BOISE, Idaho — Friday, August 21, 2020.
Without Boise State football this fall, there will be no official celebration of Albertsons Stadiums 50th anniversary (that we know of). But I’ve been doing it almost every Friday since the COVID-19 shutdown started in March, and today is my 19th edition. The tour of landmark games in stadium history takes us to 2015 today. I’ll plug in No. 20 next Friday to wrap up August—then I have something else up my sleeve for September and beyond.
It was the season-opener five years back, with Chris Petersen returning to sold-out Albertsons Stadium just 21 months after leaving Boise State for Washington. Coach Pete’s Huskies faced Bryan Harsin’s Broncos and fell behind 16-0 at halftime. Then UW came back via special teams in the second half before the Huskies’ Cameron Van Winkle missed a game-tying 46-yard field goal with 15 seconds left to preserve a 16-13 Boise State win. The Broncos defense held Washington to just 179 yards of total offense in the debut of true freshman quarterback Jake Browning—the second-best defensive performance against a Power 5 conference opponent in school history. Boise State’s Brett Rypien did not make his debut that night; he was still two weeks away. Ryan Finley called the signals in the signature victory.
HIGHTOWER BEING HIGHTOWER
The John Hightower Boise State fans saw the past two years was not a mirage. Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice wrote extensively about the former Boise State standout after Day 4 of Philadelphia Eagles training camp. “Hightower has had a very good start to camp, and Thursday was his best day so far,” observed Kempski. “In 1-on-1's, he cooked Darius Slay, using Slay's inside leverage against him and getting wide open.”
Note: you can find video of that catch on the World Wide Web. It’s pretty good. Kempski continues: “The amount of separation he is getting, without resorting to quadruple head fake routes that would be wholly unrealistic in games, has been impressive. He's slippery, and has a better idea of how to run routes than other rookie receivers we've seen.”
BRONCOS BASEBALL – MAKING ITS MARK ELSEWHERE
B.J. Rains’ recap of the dissemination of Boise State’s old baseball roster in the Idaho Press was pretty amazing. We knew right away that the talent was attractive after the university scrapped the resurrected program on July 2 following just 14 games in February and March. Joe Yorke immediately found a home at Cal Poly, but we thought at the time it wasn’t going to be easy for Yorke’s teammates to get offers.
Then within a week, two pitchers had landed in the Pac-12. Now Rains reports that all 36 players tied to the program on that fateful day have found a path, 17 of them at Division I schools, and five in the Power 5. The coolest thing is that nine players will remain in school at Boise State at redshirts, and coach Gary Van Tol will be here to help them train and seek new teams next year. He didn’t have to do that.
BOISE NATIVE TOILS FOR THE MARLINS
Boise High grad James Hoyt has wondered more than once if his run in the big leagues was done. Hoyt, who’ll be 34 on September 30, has been designated for assignment twice by Cleveland the past none months. But when the Miami Marlins were beset by a coronavirus outbreak at the beginning of this month, he was traded to Miami. And he has prospered, allowing just four hits and two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings and posting an ERA of 2.84. The lifestyle is different, to be sure. “We test (for coronavirus) every day, usually in the morning,” Hoyt told KTVB’s Jay Tust. “We just go hotel-ballpark, and that’s it.” Hoyt took a quirky route to the majors, playing in three independent leagues and the Mexican League before getting a shot with the Houston Astros in 2016.
AT LEAST SOME PEACE OF MIND FOR MERRITT
Troy Merritt will have to be in high gear today if he’s to make the cut in The Northern Trust at TPC Boston. The former Boise State star and Meridian resident was one-under at the turn in the first round Thursday, but he bogged down with three bogeys down the stretch, including two over his final four holes. Merritt shot a one-over 72 and is tied for 98th. The Northern Trust is the opening tournament of the 2020 FedEx Cup Playoffs, but there’s not as much pressure as usual for Merritt. At No. 80 in Cup standings, Merritt’s in good shape even if he is eliminated from the playoffs today. To retain his PGA Tour card, Merritt has to finish the season in the top 125.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS…August 21, 1982:
One of the pitchers who made saves a thing, Milwaukee Brewers reliever Rollie Fingers, becomes the first player in major league history to record 300 career saves in a 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners. Fingers, sporting his trademark handlebar moustache, had emerged as one of baseball’s premier relievers in the 1970s while helping the Oakland A’s to three straight World Series championships. As a Brewer, he won both the American League Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player honor in 1981. Fingers was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.
(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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