BOISE, Idaho — Friday, April 19, 2019. 

Coach Neil Graham pointed out on KTIK Tuesday that nine Idaho Steelheads players were making their first professional postseason appearances last Friday when Idaho was turned inside-out by Utah in a 7-1 humiliation.  But the boys have settled down, and they now have a two games-to-one lead in the ECHL Mountain Division semifinals going into Game 4 tonight in West Valley City.  

You could say odds are in favor of the Steelheads—or, that the law of averages favors the Grizzlies—because Utah has lost seven straight Kelly Cup Playoff games on its home ice.  Furthermore, with Wednesday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Steelies, the Grizzlies have lost 13 straight postseason games that have gone to OT.  If Idaho doesn’t sweep this weekend’s games, there will be a Game 6 at CenturyLink Arena Monday night.

WATCH: HIGHLIGHTS: Idaho Steelheads vs. Utah Grizzlies 4/13/2019

MATTISON’S REASONING MAKES SENSE

Former Boise State standout Alexander Mattison was a guest on CBS SportsRadio’s DA Show yesterday on KTIK.  Mattison said at the crux of his decision to leave early for the NFL Draft was his position.  “Longevity for running backs is not that long,” said Mattison, who had a combined 77 carries in his final two games as a Bronco, back-to-back 200-yarders against Utah State and in the Mountain West championship game versus Fresno State.  

“It’s tough on my body, so I came down to the decision that I had to take the next step in my life.”  But it didn’t come without heartfelt feelings for Boise State.  “The environment, the coaching staff, the people, everything about it was amazing,” Mattison said.  “The fans had a lot to do with making that experience good—the best fan base in the nation, in my opinion.” 

NEW BLUE, WITHOUT MOORE AND DIXON

Boise State’s new blue turf installation is underway, slated to be completed May 30.  The two most noticeable changes: yard-line fonts that match the Broncos’ familiar uniform numerals, and blue turf extending over what was once the track on the east and west sides of Albertsons Stadium.  

Two Boise State offensive linemen won’t be playing on it in 2019, as Isiah Moore and Austin Dixon have elected to end their football careers upon graduation in a few weeks.  Moore would have been a senior in eligibility.  He was a highly-rated JC transfer when he arrived from Mesa Community College in 2017 but didn’t end up in the O-line rotation.  Dixon would have been a junior in eligibility this year.  Neither Moore nor Dixon are still listed on Boise State’s official roster.

CATCHING AND THROWING IN THE KIBBIE DOME

Idaho wide receivers Cutrell Haywood and James Cotton will try to put the icing on solid spring performances when the Silver & Gold Game unfolds tonight in the Kibbie Dome.  The duo has been making dazzling catches throughout spring football.  Haywood, a sophomore, was Idaho’s second-leading receiver last season, making 51 catches for 489 yards and six touchdowns.  Cotton, a senior, hauled in 49 passes for 656 yards and a team-best seven TDs last year.  Now it’s up to Vandals quarterbacks to get the ball to them.  The QB leaders in the clubhouse are the same as they were a year ago—Mason Petrino and Colton Richardson.  That’s causing some consternation up north.  While Petrino is undersized and is not a threat to throw deep, Richardson is not undersized.  He’s 6-4, 277 pounds.

POSITIVE OUTLOOK FOR IDAHO’S ELLISS

Kaden Elliss stands an excellent chance of being the first Idaho Vandal to be picked in the NFL Draft in seven years.  Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com reports that Elliss met with the Baltimore Ravens on Monday and was in Jacksonville Tuesday for a visit with the Jaguars.  Elliss turned heads at Idaho’s Pro Day earlier this month, especially in the shuttle and three-cone drills.  He’s listed as an edge linebacker, but he’d probably be capable of playing fullback or tight end, too.  DraftAnalyst.com projects Elliss to go in the sixth round.  The last Vandals to be drafted were Korey Toomer and Shiloh Keo, both fifth-rounders in 2012.

NO RIB—NO PROBLEM FOR MERRITT

Rust apparently wasn’t a factor as Troy Merritt returned to the PGA Tour Thursday.  At least Merritt’s not missing the rib he had removed in January surgery after being diagnosed with “thoracic outlet syndrome” last year.  The former Boise State star shot a two-under 69 in the first round of the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, SC, his first time on the tour since a post-surgery appearance in The Players Championship last month.  Merritt is tied for 27th at the RBC, four shots off the lead.

ON THE CAMPUS CRUISE

The Boise State women’s softball team opens a three-game series at New Mexico today, hoping to end the weekend over .500 in Mountain West play (it’s currently 6-6).  Chances of defending their conference championship may seem slim for the Broncos, but they were 7-5 in conference at this point last season and still got it done.  It looks like a textbook day for beach volleyball, as Boise State hosts its first two and last two home dual matches of the season.  The Broncos play Sacramento State and Arizona.  And Boise State men’s tennis celebrates Senior Day Saturday morning against Utah State at the Appleton Center.  Jack Heslin and Maximilien Blancaneaux will be honored. 

GETTING OUT OF THE RUT AT ROBIE

There will not be a repeat champion Saturday in the 42nd Race To Robie Creek.  Neither the men’s nor women’s champ is back this year, so runnersup Dan Button of Eagle and Jessie Noah of Cambridge will be thrust into favorites’ roles.  One other runner to watch is Jackson Brill, a Boise High grad who finished in the top 10 at Robie in his mid-teens.  Brill went to college at the University of Colorado but didn’t run cross country or track at CU.  Brill has some big victories in “ultra” races, though.  He won “The Rut” on Labor Day weekend last year at Big Sky, MT.  Brill finished the punishing 50-kilometer course in just under five hours, 18 minutes, and his margin of victory was more than 15 minutes.  Yes, Brill won “The Rut” in a rout.

This Day In Sports…April 19, 2017:

In what we thought would be the final at-bat of his career at his old home, Safeco Field, Miami’s Ichiro Suzuki hits a home run—his first on the road in four years—thrilling Seattle fans toward the end of a 10-5 Mariners win.  The 43-year-old Ichiro had anchored rightfield and led off for the M’s for nearly 11 seasons before being traded to the New York Yankees in 2012.  He would, however, return to Seattle in 2018 and end his career last month in the second game of the 2019 season with an emotional walk off the field in Tokyo.

(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.)