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Boise State football: Rushing Carson Strong

There hasn’t been a lot of focus on Boise State’s pass rush through the first four games of the season. But now’s as good a time as any to bring it up.

BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday, September 29, 2021.

All through September, it was all about the Boise State defensive line’s difficulty in defending the run. That issue remains as October approaches, but pressuring the quarterback is at least as big Saturday when Nevada comes to town. The Broncos will be up against the best pure passer they’ve faced yet: probable first-round NFL Draft pick Carson Strong. Boise State has nine sacks in four games this season, but pressure on the quarterback has been inconsistent. And with Scale Igiehon still away on his leave of absence and Divine Obichere’s status unknown, the rest of the D-line will have to dig a little deeper. Ahmed Hassanein made his debut at defensive tackle at Utah State—if Jackson Cravens hadn’t notched his first sack, Hassanein would have on the same play. It’s Demitri Washington who is really overdue.

THE KANSAS STATE COMPARISON

This kind of drill-down isn’t always relevant, but it’s interesting to see how Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders performed the week after the Cowboys won on the blue turf. Why? Because OSU played last Saturday at Kansas State, which took down Nevada 38-17 two weeks ago. Sanders struggled through the air versus the Broncos, going just 6-of-13 for 82 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Sanders shredded the Wildcats with 344 yards passing and two TDs with no picks. You’d like to think that bodes well for the Boise State secondary against Strong on Saturday. Strong threw for 262 yards at KSU with one touchdown and one interception. It’ll be the Pack’s strength matching up with the Broncos’ strength at Albertsons Stadium.

STRONG’S PLACE IN NEVADA HISTORY TBD

This is a pivotal game for Strong, the reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year. Regardless of how high he’s drafted next spring, the game against Boise State will help define his legacy at Nevada. The Wolf Pack has lost 16 of their last 17 games versus the Broncos. “The quarterback gets judged on winning more than anything,” said Strong at Mountain West Media Days this summer. “That’s all I care about this year.” This will be Strong’s first test against Boise State, but it’ll be his third game on the blue turf. He’s started the last two Famous Idaho Potato Bowls and was last year’s MVP in the Pack’s win over Tulane, throwing for 271 yards and five touchdowns. Strong put up 402 yards in a loss to Ohio in the 2019 FIPB.

MW CONTRACTION: A GOOD THING?

Longtime college football scribe Brett McMurphy, now with Action Network HQ, reports that Colorado State and Air Force are very close to leaving the Mountain West to join the American Athletic Conference. McMurphy says it’ll happen “likely next week.” Bronco Nation may miss Air Force, as there was always pageantry surrounding that game (and the Falcons were a worthy opponent). CSU? Not so much. The Rams are 0-10 against Boise State. Until something happens (or doesn’t) with the Big 12, the Mountain West could stay at 10 teams and play an eight or nine-game conference schedule. The obvious benefit: the Broncos could face Nevada, Fresno State and San Diego State every year, erasing the biggest bummer about Mountain West divisional play.

RYPIEN IN PADS ON SUNDAY

It’s unlikely to translate into playing time, but the size of Brett Rypien’s NFL check is poised to increase this week. Mike Klis of KUSA-TV in Denver reports that the Broncos are calling up the former Boise State star to keep another NFL team from pilfering him off their practice squad. “Can't let go of QB who won his only start last year and is well-thought of for what he brings to QB room,” tweeted Klis. A source told KTVB’s Jay Tust that it was the Houston Texans who were fishing for Rypien. The Mountain West’s career passing yards leader is in his third year with Denver and has appeared in three games, all last year, winning his only start last October against the New York Jets.

HAWK HAS THE ‘CAL AGGIES’ ROCKIN’

It’s Paul Petrino against Dan Hawkins Saturday as Idaho opens Big Sky play at UC Davis. Hawkins was 5-0 versus the Vandals at Boise State and is 2-0 against Idaho since taking over at Davis in 2017. More pertinent right now is how good UCD is in 2021. The Aggies are No. 8 in the FCS Coaches Poll after a 4-0 start this season, including a huge 17-14 win at Weber State last week and a 19-17 road upset of Tulsa in Week 1 after going in as 22-point underdogs. Hawkins’ offensive coordinator is son Cody, the former Bishop Kelly quarterback who also played QB for Hawk at Colorado. The Vandals, currently 1-2, are coming off a bye week following their 42-0 loss at Oregon State.

YOTE IN THE SHOW

It was a night to remember for former College of Idaho pitcher Riley O’Brien. Not from a numbers standpoint, but in terms of life achievement. O’Brien made his big league debut Tuesday night for the Cincinnati Reds, becoming only the second Coyote ever to make the majors. He went 1 1/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox, throwing 41 pitches and allowing two runs on two hits. Both of the hits were home runs, and O’Brien was lifted after the second one in the second inning.

THE BRONCOS CAN THRIVE WITH THIS FIVE

It’s always buried by football this time of year, but Boise State men’s basketball officially opened practice for the 2021-22 season on Tuesday. This is a crossroads season after a home stretch to forget last winter. While the Broncos lost one of their top 10 career scorers in Derrick Alston Jr. and transfer portal casualty RayJ Dennis, look at it this way: now they have five starters instead of seven. There’s a high level of talent and the potential for great chemistry. It doesn’t take a deep dive to project Boise State’s starting five: Marcus Shaver Jr., Devonaire Doutrive, Emmanuel Akot, Abu Kigab and Mladen Armus.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…September 29, 1954:

Willie Mays makes what is still the most famous catch in major league history in Game 1 of the World Series. The New York Giants centerfielder ran down a 440-foot drive by Cleveland’s Vic Wertz in the spacious Polo Grounds, making an incredible over-the-shoulder catch on a dead run. The Giants swept Cleveland in four games—they wouldn’t win the World Series again for 56 years. Also, on this day in 1957, the team played its last game at New York’s Polo Grounds before moving to San Francisco the next season.

(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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