(Tom Scott's column will return Wednesday.)
Friday, July 19, 2013.
Mountain West Media Days are coming up Monday and Tuesday in Las Vegas, so there won’t be much talk about non-conference opponents the next week. Consequently, here’s some housekeeping on that front. BYU is going into its third year as a football independent, with a lot of talk about how its schedule has evolved over that period of time. From a 2011 slate peppered with WAC schools to fill holes, especially late in the season, it’s gone to this. “BYU faces the most brutal schedule in Cougar history as it will play against the likes of Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Texas and Boise State.” Sportswriter Lafe Peavler’s words recently in the Deseret News. “It will be the first time in program history that BYU can say it has a strength of schedule comparable to teams in automatic qualifying conferences.”
Longtime Cougar watchers point to 2000, coach LaVell Edwards’ final season, when BYU opened with road games at Florida State, Virginia and Air Force before finally coming home to face a ranked Mississippi State team. Hans Olsen, the former Weiser Wolverine who was a defensive tackle on the 2000 team and is now a Salt Lake City sports-talk radio personality, has some perspective. “I look at this (2013) schedule, and this is a tougher schedule than that,” Olsen told the Deseret News. “I think this might be the toughest schedule ever for BYU.”
BYU’s chances of beating Boise State and some of those others on this year’s calendar often enough to better last year’s 8-5 record rest with quarterback Taysom Hill. In fact, it was Hill who almost brought down the Broncos on the blue turf last September with his fourth quarter touchdown drive in that quirky 7-6 Bronco win. Hill, the sophomore from Highland High in Pocatello, can run—he’s a sub-4.6 40 guy—but he averaged less than six yards per pass attempt last year. There’s your key. He seems to be the type of QB who could flourish in a no-huddle attack, and that’s what BYU is going to as it brings back offensive coordinator Robert Anae from Arizona. Anae, a one-time Boise State assistant, replaces Brandon Doman, whose contract wasn’t renewed.
Mountain West Media Days will bring a lot of conjecture to the surface. Like the theory that conference newcomer Utah State will provide Boise State its biggest competition in the Mountain Division. The Aggies have the best shot at keeping pace with the Broncos, especially since the three teams USU doesn’t face from the West Division are Fresno State, San Diego State and Nevada, arguably that division’s top three teams. Boise State faces all three, of course. Many think USU, 11-2 last year, is still on the upswing despite having had to replace coach Gary Andersen with Matt Wells. The Aggies are the only team bringing two juniors to Las Vegas as player representatives, quarterback Chuckie Keeton and linebacker Zach Vigil.
Former Boise State star Jamar Taylor is prepped for the opening of Miami Dolphins training camp after missing the Dolphins’ OTA’s and minicamp due to surgery for a sports hernia in late May. Is Taylor good to go for camp? There was a little hesitation yesterday from the second-round draft pick. “All I know is that they cleared me a while back,” Taylor said on Idaho SportsTalk. “I’ll see what it’s like when we start practicing Sunday. We have great trainers; I’m just going to listen to those guys.” Jeff Caves asked him if he’s checked out South Beach. “I’m staying away from South Beach—I’m here to play football,” Taylor replied.
Graham DeLaet is on the course as this column is posted, trying to rally in the second round of the British Open. DeLaet’s opening round 76 was pockmarked by a trio of three-putts and four missed greens-in-regulation, a category in which he leads the PGA Tour this season. “There was nothing that jumped out and surprised us, I just wasn’t executing the shots,” said the former Boise State star. “I felt I hit a good number of decent golf shots out there but the bad ones overtook them.” DeLaet was tied for 92nd after Day 1 at Muirfield.
The Web.com Tour has one event before heading in for the Albertsons Boise Open next week. The Midwest Classic is underway in Overland Park, KS, and Troy Merritt is off to a better start this time. The Boise State product fired a two-under 69 yesterday and is four shots behind first round leader Ben Martin. Merritt is trying to make his first cut in over a month. Of the top 25 on the Web.com Tour money list, 22 are playing in this tournament. There should be a similar count next week in Boise, as the regular season hits crunch time.
The Boise Hawks have a chance to see how far they have come the past week with Everett visiting Memorial Stadium. The AquaSox were the hottest team out of the gate in the Northwest League this summer, starting the season 14-2. When Boise took a 3-2 lead into the top of the ninth last night, Hawks play-by-play man Mike Safford Jr. had this nugget: Everett was 11-1 in one-run games. But he also mentioned that the Hawks were 13-0 when leading after the eighth inning, and that’s the stat that played out in a 3-2 Boise victory. The Hawks have now won six straight, matching the winning streak they compiled three weeks ago.
Here’s the box score oddity of the night. Four Boise pitchers, Rob Zastryzny, Sam Wilson, Zack Godley and Jasvir Rakkar, combined to throw seven innings of one-hit shutout ball. The fifth Hawks hurler, Scott Frazier, went two innings and allowed four hits—and both Everett runs in the top of the seventh. But Frazier was the pitcher of record when Boise scored all three of its runs in the bottom of the seventh, and he collected his first win of the season.
Going into what is called the second half of the big league season today, let’s look at one former Boise Hawk who’s quitely having a productive season. Boston righthander John Lackey would be a Comeback Player of the Year candidate if his record was as solid as his ERA. In 16 starts, Lackey has compiled a 2.78 ERA and has the best WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of his career at 1.14, yet he is only 6-6. Lackey missed the entire 2012 season after Tommy John surgery, and many thought he was washed up at the age of 34. But Lackey is back. He’s scheduled to start against the Yankees tomorrow at Fenway Park.
Bottles of water will be in high demand today and tomorrow at the 2013 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Football Challenge at the Optimist fields on Hill Road Parkway. The third annual event, sponsored by the bowl and Optimist Youth Football, includes the 7-on-7 Passing Tournament, as well as a Lineman’s Challenge, making it a full team event. There are 40 high school teams and 588 players expected to compete at the varsity and junior varsity levels.
This Day In Sports…July 19, 1976:
At the Summer Games in Montreal, diminutive 14-year-old Nadia Comaneci, at 4-11 and weighing 80 pounds, becomes the first gymnast in Olympic history to receive a perfect 10.0 score. Then the amazing Romanian recorded six more in the competition. Her score after the uneven parallel bars appeared as 1.00, since the scoreboard wasn’t equipped to handle a four-digit number.
(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.)