offensive linemen Kole Bailey and Ezra Cleveland. And the on-field orientation has come early for John Ojukwu, who graduated early from Boise High in order to join the Bronco program at semester. “He’s gotten a lot of reps,” said coach Bryan Harsin of Ojukwu. “Probably more than he should be getting at this point.”
The All-Northwest national championship game was not to be, but Gonzaga getting into tonight’s finale is good enough. It’s been a season of firsts for the Zags—first Final Four, first title game, and now one first to go versus North Carolina tonight. The stage is enormous at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. But the pressure’s off the Bulldogs now. We will see…
Amid plummeting attendance, player exodus, and a series of late Marches spent at home, New Mexico fired coach Craig Neal Saturday. Neal, who was promoted to replace Steve Alford when the latter took the UCLA job four years ago, oversaw a slow erosion in the storied Lobos program. He compiled a 76-52 record that included some unthinkable losses in the Pit. After going 27-7 and winning the Mountain West in his first year, essentially with Alford’s roster, New Mexico was 49-45 over Neal’s final three seasons. Neal just didn’t seem like a “glue guy” kind of coach, and his persistent sneer on the bench was far from endearing.
Wyoming is the CBI champion after a second consecutive 24-point rout of Coastal Carolina in the finale of the best-of-three championship series Friday night. Can this experience do for the Pokes what Nevada’s run to the CBI title last year did for the Wolf Pack? The Pack, of course, went on to win the Mountain West championship last month. The Cowboys won’t be predicted to do the same next year, but their decision to participate in this tournament was a good one. And did you know? It was Wyoming's first major postseason title since winning the 1943 NCAA championship.
Good goaltending is a staple of postseason success, and the Idaho Steelheads got a head start with a 31-save shutout from Branden Komm Saturday night in a 3-0 win over the Colorado Eagles. Komm’s effort in the Steelheads’ regular season home finale earned him his second shutout of the season. On the other end there was Jefferson Dahl, who had just been named Idaho’s 2016-17 team MVP. Dahl backed it up with a goal and two assists, dropping Colorado into second place behind Allen in the ECHL Mountain Division. The victory was the Steelies’ 40th of the season, the 13th time in the 20 years of the franchise they’ve reached that plateau.
Troy Merritt couldn’t make his first-round magic stick over the weekend at the Shell Houston Open. The former Boise State star carded a five-under 67 Thursday but didn’t see par the rest of the way, with a 75 on Friday setting the unfortunate tone. Merritt finished in a tie for 55th and earned $15,750. It did mark a second straight made cut for Merritt, though. He can build on the positives as he takes a break during Masters week.
The margin for error was minuscule for the Boise State women’s gymnastics team at the NCAA Lincoln Regional. There were a few too many errors Saturday, and the Broncos were again denied a first-ever trip to the NCAA Championships. Boise State needed a top-two finish to go to nationals and ended up third after a 196.150 score, .475 behind Nebraska. Sophomore Shani Remme will represent the Broncos at nationals in all-around. Remme, who went to the NCAA Championships in the beam last year, will compete in St. Louis on April 14.
Allie Ostrander’s return to the track was a long time coming, and she made it count Friday night at the Stanford Invitational. The Boise State distance star, competing for the first time since the U.S. Olympic Trials last summer, won the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 9:55.61, the second-fastest time ever by a Bronco. And it was the first time Ostrander's had ever run that event. She’s officially a redshirt freshmen in outdoor track and field eligibility.
This Day In Sports…April 3, 1989:
A year after Boise State fell to a talented young Michigan team in their tense first round NCAA Tournament matchup, the now senior-laden Wolverines win it all—nipping Seton Hall in overtime, 80-79, in the national championship game. The victory completed a dizzying three-week stretch that saw Michigan coach Bill Freider jump ship to Arizona State, to be replaced by assistant Steve Fisher, now the head coach at San Diego State.
(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.)