BOISE, Idaho — Tuesday, August 20, 2019.
Boise State defensive statistics were rife with weirdness in 2018. The bad news: the Broncos were all the way down at No. 102 in the country in interceptions, making only seven all season. The good news: at the other end of the spectrum, Boise State was no. 1 in the nation last season with 17 fumble recoveries. That definitely kept the Bronco defense's head above water. And it’s remarkable. Just two years before, Boise State was near the very bottom in fumble recoveries, at No. 126 with a measly two. That was 2016, the year the Broncos forced only nine turnovers total. They’ve been able to resurrect their turnover ratio since then. Boise State just needs some rhyme and reason to it this year—keep the fumble recoveries total close to last year, and bring the interceptions way, way up.
The underlying issue in the turnover imbalance is pass defense. The lack of interceptions is just part of a bigger picture for Boise State. The Broncos dropped to 70th in the country from 49th in 2017 with 233 passing yards allowed per game. They gave up 22 pass plays of 30 or more yards, 87th in the country. And pass efficiency rating has always been a source of pride for the program, but that number slipped to 140.5 last year, 93rd in the nation. Boise State had been 32nd in 2017 with a more fathomable 118.3 rating. It’s a major area of focus for the Broncos in 2019.
WHEN IN DOUBT, MEDIA GO WITH POWER 5
What’s the takeaway from the Preseason AP Poll released Monday? Media voters don’t like the Group of 5 very much this year. Like the Coaches Poll, UCF was tabbed No. 17 in AP. After the Knights comes Boise State from the Group of 5. But the Broncos, who coaches placed second-in-line in the “others receiving votes” category, is eighth-in-line on the AP list. The Broncos were ranked 22nd in both preseason polls a year ago. That’s what losing a four-year starter at quarterback will do for you. And the Group of 5 really drops off from there (Cincinnati, Fresno State and Utah State are next). There’s a total of seven Group of 5 “honorable mentions” on the AP docket, while the Coaches Poll had 10. Florida State, which garnered four points in the Coaches Poll, did not receive a vote in AP.
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OBSTRUCTIONS TO OPPOSING OFFENSES?
It’s not size that matters, but skills. If Noah Elliss and Jonah Kim have the the skills, though, the size is taken care of in the defensive trenches at Idaho. Elliss, the son of defensive line coach Luther Elliss, originally signed with Mississippi State out of high school and just became eligible with the Vandals. He is 6-4, 347 pounds. Kim, who arrived in Moscow a few days into fall camp after finishing up business at Santa Rosa Junior College, is 6-3, 353 pounds. Elliss and Kim have been working side-by-side in practice the past week. They take up a lot of space inside (do you think?) and could be a handful in the Big Sky this season.
RYPIEN’S NO. 4 JERSEY STAYS CLEAN AGAIN
You may have caught a couple glimpses of Brett Rypien wearing a ball cap on the Denver sidelines Monday night. The cap never came off. Even with 1:40 remaining and the game decided in San Francisco’s 24-15 victory, Kevin Hogan trotted out for the Broncos’ final possession. We can only surmise that Denver coach Vince Fangio hasn’t seen enough from Rypien in practice to put him in the past two games. And the work Hogan got (he was 5-of-14 for 40 yards with an interception but had a 24-yard touchdown run) doesn’t bode well for the former Boise State star’s chances at the practice squad. Why would Hogan play so much if Denver plans to release him? There’s a wild card, though: No. 2 QB Drew Lock went to the locker room with an injury to his throwing hand.
ALBERTSONS BOISE OPEN TABLE-SETTER
Hillcrest Country Club is prepping for heat this week in the Albertsons Boise Open, much like it did when the tournament was played in July from 2013-15, although temperatures are expected to moderate Thursday and Friday. Conditions are usually perfect in September, which is where the event has landed in 26 of the previous 29 years. This is the first time it has been played in August. PGATour.com calls Hillcrest “perhaps the most scoreable track” in the Korn Ferry Finals rotation. Michael Thompson won it at 23-under in 2016, and there have been nine winning scores of 20-under or lower in the last 13 years. Martin Piller set the course record in 2013 at 28-under before the Boise Open became part of the Finals. That year the tourney was played in July.
MERRITT KNOWS THE DRILL
There’s plenty of PGA Tour golfers in the Albertsons Boise Open field, as players ranked Nos. 126-200 on the big circuit go to the Korn Ferry Tour to try to retain their tour cards. Troy Merritt was one of those two years ago, and he tied for ninth at Hillcrest to help ensure his return to the PGA Tour. Now, the former Boise State star’s 2018-19 season is over, and it was the second-best of his career. Merritt’s earnings topped $1.5 million, and he’s currently 58th in FedExCup points (that could shift a bit after the Tour Championship this week). Merritt logged one runnerup finish, four top 10’s and nine top 25’s this season. His best campaign was in 2014, when he won $2.1 million and finished 56th in points.
BOISE HAWKS DROP THE CLINCHER
The essence of minor league baseball in short-season Class A is not in the wins and losses, but in the fan experience. The Boise Hawks organization does a great job in the latter, and attendance is healthy. But on the field, it’s been a struggle. The Hawks lost 8-3 at Vancouver Monday night. That drops them to 24-39 on the season, ensuring that they’ll finish below .500 again. This is the Hawks’ fifth straight losing season since they logged back-to-back winning campaigns under current Boise State baseball coach Gary Van Tol in 2013-14.
This Day In Sports…August 20, 2008:
Usain Bolt of Jamaica breaks the world record in the 200-meters, winning in 19.30 seconds at the Beijing Olympics. Bolt thus became the first runner since Carl Lewis in 1984 to sweep the men’s 100 and 200 gold medals in the Summer Games. He was also the first man to break the world marks in both sprints at an Olympics—a feat that neither Lewis nor Jesse Owens accomplished. Bolt topped the 200 record of 19.32 set by Michael Johnson at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
(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.)