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Boise State football: The “Worldwide Leader,” past tense

Boise State’s national brand was built on ESPN appearances over the last 20 years. Now, the reality of the Mountain West’s new TV contract settles in.

BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday, October 14, 2020.

There are so many ways to slice and dice Boise State’s TV schedules and kickoff times. They are two different subjects, although one led to the other. There’s no more ESPN Family of Networks, and that cut the Broncos some slack on start times, beginning with the 5 p.m. kickoff for the Utah State game a week from Saturday. But the loss of the ESPN contract is going to cost Boise State a lot of eyeballs this fall. FS1 is now the big dog in the Mountain West. It’s available in almost as many households nationally as ESPN and ESPN2, but its ratings pale in comparison (CBS Sports Network is way down the line.)

Out of 14 games last year, Boise State had two on ESPN and six on ESPN2—plus the Las Vegas Bowl on ABC. Out of eight scheduled games this season, there are three on FS1. That’s a serious dropoff. The game that has a chance of relegation to the barest minimum of audiences is San Jose State, which right now is listed as “FS1 or FS2.” Unless the Spartans are decent, and/or the Broncos are playing like world-beaters, it could be FS2, and the audience would hardly move the needle. It’s the tradeoff for the decent airtimes. The only semi-late kickoff right now (outside of the time difference for the game at Hawaii) is 7:45 p.m. for the BYU matchup, which has moved to Friday, November 6. Start time for the frigid Wyoming game on December 12 is 4 p.m. Could be worse.

CAP’N WILLIAMS, CAP’N WHIMPEY, CAP’N SHAKIR

Boise State announced its three 2020 captains Tuesday, and they are worthy: seniors Avery Williams and Riley Whimpey and junior Khalil Shakir. When I think of Williams, I think of the prototypical Bronco walk-on who earned his stripes (and scholarship) and became a Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year. When I think of Whimpey, I think of the devastation of the ACL tear against BYU two years ago, and seeing him back on the field about 9½ months later, making five tackles and forcing a fumble at Florida State. And when I think of Shakir, I think of one of the highest-rated recruits in Boise State history who could have come in and acted like it. Instead, he assimilated himself into the program’s culture while making the plays expected of him on the field. Now his teammates have affirmed him as a leader.

KELLEN’S NEW COWBOY QB

Maybe I’m making up another branch of the Kellen Moore-Andy Dalton sidebar in Dallas, but I’m wondering about something. Did Moore call Bryan Harsin at Boise State before the Cowboys signed quarterback Garrett Gilbert off Cleveland’s practice squad Tuesday to back up Dalton? Gilbert, a journeyman backup who has thrown six career passes in the NFL, started his college career at Texas. He was the incumbent starter when Harsin arrived as Longhorns offensive coordinator in 2011. Gilbert started the first two games after Harsin took over the offense but then was demoted to second-team. He left the team in October and transferred to SMU.

If you’re going to find criticism of Moore as Dallas offensive coordinator, it’ll be on the Cowboys fan sites. But he has support at BloggingTheBoys.com. Blogger Connor Livesay praises Moore’s creativity in the victory over the New York Giants—before and after Dak Prescott’s fractured ankle. “Dealing with a quarterback injury is never easy, and the offense definitely struggled for a bit once Dalton took over at the helm,” writes Livesay. “But when they needed to score points, Andy Dalton, Michael Gallup and Kellen Moore came up big to win the game for the Cowboys.” Dallas, by the way, leads the NFL in total offense right now at 488 yards per game, 42 yards ahead of the second-place Green Bay Packers.

MCNICHOLS’ ROLE INCREASING IN TENNESSEE

It’s taken a while, but maybe Jeremy McNichols is finding his legs in the NFL. Bit by bit, he’s establishing himself with the Tennessee Titans, the eighth team he’s been under contract with since being drafted in the fifth round out of Boise State in 2017. Tuesday night, McNichols logged double-digit rushing yards for the first time in his career, gaining 28 yards on nine carries in the Titans’ 42-16 victory over the Buffalo Bills. He also had one reception for three yards. It’s too early to label McNichols a “late bloomer,” but he is nothing if not tenacious. Tennessee linebacker Kamalei Correa, the former Bronco who was one of the team’s coronavirus positives last week, was not active for the game.

ALCS LOCAL TIES

There’s one former Boise Hawk and one Idaho tie still going in the American League Championship Series, both of them with the reviled Houston Astros in the bullpen. Southpaw Brooks Raley is 0-1 in the playoffs with a 4.91 ERA in three appearances, on par with his performance during the regular season (0-1 with a 4.95 ERA in 20 outings). Raley pitched a scoreless two-thirds of an inning Tuesday night in the Astros’ 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay. He had a cup of coffee with the Hawks in 2009. Righthander Cy Sneed, the 2011 Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year at Twin Falls High, hasn’t pitched in the postseason. Sneed was 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA in the regular season. He’s finishing his second big league season.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…October 14, 2017:

In a role reversal, Boise State spoils 19th-ranked San Diego State’s undefeated season with a stunning 31-14 victory before 49,053 fans in San Diego. The Broncos buried the two-time defending Mountain West champion with a 53-yard punt return for a touchdown by Avery Williams and a 34-yard scoop-and-score fumble return by Kekaula Kaniho in the first quarter. All the while, the Bronco defense was holding the nation’s second-leading rusher, the Aztecs’ Rashaad Penny, to 53 yards on 21 carries. It was Boise State’s first true road win over a Top 25 team in nine years.

(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.)

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