Wednesday, August 27, 2014.
Not only did Boise State coach Bryan Harsin and Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze come through head coaching jobs at Arkansas State, Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace has ASU roots, too. Wallace redshirted at Arkansas State before leading East Mississippi to an undefeated season and the national junior college championship in 2011. Now Wallace is a senior for the Rebels, rated the No. 11 QB in the country by Phil Steele. Still, the thought that he might leap past Eli Manning for several Ole Miss career passing records is a wonder for many. Wallace has been questioned for on-field decision-making and dedication and off-field behavior. Freeze feels like the corner has been turned. "I like the demeanor he has right now. I like the leadership he's trying to show, the way he's studying film. It's his last chance and he could do something special."
Beyond the Harsin era, it's also time to get the Kent Riddle era rekindled on special teams. Boise State was renowned for its special teams play when Riddle was part of Dan Hawkins' staff 10 years ago. It's an area of emphasis for the Broncos, so much so that Jay Ajayi may be returning kickoffs against Ole Miss. If you wonder about the wisdom of putting the team's best player back there, well, Boise State has always played its front line talent on special teams. Remember Doug Martin's last game as a Bronco? He took the opening kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown against Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Nobody questioned that move.
The ESPN lineup for tomorrow night's game has Rece Davis on play-by-play, Todd Blackledge and David Pollack on color, and Samantha Ponder on the sidelines. All have worked Bronco games before. Davis should take it easy on BSU if things don't go well. His ESPN College Gameday Final colleagues Lou Holtz and Mark May weren't very understanding when the Broncos were trying to operate under interim coach Bob Gregory last December at the Hawaii Bowl. They were particularly rough on beleaguered then-right tackle Rees Odhiambo, who had been battling an injury for weeks. Odhiambo has to be looking forward to another chance on the national stage tomorrow night.
Jeremy Fowler picks Ole Miss as one of his "Top 10 Sneaky Contenders" for the four coveted berths in the College Football Playoff this season at CBSSports.com. Writes Fowler, "Those vaunted freshmen from the 2013 class? Yeah, they are for real. All of them. More than one assistant coach has told me there'd be no surprise if Ole Miss finished second in the (SEC) West. Maybe Hugh Freeze will take that notion a step further."
KTVB's Jay Tust reported last night that one of the prize commits of Boise State's 2015 recruiting class, Brett Rypien of Spokane, is set to graduate early from Shadle Park High and "greenshirt" in roder to enroll at BSU in January. That will give Rypien a head start in spring football. He'd be the fourth prominent greenshirt of the past seven years for the Broncos. The early-graduation plan worked out famously for George Iloka, who was starting at safety three games into his true freshman year in 2008 and is now a Cincinnati Bengal. It didn't make a difference for wide receiver Aaron Burks, who never quite got over the hump. Quarterback Nick Patti greenshirted two years ago—he's off playing for Central Florida now.
Woe is me, we have paid no attention yet to the rest of this week's openers involving Mountain West teams. There are 11 of 'em, meaning all 12 conference schools make their 2014 debuts. There's plenty of Pac-12 intrigue, starting with Fresno State-USC, a rematch of last December's Las Vegas Bowl that saw the Bulldogs get squashed. Colorado State faces Colorado in what should be a titanic tussle, UNLV goes into a hornet's nest at Arizona, and Hawaii hosts Washington in what is, of course, Chris Petersen's debut with the Huskies. But the game that may have long-lasting effect—if the Mountain West team wins—is Utah State at Tennessee.
Fans got to see College of Idaho athletes in real football uniforms again Monday night at the inaugural Purple & Gold Scrimmage at Simplot Stadium. With the Coyotes re-established on the gridiron for the first time since 1977, the desired effect on local talent has been realized. Players not cut out for Division I ball who would have otherwise not have had an opportunity—or who would have had to go to Carroll College or Eastern Oregon or somewhere else out-of-state—now have a place to continue playing football. The evidence: 72 of the 109 players on the Yotes roster are from Idaho.
Amazingly, all 21 former Boise State players in NFL training camps survived the first wave of cuts, as club had to get their rosters down to 75 yesterday. Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe counts, as he was placed on injured reserve by San Diego after tearing his ACL against San Francisco Sunday. According to Spotrac.com, Tjong-A-Tjoe was set to make $510,000 this season if he made the roster. It's likely he'll be able to collect half that amount now that the Chargers have kept him on IR. The final day of decision is Saturday, when teams have to settle on their 53-man rosters.
Little-known fact from play-by-play man Mike Safford Jr.: the Boise Hawks had a 100-game winning streak when leading after the eighth inning—until last night. After a Justin Marra pinch-hit single had given the Hawks a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, Everett struck for three runs in the top of the ninth to rally past the Hawks, 2-1. The AquaSox pulled it off in agonizing fashion for Boise fans with a bloop single, a bunt single, an infield single, a tying run forced in by a walk, safety squeeze that brought in the lead run, and a sacrifice fly that provided the final margin. The loss kept the Hawks from clinching a second straight winning season.
Bishop Kelly grad Maddie Shiels has qualified for the LPGA's Portland Classic this week and will make her tour debut tomorrow. She picked a good spot—an easy drive for a legion of family and friends. Sheils has spent this season on the Symetra Tour, where she has six top 25 finishes and is 35th on the money list. How much does that mean in earnings? Just $16,750. Fortunately, Sheils has a lot of support back home.
The Idaho Steelheads now have nine players from the 2013-14 squad back in the fold, as the organization has agreed to terms with forward David deKastrozza. This will be deKastrozza's third season in Boise, and he finished the last one strong, scoring nine of his 15 goals after February 1 and leading the team in points during the Kelly Cup Playoffs. He also led the ECHL in short-handed goals last season with six and will be remembered as the guy who ended the longest game in ECHL history last April with a goal near the end of the fourth overtime against Colorado in the playoffs.
This Day In Sports…August 27, 1982:
Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A's, who got his professional start in Boise six years earlier, steals four bases in a 5-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers and breaks Lou Brock's major league single-season record of 118 steals (set in 1974). That brought Henderson's season total to 122 in 127 games—he'd end up with 130. Henderson is also baseball's career leader, with 1,406 stolen bases in 25 seasons.
(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.)