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Boise State football: Socially-distanced gridiron highly possible

If the Boise State season starts on time September 5 versus Georgia Tech, it’s becoming clear that there won’t be 30,000 fans in Albertsons Stadium.
Credit: Steve Conner AP Images
Boise State fans in the first half of an NCAA game against Portland State, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won 45-10.

BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, June 4, 2020.

We’re starting to get an idea of what the 2020 Boise State football season could look like in the stands. Athletic director Curt Apsey emailed a letter to season ticket holders Wednesday and acknowledged “it is unknown whether a full Albertsons Stadium will be permissible due to social distancing guidelines.” Season ticket holders for the 2020 season will have priority in attending the seven-game home schedule. That may be all they can allow inside to watch the Broncos. And, “a majority of season ticket holders may have to change seat locations.” Bottom line: “The only way to guarantee yourself the opportunity to experience the 2020 season live and in person is to renew your season tickets.” Boise State does say it will sell individual game tickets if there’s room. That’s a big “if.”

A MOST SATISFYING VICTORY

Almost every season has a turning point, be it north or south. And tonight you can re-live one of those on the Boise State Football Facebook page as this week’s Throwback Classic is the 2017 Broncos-San Diego State game. At the time, you’ll recall, Boise State was 3-2, having lost in triple-overtime at Washington State after blowing a 31-10 lead and taking an ugly 42-23 loss to Virginia on the blue turf. The Aztecs were 5-1 and ranked 19th in the AP Poll. But Broncos special teams and defense dominated. Avery Williams returned a punt 53 yards for a touchdown and Kekaula Kaniho produced a 34-yard scoop-and-score, and the Broncos won 31-14. They’d go on to win the Mountain West championship and beat Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl.

It was a game that San Diego State wanted badly, and it attracted a crowd of 49,053—the largest for a non-fireworks Aztecs home game since Boise State first visited what was then Qualcomm Stadium in 2011. CBS Sports Network cameras caught a sideline shot of Donnel Pumphrey, who had become the NCAA’s career rushing leader the season before. It was perfect. Pumphrey had so wished he could play in this game, which he had long presumed (via Twitter) to be a big San Diego State “W.” To hold Pumphrey’s successor, Rashaad Penny, to just 53 yards and 2.5 yards per carry was an accomplishment beyond anyone’s expectations for the Broncos defense. There were seven tackles-for-loss in the Aztecs’ first 20 snaps.

MORE REST FOR HUTCHISON

The timeline for former Boise State star Chandler Hutchison’s recovery from shoulder surgery would have had him theoretically ready to play about the time the NBA plans to resume play at the end of next month. But that’s a moot point, as the Chicago Bulls are not one of the 22 teams that have qualified for the NBA’s season-ending games and postseason playoffs in Orlando. Hutchison underwent arthroscopic surgery on St. Patrick’s Day to treat the acromioclavicular joint injury of his right shoulder. (Say that 10 times really fast.) He was originally hurt on Thanksgiving weekend last year and reinjured the shoulder in February. Hutchison may have prematurely rushed back to action last winter, so this prolonged layoff isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

THE MYTHICAL 2019-20 CHAMPION

There won’t be a Mountain West All-Sports champion this year, because all the sports weren’t played. Mountain West Connection wants to name one anyway, though. The fan site made up a weighted scoring system for the fall and winter sports—reminding readers that it’s all in fun. With championships in football, women’s soccer (regular season and conference tournament) and women’s basketball in the league tournament, Boise State was declared the winner. The Broncos had nine points in Mountain West Connection’s formula and San Diego State five. We’ll just leave well enough alone.

BRONCOS DIAMOND DOINGS

Boise State was a surprising 9-5 when its first season as a resurrected baseball program was halted. Postseason awards have been following suit. Broncos reliever Wesley Harper has been named to the 2020 Collegiate Baseball Freshmen All-American Team. Harper led Boise State with six appearances on the mound, earning two saves and allowing opposing batters to hit just .186, second in the Mountain West. He was also named All-Mountain West and garnered D1Baseball.com’s Best Freshman in the Mountain West award.

Believe it or not, four Broncos will be playing baseball this weekend. The Collegiate Summer Baseball Invitational (CSBI) starts today, featuring players from more than 70 schools across the country in a six-game regionally-formatted tournament—without fans—in Bryan, TX. Boise State pitchers John Boushelle, Stu Flesland and Brayden Spears and utility player Dawson Martin are taking part in the invitation-only event. The CSBI participants arrived in Texas Monday, a stone’s throw from Austin where the Broncos opened their 2020 campaign. The event has been coordinated with local health officials and includes COVID-19 testing and quarantining of everyone involved. All participants are secured in a local hotel for the week. This is the first sanctioned baseball event in the country since the pandemic shutdown.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…June 4, 2010, 10 years ago today:

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden passes away at the age of 99. The “Wizard of Westwood” won 10 national championships in a 12-year stretch with the Bruins, the final one in 1975 putting an exclamation point on his career in his final game. Wooden coached on character and principle during the most rebellious time America has seen in its youth—on a campus that saw its share of unrest. All he did in 29 years, 27 of them at UCLA, was win 664 games, including 88 in a row during one historic stretch in the early 1970’s. Wooden died on a Friday, and the printed and televised tributes to his life lasted all weekend.

(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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