Friday, July 12, 2013.
We’ve reached the 50-day checkpoint in the countdown to Boise State’s 2013 season, so let’s keep that ol’ hype machine going for the opener against Washington at the revamped Husky Stadium. ESPN.com’s Kevin Gemmell has a Q & A with UW quarterback Keith Price in which the senior proclaims, “I'm going to be back to my old self and this is going to be a great season.” By that, Price means his sophomore self rather than his junior self—he completed only 61 percent of his passes and threw for only 19 touchdowns last season, compared to 67 percent and 33 TDs in 2011. Price maintains the Huskies’ new up-tempo offense is going to fit him.
When Gemmell moves to short-term and long-term goals for 2013, Price says, “Short term is obviously Boise State. We have to take care of them. We had a chance to close them out and we didn't do that. That's on me. I put the last two losses on myself. There were a couple other games also where I feel like I lost the game. Long term we're looking at the Rose Bowl and we're looking to compete. We have a tough conference and our division is tough with Oregon and Stanford and Oregon State. But we have to focus on ourselves and not worry about them. We know we can perform at a certain level. We set a standard for ourselves by beating two top-10 teams last year. It's just about being consistent.” Those 50 days are going to go by lickety-split.
Kellen Moore turns 24 years old today. In some ways the former Boise State great seems like he should be 30. Even though he still looks only 15. Moore’s challenges remain the same going into his second season in Detroit. “Though a proven winner at Boise, Moore does not have ideal size nor arm strength,” writes Adam Meckes at SideLionReport.com. “He failed to impress many during the preseason last season, but reports from OTAs this summer have been nothing but positive.” Meckes talks about the addition of Thaddeus Lewis from Cleveland. “While Lewis has more NFL experience than Moore, Moore has spent a full season in Scott Linehan’s system and understands the role he is expected to play as the third string quarterback. Expect the Lions to give Lewis every chance, but in the end I believe Kellen Moore makes the final cut.”
Rewind a year, and you recall the concerns out there about the Boise State defense. That unit’s competitiveness in the Bronco Football Summer Classic softball game was rather enlightening, as it trailed 13-3 and 16-5 but put together a 10-run fifth inning to rally for a 17-16 win. Maybe that was an omen for a pretty stout season turned in by the Bronco defense. Of course, when this year’s event unfolds tomorrow night at Memorial Stadium, the players on “D” won’t have a 311-pound second baseman to help them out. That would be Michael “Canadian Bacon” Atkinson, now a Hamilton Tiger-Cat in the CFL. Atkinson hit two home runs last July and made a couple dazzling plays in the field. Joey Martarano might be able to fill Bacon’s big shoes, though.
Watch lists are just for watchin’. But the fact that Boise State is generally absent from preseason award recognition this year is the type of stuff that places chips squarely on the shoulders of players in the Bronco program. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence was named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy checklist yesterday, and left tackle Charles Leno Jr. made the roll call for the Outland Trophy. That gives Boise State a grand total of…three on college football watch lists (tight end Gabe Linehan became the first earlier this week). Lawrence is one of two Mountain West players up for the Nagurski Trophy, and Leno is one of four MW standouts on the Outland list.
The Boise Hawks continue to careen after suffering only their second shutout of the season last night, 4-0 at Vancouver. The Hawks have now dropped seven of their last eight games. The Canadians did all their scoring in the third inning, and the victim was usually reliable Boise pitcher James Pugliese. The righthander committed an error, hit a batter to allow a run, and uncorked a wild pitch to allow another. The Hawks dropped to 12-15 on the season—they and Vancouver will play a matinee this afternoon.
A footnote from B.C.: prior to Wednesday’s game, it was not the Hawks’ five Canadians (including manager Gary Van Tol) that drew a crowd of reporters. It was a guy named Gretzky. Man did they lock in on that up there in hockeyland. Hawks outfielder Trevor Gretzky, son of the Great One, held a press conference with Vancouver media, and 17 different reporters were present, some from Eastern Canada. There were packages on Gretzky on the Canadian Sportscentre, SportsNet Tonight, and all the Vancouver TV stations. He has appeared in 10 games for Boise and is hitting .257 after recording his first two-hit game of the season last night. By the way, Wayne Gretzky may be there to watch Trevor in the series finale tomorrow.
Former Boise State star Troy Merritt shot a one-under 70 yesterday in the first round of the Utah Championship. But there were 111 players under par on the first day, and Merritt will need a solid round today to make the cut. His game needs a boost two weeks out from the Albertsons Boise Open. Moscow’s Chris Williams is also playing the Web.com Tour event in Sandy—the former Washington Husky is three shots off the pace after a five-under 66.
The NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League 2013 commences today on the UNLV campus, featuring 22 teams competing in a 61-game schedule over 11 days. It’s a tournament-style setup this year, set to crown the first-ever NBA Summer League Champion. Three of the four players assigned to the Idaho Stampede by the Portland Trail Blazers last season, Will Barton, Victor Claver and Joel Freeland, are on the Blazers’ roster in Vegas. (The fourth, Nolan Smith, is playing for the Celtics this week in the NBA’s Orlando summer session). Which brings up an interesting point: Portland wasn’t nearly as active in D-League assignments as anyone in Boise had hoped last season in the first year of single-affiliation. The Blazers did not send a single player to the Stampede after January.
When you see former Ohio State standout Dallas Lauderdale slated to play for Portland’s summer league team, you’ll note the Blazers saying Lauderdale was also a member of the Idaho Stampede last season. Well, that was the Blazers’ intention last November, but it never happened due to a foot injury. This session in Vegas will be important for him. Scouts says Lauderdale, at 6-8, 255 pounds, is a bit undersized to be a banger in the NBA, so perhaps he still needs some seasoning in the D-League.
With tomorrow’s high predicted to be 95, it should be a standard summer evening in Downtown Boise for the 27th annual Twilight Criterium. Boise transplant Kristin McGrath, now coached by Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, is back to defend her women’s title. It was a thriller last year—briefly disagreeable when race officials initially upheld a protest of McGrath’s victory by runnerup Alison Powers. But McGrath was ultimately confirmed the winner.
This Day In Sports…July 12 in Babe Ruth’s world:
On this day in 1914, Ruth made his major league debut, pitching for the Boston Red Sox. On this day in 1921, now a New York Yankee, the Babe broke the big league career record for home runs with No. 137—he would hold the mark for more than 52 years. And on this day in 1927, Ruth hit the 30th of his record 60 home runs.
(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.)