Tuesday, November 8, 2016.
Remember when Alexander Mattison came on in relief of Jeremy McNichols when Boise State was mopping up its 45-10 win at Louisiana-Lafayette on Labor Day weekend? “We thought, “Hmmmm, is this a bid by a true freshman to be McNichols’ featured backup?” Mattison rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries and scored his first career touchdown, and he looked good doing it. But then he got the rock just nine times over the next six games, netting 42 yards. It was all McNichols all the time.
At Wyoming, however, Mattison became a factor again, scoring touchdown No. 2 during a 40-yard night. And he followed with what coach Bryan Harsin said was a designated drive against San Jose State—the third one of the game, in which he gained 38 yards on four carries and scored from 19 yards out. Mattison earned his first career 100-yard game, running with authority and getting the ball in the fourth quarter when the Broncos were milking the clock. It’s the first time two running backs have reached 100 yards in the same game for Boise State since Jeremy Avery and D.J. Harper at Fresno State in 2009. The Broncos thrived back then with the committee concept (Harper was injured that night, and Doug Martin would take it from there). They could have one going now.
McNichols deserves an update, considering his accumulation of accomplishments this season. These things have to be appreciated. It was another day at the office in Boise State’s win over San Jose State as McNichols rushed for 158 yards on 28 carries with two more touchdowns. And it’s important to note this was a punishing performance—there was no 60-yard run to pad the stats. So, here goes. McNichols has scored a TD in 21 straight games, tying the longest streak in the FBS over the past 10 years. He leads the nation in scoring with 120 points and is tied with Louisville Heisman Trophy favorite Lamar Jackson for the national lead in rushing touchdowns with 16. J-Mac’s 20 touchdowns overall, combined with the 26 he racked up last year, make him the only Bronco in school history to record two 20-touchdown seasons.
Some catchup from the weekend: Boise State landed its 13th commitment of the 2017 recruiting class when wide receiver Cartrell Thomas gave his verbal. Thomas is a 5-9, 160-pound wide receiver from Lancaster, TX, in the Dallas Metroplex, and he’s rated as the No. 21 wideout in the state of Texas. Scout.com reports that Thomas chose BSU over a list of offers that included Texas Tech, Utah and Illinois. And Bronco fans have to like the report from the Statesman’s Dave Southorn on Boise State quarterback commit Chase Cord. The senior at Sunrise Mountain High in Peoria, AZ, has broken the Arizona state prep record for career touchdown passes with 133. (Kellen Moore? He still holds the Washington state mark with 173.)
The sacks had been flowing for Boise State this season—until the Wyoming game rolled around. Then the faucet turned off. Over the first seven games of the season, the Broncos had 25 sacks, fourth in the country. The last two games there’s been just one sack, and that came on the very last play against San Jose State when they finally got to Kenny Potter. Their national ranking has fallen to 25th, still pretty good, but the trending is obviously not favorable. Given, Boise State has faced probably the two best scramblers in the Mountain West the past two weeks in Potter and the Cowboys’ Josh Allen. But sacks are a key piece of the puzzle for this defense, and the Broncos have to start getting them again Saturday at Hawaii.
Maybe something will surprise us tonight as the second College Football Playoff rankings are released, like an appearance by San Diego State in the CFP Top 25. Because right now it appears the Aztecs are getting shortchanged in the two main polls. They’re third among “others receiving votes” in AP, and they’re second in line on the AP list. SDSU, of course, has the nation’s leading rusher, Donnel Pumphrery, with 1,581 yards already on the books. And the Aztecs defense has been something else, allowing just one offensive touchdown in five Mountain West games. They’ve outscored opponents a combined 180-26 in league play after annihilating this week’s Boise State opponent, Hawaii, by a 55-0 count.
Had San Diego State not absorbed that freakazoid loss at South Alabama on October 1, there’s no telling were they’d be. The Aztecs were the first Group of 5 team outside of Houston to make Top 25 this season—before Western Michigan and Boise State got in. SDSU had made it up to No. 19 before being shocked by the Jaguars, so they would have had a massive head start in blasting past Houston in the rankings. Bottom line: don’t count out San Diego State in the race for a New Year’s Six bowl. The Aztecs (among others) need Western Michigan to lose, though.
The next game for Boise State men’s basketball is a real one, as the season opens Saturday in Taco Bell Arena against Northwest University. Coach Leon Rice has suggested the Broncos will have a new kind of post presence this season, but maybe not the one fans saw in the 91-76 win over Northwest Christian. "We kind of have a little bit of a three-headed monster,” said Rice after the first exhibition game against Lewis-Clark State. “I think on different nights it’s going to be different guys. You can throw three big guys that just keep coming at you. I think that’s a little bit different than we’ve had here in the past.” It’ll still be interesting to see what develops, but none of the three post guys, David Wacker, Robin Jorch and Zach Haney, played more than nine minutes last Saturday versus the Beacons.
Jason Hammel, the one-time Treasure Valley Community College Chukar, will have a new address in 2017. Hammel’s address was Wrigley Field this year, but he wasn’t included on the Chicago Cubs’ postseason roster despite going 15-10 for the Cubs with a respectable 3.83 ERA, as the club went with a four-man rotation. The 34-year-old righthander’s contract option for next season was not picked up by the Cubbies, and he is now a free agent. Hammel had been known to grumble about Joe Maddon’s early hook for starters. He has won 35 games the past three years and should be able to find work. And he’ll still be fitted for a ring.
Word comes from Bronco Booster volunteers that the guest book at the Allen Noble Hall of Fame Gallery signed by visitors viewing the blue turf has reached a milestone. A gentleman from Vermont came by yesterday, and now all 50 states have been represented. There had been a collection of Bronco goodies awaiting the first Vermont person to come through. The guy was accompanied by a man from Finland, which is new on the international list. There have now been tourists from 33 different countries venture through. Since the volunteer program began in mid-May, more than 11,000 people have stopped by to see the blue. And that’s just while the desk is officially open—Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This Day In Sports…November 8, 1980:
In a showdown for the Big Sky lead at sold-out Bronco Stadium, two of the greatest running backs in Big Sky history face off against each other: Boise State’s Cedric Minter and Nevada’s Frank Hawkins. Hawkins carried the load for the Wolf Pack and had more yards, but Minter made the most of his carries—notching another 100-yard day and scoring what proved to be the winning touchdown in a 14-3 BSU victory. The Broncos would go on to win the Big Sky and the Division I-AA national championship.
(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.)