BOISE, Idaho — Friday, August 16, 2019.
Boise State has had a 1,000-yard rusher for 10 straight seasons, running (literally) through Jeremy Avery, Doug Martin, D.J Harper, Jay Ajayi, Jeremy McNichols and Alexander Mattison. It’s the longest current streak in the country. The Broncos would love to see that continue, but who’s it going to be? Is Andrew Van Buren the favorite? And if he is, would the staff be best off also utilizing some combination of the talents of Robert Mahone, Danny Smith, George Holani and Keegan Duncan? Boise State would gladly sacrifice the streak if it meant winning the Mountain West championship, and—beyond that—making a New Year’s Six Bowl. If the Broncos get one running back with 800 yards, plus one with 600, 400 and 200, they’ll be sittin’ pretty.
Even if a committee convenes at running back this season, that doesn’t mean there can’t be a 1,000-yard rusher. Behind Avery’s 1,151 yards in 2009, you had Martin with 765 yards and Harper with 284 (and Harper played only three games before tearing his ACL at Fresno State). Then Martin rushed for 1,260 yards in 2010 and Avery 495. In 2011, it was Martin and Harper with 1,299 and 557, respectively. Harper and Ajayi comprised somewhat of a committee in 2012. But there really hasn’t been one since. Last season, Mattison led the Broncos with 1,415 yards. There was a tie for second between Van Buren and wide receiver John Hightower at just 163. This would seem to be a year Boise State can spread the wealth.
HIKIN’ WITH THE BRONCOS
What a great idea. The Boise State football team has a tradition of hiking up Table Rock in August—a little bonding, and a little Zen. For the first time this year, you can be a part of it, as Bronco Nation is invited to join the team for the 2,000-foot, 3.6-mile climb to one of the most iconic locations in Boise on Sunday morning. Just meet the team at the base of the Table Rock trail near the Old Idaho Penitentiary at 9:30 a.m., and be ready to head up the plateau. If you’ve never done that hike before, well, bucket list. Bring your camera.
VALLEJO IN THE VALLEY OF THE SUN
NFL Preseason Week 2 is underway. The best performance amomg the six Boise State alums playing in Thursday night’s games came from Arizona linebacker Tanner Vallejo in a 33-26 loss to Oakland. Vallejo, trying to stick with the Cardinals after making 27 tackles and forcing a fumble for Cleveland last year, made six stops against the Raiders. The focus Saturday night will be on the Dallas Cowboys and their six Boise State alums as they face the L.A. Rams at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. If Cedrick Wilson is cleared to go after suffering an illegal target hit last week, he’ll have a chance to build on the three catches for 36 yards he made at San Francisco. And maybe he’ll be covered by former Bronco Donte Deayon, who’s trying to make the Rams roster.
AN IDAHO STAR IN THE MAKING?
One thing that would help the Idaho Vandals moving forward is an Idahoan who bursts on the scene and gets fans excited and engaged. Former Rocky Mountain running back Nick Romano is showing signs of being such a guy. “Nick’s had a great fall camp,” said Idaho coach Paul Petrino on Idaho SportsTalk the other day. “There’s no question he’s going to play a lot for us—if not be a starter.” Romano, the 2018 Idaho 5A Player of the Year, is 5-10, 203 pounds and is coming off a state championship with the Grizzlies. He rushed for 2,211 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior—309 of the yards came in the 5A title game. The opportunity is there for Romano; the Vandals’ leading returning rusher is sophomore Roshaun Johnson, who ran for 99 yards last year.
SCOPING LOCAL PRO NOTES
Troy Merritt didn’t start the BMW Championship Thursday the way he did The Northern Trust last week. But it still wasn’t bad for the Meridian resident. Merritt shot a three-under 69 and is tied for 25th going into the second round at Medinah outside Chicago. The positives simply outweighed the negatives for the Boise State product—five birdies and two bogeys. And Trey Jacobs and Tyler Plantier both went 2-for-4 Thursday night for the Boise Hawks. But the rest of the Hawks were just 1-for-22 as four Hillsboro pitchers combined on a 6-0 shutout. The Hawks have one more in Hillsboro tonight before their Western Idaho Fair road trip takes them north to Vancouver.
ALLIE’S HARDWARE, AND A HOME FIELD FOR BASEBALL
It seems half of what Allie Ostrander has in her trophy case is from the Mountain West—and deservedly so. The former Boise State superstar runner was named conference Female Athlete of the Year for the third straight year Tuesday. We’re talkin’ all sports. Ostrander, the three-time national champion in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, is the only student-athlete, male or female, to win the award three times in league history. Also at Boise State, the school has a contractor now for its new on-campus baseball stadium. The Statesman reports that the Gardner Company will build the facility, with a targeted open date of March 2021. The Broncos will play their inaugural season next year in Memorial Stadium.
OPTIMIST JAMBOREE MEANS FOOTBALL IS IMMINENT
The Optimist Football Jamboree takes over the blue turf tomorrow, a tradition that dates back 39 years, when the turf was green. This year there’ll be 81 teams and about 1,800 players—plus 450 coaches and 25 cheer squads. Not only have stars like Cedric Minter, Brock Forsey and Jake Plummer come through the Optimist program, some quality coaches have, too. There’s Bryan Harsin, of course. And Boise State running backs coach Lee Marks was an assistant coach in OYF for two years after graduating.
This Day In Sports…August 16, 1965:
After five increasingly successful seasons and about to enter a sixth, the American Football League awards its first expansion franchise to Miami. The team would be named the Dolphins and would debut in 1966. Two years later, with the AFL-NFL merger already announced and interleague play set to begin in 1970, the AFL expanded again, awarding a franchise to Cincinnati. The Bengals began play in 1968.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)