Thursday, August 10, 2017.
How does Boise State lead the Mountain West in total offense at 472.8 yards per game—and come in sixth in scoring with a 33.8-point average? The Broncos were not good in the red zone last year, and they always got the ball with a lot of green or blue in front of them (a lot of yards to gain just to get to the red zone). Their average field position to start a drive was the 28-yard line, near the bottom of the FBS. That’s because Boise State not only struggled in the return game, it gained a record-low nine turnovers the entire season. The Broncos were rarely handed a short field. One of the things that saved them was punter Sean Wale, whose 45 yards per boot was a career-high. Wale had to bail the Broncos out. Now, can Joel Velazquez fill that shoe? Will he get any help from the defense? Stay tuned.
Velazquez will be a lot busier than Wale, as he’ll be doing double-duty. With Tyler Rausa also gone, Velazquez will handle placekicking chores as well. Rausa’s senior season was a weird one. After attempting 30 field goals in 2015 (and making 25), he was just 9-of-13 last year. Part of it was that red zone thing if you do the math. Rausa had 17 fewer tries, and Boise State reached the red zone 15 fewer times than in 2015. As much emphasis as has been placed on red zone performance, expect more field goal attempts from Velazquez. He may, by the way, have the skills to execute a fake. Velazquez, a 6-0, 228-pound redshirt freshman, competed in the shot put and discuss at Trabuco Hills High in Mission Viejo, CA.
In case you haven't checked out Sagarin’s preseason computer rankings, well, they don’t line up at all with conventional Group of 5 wisdom among the major publications. Boise State is No. 37, yet it’s the top-ranked Group of 5 school. South Florida, this year’s trendy pick for a New Year’s Six bowl, is all they way down at No. 62. Next in the Mountain West pecking order are San Diego State at No. 50, Air Force and Utah State back-to-back at Nos. 74-75, and Colorado State at No. 81. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the Group of 5 or the Mountain West. But how about USU at 75—higher than CSU? The Aggies have been roundly panned by preseason magazines and are picked last in the MW Mountain Division, but the computer likes them.
The Miami Dolphins play Atlanta in their preseason opener tonight, and it would be a shock to see Jay Ajayi play a snap. The good news is, Ajayi has returned to practice this week in helmet and shoulder pads. Miami coach Adam Gase said the former Boise State star remains in concussion protocol 10 days after absorbing a couple monster hits in drills. Ajayi is close to returning full-speed, though. When he was sidelined, Ryan Tannehill was the Dolphins’ quarterback. Since then, Tannehill partially tore his ACL and is now on the shelf—and Ajayi has to get to know the newly-arrived Jay Cutler. The Jay-Train has been participating in non-contact drills and catching passes from the former Chicago Bear.
I didn’t see the first episode of “Hard Knocks,” did you? We sure are hearing a lot about the HBO reality show that this year features the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s because there are Boise State ties all over the place, of course. There was Dirk Koetter in his office with an helmet on the shelf with the old “Broncos” script, Jeremy McNichols talking to Snoop Dog on his iPhone, and Doug Martin crashing the stage during a rookie talent show to do some Micheal Jackson moon-walkin’. The essence of “Hard Knocks” has always been the agony and ecstasy of trying to make an NFL roster, but that will take a back seat this month with most of the cuts now coming at the end of camp. But the show did get the Bucs’ waiver of Thomas Sperbeck in there after the wide receiver’s hamstring injury. Koetter let him down easy.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament committee will be placing extra emphasis this season on road and neutral-site victories. So how do you schedule if you’re UNLV? You get some “neutral-site” games in Las Vegas. The Rebels will participate in the MGM Resorts Main Event at T-Mobile Arena in late November and early December, facing Rice, Oral Roberts, Illinois and either Ole Miss or Utah. The latter two games would help UNLV’s RPI cause, the others not so much. But hey, they’re “neutral site” games.
Another wave of offense rolled in at Memorial Stadium last night as the Boise Hawks pounded Eugene again 10-2. Actually, the runs came in waves, with three in the second inning, four in the fifth and three in the seventh. Daniel Jipping clubbed his 10th home run of the season (and his first since July 18), a three-run shot that wrapped up the scoring. It was the Hawks’ 50th homer of the year.
Checking in on the two Boiseans in the big leagues—James Hoyt has had two outings since being called back up by Houston, pitching three innings and allowing just a hit and a walk. That’s a big improvement from late July, just before he was sent down to Triple-A, when Hoyt had an appearance versus Baltimore that saw him allow four runs in a third of an inning. For the season, the Boise High grad is 1-0 with a 5.13 ERA. Hoyt has struck out 58 batters in 40 1/3 innings. San Francisco’s Josh Osich has also thrown twice in August and has given up just one hit and a walk in 1 1/3 innings after several late-July meltdowns. The Bishop Kelly alum needs something good to happen down the stretch, as his ERA sits at 5.61 despite a 3-2 record for the struggling Giants.
Meridian resident Austin Bibens-Dirkx is the surprise local in the majors this summer—only because it took awhile to figure out he was a Meridian resident. Bibens-Dirkx made his big league debut for the Texas Rangers at the ripe old age of 32 on May 17. He was mainly in the Rangers’ starting rotation through late June, but he’s been coming out of the bullpen since returning from a stint back in Triple-A about three weeks ago. The former University of Portland Pilot is 3-2 this season with a 4.70 ERA.
This Day In Sports…August 10, 2011:
Boise State president Bob Kustra announces that athletic director Gene Bleymaier is being relieved of his duties after almost 30 years at the helm. Kustra pointed to the ramifications of an NCAA investigation into the Bronco program as the core issue. Bleymaier masterminded the installation of the blue turf in 1986, guided Boise State into Division I-A in 1996, and oversaw a football program that became one of the sport’s biggest stories of the new century, with a regular spot in the Top 25 and, at that point, two Fiesta Bowl victories.
(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.)