Tuesday, May 28, 2013.
Phil Steele is counting down his predicted top teams in college football this year, and he has reached Boise State already. Steele prides himself on being right, and he often chronicles his predictions in his jam-packed preseason magazine with its little-bitty font and abbreviations—to get as much information in as possible. Last year Steele picked the Broncos No. 38, and they ended up 14th in the Coaches Poll and 18th in the AP Poll.
Although Boise State has been placed comfortably in the top 25 among most preseason prognosticators, Steeles puts the Broncos at No. 33. He just thinks there are too many pitfalls in the schedule. “Playing Fresno, Washington, BYU, San Diego State and Utah State all on the road will make it difficult to run the table, but they are my pick to win the Mountain Division in the Mountain West and are again one of the top non-BCS teams,” writes Steele.
Despite the No. 33 forecast, Steele doesn’t fry any of Boise State’s position groups. He boldly recognizes the probable improvement that lies ahead for the Bronco rushing attack. “Boise focused a lot on their run game in spring,” Steele writes. “(Jay) Ajayi is a tough, physical runner, and it frequently takes several defenders to bring him down. I look for him to top (D.J.) Harper’s numbers from last year.” Well, Harper’s numbers were 1,137 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. As for the Broncos on offense overall, Steele says, “I’ll call for them to get back to the 480 yards per game of 2011 after just 391 yards per game in 2012.”
Former Boise State star Michael Atkinson has exercised his fall-back plan and signed with the CFL’s Hamilton Tigercats, the Statesman reports. Atkinson still harbors stateside hopes, but the knee he injured last November has had NFL teams shying away, and the CFL was his safety net. The Ti-Cats picked Atkinson in the third round of the CFL Draft, 20th overall, in 2012 (teams can draft Canadian players going into their senior years in college—Atkinson is from Windsor, Ontario). Certainly this news earned a couple showings of Canadian Bacon’s legendary “fat guy touchdown,” the 36-yard interception return that beat BYU on the blue turf last September, on local Hamilton sportscasts.
“And life goes on. Columbus bound.” So read a tweet yesterday by Graham DeLaet as he departed for this week’s Memorial Tournament following Sunday’s disappointing finish at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. DeLaet entered the final round one shot off the pace and started the day with a birdie on the first hole. Things came apart from there, though, as the former Boise State star bogeyed Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 7, ending any hope he had of grabbing his first PGA Tour victory. DeLaet carded a four-over 74 and finished tied for 22nd. Nevertheless, he still took home $64,000 and climbed six spots in the FedEx Cup standings, from 54th to 48th.
Elsewhere, Troy Merritt’s big first round at the Web.com Tour’s Mexico Championship last Thursday was as good as it got. The former Bronco’s scorecard went way south of the border, as he went 67-72-75-72 and pocketed only $3,850. At the Senior PGA Championship, Quail Hollow teaching pro Jim Empey came close to playing the weekend in St. Louis but missed the cut by one stroke Friday. Empey rallied from an opening day 75 to shoot a one-over 72 in the second round. It was another great life experience for the affable Empey. And congrats to the College of Idaho’s Trish Gibbens, who steadily climbed the leaderboard and finished 24th at the NAIA Championships.
The Boise State athlete who seemed most certain to advance to the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships didn’t make the finals at the West Preliminaries in Austin, as Jordin Andrade was eliminated in the semifinals by one one-hundredth of a second in the 110-meter high hurdles. But Emma Bates, who qualified for nationals Thursday in the 10,000 meters, added a berth in the 5,000 meters and was joined by Bronco teammates Marisa VanderMalle in the steeplechase, Matt Post in the hammer, and Daveon Collins in the 200. And the College of Idaho won two individual national titles Saturday, with Mountain View’s Hillary Holt winning the 1500 meters and Meridian’s Sora Klopfenstein taking the steeplechase. For Holt, it was a nice tuneup to the U.S. Championships in Eugene next month.
Boise State basketball hasn’t announced the destination for its planned foreign tour in August, but a trip to Serbia is unlikely. Vukasin Vujovic, one of four foreign players on the Bronco roster, left the team Friday to return home to Serbia to pursue other opportunities. Anthony Drmic and Igor Hadziomerovic wouldn’t mind a trip to Australia, and Edmunds Dukulis would no doubt welcome a tour of Latvia. Boise State is still one over the NCAA scholarship limit based on the current roster and players set to join the program, so one more departure from the squad is likely to come.
Former Boise Hawk Josh Donaldson did his most significant damage yet yesterday as a mainstay of the Oakland A’s. Donaldson took out the hated San Francisco Giants in the first game of this year’s first Bay Bridge Series, hitting a two-run homer to give the A’s a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in a 4-1 victory. It’s a breakout season for Donaldson—and how. He’s batting .324 with eight home runs and 33 RBI.
The biggest purse of the year at Les Bois Park (and second-largest in the Northwest) was accompanied by the biggest controversy of the year at the track yesterday. The $117,000 Bitterroot Futurity was apparently won by a length by SS Paydirt, with jockey Jesus Virgin aboard. But Virgin was penalized for interference during the wild 350-yard sprint, and Lacey J. Jr. guided by jockey Elliot Bachicha, was declared the winner. “Just listening to the talk from the other riders, it sounded like it was legit," winning owner Ron Moosman told KTVB. "You hate to win a race that way, but you take them any way you can get them in a race of this magnitude."
This Day In Sports…May 28, 1957:
Many will never forgive them, but Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley and Giants owner Horace Stoneham receive unanimous approval from the National League to move from New York City to the West Coast. Both had long complained of dwindling attendance, outdated ballparks and lack of parking space. The following April, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants became major league baseball’s first franchises in California.
(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.)