Tuesday, August 18, 2014.
This much has become clear about Boise State quarterback Ryan Finley. He has come miles since last August, when some saw him as a fragile, unproven product with a bum shoulder. The redshirt freshman solidified his spot as the Broncos' No. 2 signal-caller at last Friday night's scrimmage. Finley has good arm strength, can run, and is a great executor of play fakes. He was just 8-of-16, but he was going against the No. 1 defense and hooked up with wide receiver Terrell Johnson on the offensive play of the night, a 62-yard touchdown pass. "He throws the ball downfield pretty good," coach Bryan Harsin said. "He's got good timing." But what Harsin likes most is his ability to compete. "Finley pushed the ball down the field in a two-minute situation—put it in a position to score, and then scored," said Harsin. "That's what you ask a guy to do."
Fall camp is a wrap at Boise State, and game prep for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff next week is underway. It is here, too, with talk of a prolific football family that will be half-missing in Atlanta. There was a recent story in USA Today about Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche working his way back into the good graces of coach Hugh Freeze. Nkemdiche was suspended for the Georgia Dome date against Boise State after an arrest for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace last winter—and an obscenity-laced tirade aimed at Mississippi State fans on a beach (some video went viral). The Rebels will be missing a second-team All-SEC selection—Nkemdiche earned the honor despite sitting out three games early in the season with a knee injury (he also didn't play in Mississippi's 59-14 win over Idaho).
Here's the problem for Boise State. Nkemdiche's brother, Robert, is a better player, a 6-4, 280-pound defensive tackle, and he's not suspended for the game versus the Broncos. ESPN called him "the Southeast's best prep prospect since the early 1980's" before he signed with the Rebels in 2013. The younger Nkemdiche was rated the No. 1 overall pick in that recruiting class—at any position—by both Scout.com and Rivals.com. As a true freshman last year, Robert logged 34 tackles, with eight tackles-for-loss and two sacks. Nkemdiche is one reason there's so much concern about the Bronco offensive line holding up against the SEC behemoths.
It's too bad high school recruits can't hire public relations people to reel them in sometimes. Kyler Manu, the star linebacker from Highland High in Pocatello, had waxed poetic about Boise State for a long time, right through the commitment he made to the Broncos in early April. There were celebratory photos on the blue turf—the whole nine yards. Well, Manu has flipped to none other than Washington, the seventh prospect to do so since Chris Petersen departed for Seattle. To be sure, other power conference programs, including Wisconsin, Stanford and Utah, had been swarming all over Manu the past few months. What Manu told Scout.com is enlightening. "That new rule the NCAA passed giving all the power to the Power-5 was huge," Manu said. "It was a big part of my decision." A sign of things to come. But this one still has to be disappointing.
The state of Hawaii is always on the lookout for tsunamis, and it received a waterless one yesterday from University of Hawaii athletic director Ben Jay. While answering questions from members of the UH Board of Regents Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, Jay said "there is a very real possibility of football going away" if the deficit-ridden program can't land a $3 million appropriation from the state legislature. Is it a scare tactic? Jay had to think it through, because that kind of a statement is a killer for recruiting. He has since backtracked a bit. The 2008 Sugar Bowl seems so long ago.
George Iloka may have logged just one tackle and a pass deflection while the starters were in for Cincinnati Saturday night in its 25-17 loss to the New York Jets, but what's important is the former Boise State star was coming off a great week of practice. Iloka got particular props after last Wednesday's practice according to ESPN.com's Coley Harvey. "It was primarily for his enforcer style of play," wrote Harvey. "Twice he roughed up rookie receiver Colin Lockett (the former San Diego State standout) at the end of plays. He gave him one hard forearm early in the practice when Lockett had caught a pass along the sideline and was turning to head up the field. Lockett had to take a knee right after the contact. At least he was wearing shoulder pads for it."
The Iloka-Lockett battle wasn't over, said Harvey: "Near the end of the workout, long after the Bengals had removed their shoulder pads to finish the practice in only their jerseys, shorts and helmets, Iloka struck the rookie again at the end of a route. 'We're not playing against the Bengals, they're not on our schedule, but some things happen in practice,' defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. 'You can't tell a dog not to eat red meat. We've just got to take care of our guys and continue to be aggressive.'" Doesn't sound like Guenther had a major issue with Iloka's combativeness.
This time it was the Boise Hawks who built an early lead and had to watch Salem-Keizer pick it apart. Kevin Brown homered for the second straight night, a two-run shot that keyed a three-run third inning for the Hawks. But the 3-0 lead would fall victim to a trio of two-run innings by the Volcanoes as the home team posted a 7-3 win last night. Ryan McNeil threw the fifth inning for Boise, his first appearance in a month. That's when S-K scored the eventual winning run, and McNeil dropped to 0-5 on the season with his ERA ballooning to 10.13. The Hawks are now past the halfway point on their annual Western Idaho Fair road trip, with a record of 3-3. They open a five-game series at Vancouver tonight.
When you look at box scores in many newspapers these days, you see most of the names in the lineups abbreviated because of space considerations. How many fans do you think saw "Szczur" in the Cubs-Mets box the past two days and wondered, "What is that short for?" Well, that's the guy's full name, as former Hawk Matt Szczur made his major league debut Sunday. We first saw Szczur star in football for Villanova, which won the 2009 NCAA FCS championship game 23-21 over Montana. Then he was drafted by the Cubs in 2010 and played 18 games for the Hawks that summer, batting .397. Szczur is still waiting for his first hit as a Cub—he was 0-for-3 yesterday in a 4-1 Chicago win that was sealed by a 434-foot two-run homer by Boise alum Javy Baez.
From the "whatever happened to" file comes Cody Lampl, the first Idaho native to ever play for the Steelheads. Lampl, who hails from Ketchum, has gone on to become the Toledo Walleye's all-time leader in single-season plus/minus rating, and he has agreed to terms for the upcoming season with the ECHL organization. Lampl played for St. John's in the AHL last season but led Toledo with a record 20 plus/minus rating in 2012-13. Lampl played 97 regular season games for the Steelies from 2009-11, scoring 28 points and racking up 95 penalty minutes.
This Day In Sports…August 19, 1984, 30 years ago today:
Lee Trevino, one of golf's most popular all-time players, wins his second PGA Championship, the sixth and final major title of his career. Trevino finished 15-under for the tournament and became the first player ever to shoot under 70 in each of the four rounds of the PGA Championship. He is one of only four players to twice win the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. Trevino never won the Masters.
(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.)