BOISE, Idaho — Tuesday, July 27, 2021.
Boise State’s Hank Bachmeier—and Jack Sears, for that matter—are looking up at Nevada quarterback Carson Strong, the Preseason Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year. It’s been a journey for Strong to get here. “He learned some tough lessons his first year,” Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell said last week. “Beat a Big Ten team (Purdue), got a rude awakening at Oregon, then got injured. There are some things he had to go through.” And he did. “The minute you think you’re good, you’re going to get punched in the mouth,” Strong said. Now he’s getting buzz as the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. But gaudy stats will take a back seat. “The quarterback gets judged on winning more than anything,” said Strong. “That’s all I care about this year.” A win in Albertsons Stadium on October 4 would be gigantic.
This won’t be Strong’s first rodeo on the blue turf. He led Nevada to a 38-27 win over Tulane last December in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, throwing for 271 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions, adding MVP honors to his Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year award. Strong atoned for the 2019 FIPB, where he threw for 402 yards but got into the end zone only once in a 30-21 loss to Ohio.
We’ve heard a lot about Kekaula Kaniho the past few months, from academic awards to Preseason All-Mountain West recognition. But on Monday, Boise State’s star nickel was named to his first 2021 watch list. Kaniho is on the docket for the Jim Thorpe Award that goes annually to the best defensive back in college football based on performance on the field, athletic ability and character. Check, check and check. In his career, he has logged 165 tackles (22.5 for loss), five interceptions, three fumble recoveries, and three touchdowns.
THE MW MONITORING FROM AFAR
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson released a statement Monday on the earth-shaking effect of Oklahoma and Texas bolting the Big 12 for the SEC. It said in part: “The Mountain West became immediately engaged when we became aware of the potential for conference realignment. Our board of directors and directors of athletics (have) convened to evaluate that intelligence and discuss next steps. Our intent is to actively appraise various scenarios. We will do our work confidentially and only comment further as appropriate or necessary.” All that really says is, “We’re watching it closely.” And “immediately engaged” is interesting—when asked about it at his press conference last Wednesday, Thompson wondered about the accuracy of the Oklahoma-Texas reports. Look at it now.
TOP PROPS FOR WALKER
Idaho linebacker Tre Walker has been named Preseason Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year at the conference’s Media Days in Spokane. Walker finished Idaho’s abbreviated 2021 spring season with 54 total tackles and made five different All-America teams. He was also a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award that goes to the best defensive player in the FCS. The Vandals didn’t get a lot of love in the preseason coaches and media polls, though. They were predicted to finish in eighth place in each in the 13-team league. Idaho State was picked ninth in both polls. Defending champion Weber State is the choice to win the Big Sky again this season.
BENOIT BOUNCES UP TO THE NFL
Boise’s Andy Benoit starting writing NFL yearbooks in his bedroom when he was 14. I still have a couple of them. After graduating from College of Idaho, Benoit started writing for CBS Sports. From there he went to the New York Times, Football Outsider, USA Today, Sports Network and Sports Illustrated. And now, for something entirely different. Benoit has been hired by the L.A. Rams as a special assistant to coach Sean McVay. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, “Benoit now will be a regular sounding board and researcher for McVay.” Congrats to Andy.
HOME STRETCH WEEK FOR ALSTON
I checked out five NBA mock drafts Monday, and former Boise State star Derrick Alston Jr. isn’t on any of them. That’s kind of the consensus as draft night approaches on Thursday. Alston sounded both confident and ready for anything in his interview with Bob Behler Monday on KTIK. “I adapt really fast—I’m a quick learner, quick thinker,” said Alston. He values his team interviews and feels like they’ll stick no matter what happens. “The relationships last past draft night,” Alston said. He declared for the NBA Draft last year and then returned to the Broncos for his senior year. “I have no regrets with what I did,” said Alston. “All I need is to get my foot in the door.
GATES KEEPS CLIMBING THE LADDER
After 12 years of dues-paying on NBA benches, former Idaho Stampede coach Bryan Gates has risen to the No. 2 spot under Monty Williams with the Phoenix Suns. Williams, who hired Gates away to New Orleans in 2010 from his first NBA job with the Sacramento Kings, brings him into a franchise on the rise, the runner-up in the NBA Finals this month. Gates’ story remains enduring. In 1997, he begged Bobby Dye to be part of the inaugural season of the Idaho Stampede. Dye made Gates an unpaid intern, and nine years later he became the Stampede’s head coach. He was a two-time G League Coach of the Year and led the Stamps to their only league championship in 2008. Williams praises Gates’ ability to motivate, his attention to detail and his knack for teaching the game.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS…July 27, 2011, 10 years ago today:
The Seattle Mariners end the longest losing streak in their history with a 9-2 win over the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium. The Mariners had been at .500 on July 5, 2½ games out of first place in the American League West. Then they lost 17 games in a row, the longest streak in the majors in six years. The M’s hit just .218 as a team during the skid. But they posted 17 hits against the Yanks, four of them from Ichiro Suzuki, and rode the pitching of reigning Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez to finally escape the misery.
(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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