Scott Slant Wednesday Weekly: Two defenses that can go in the snow

Okay, there might not be snow on the field in Laramie, but there’ll be plenty of other elements to deal with. Tops among them: a wind chill that could be in the single digits. Wyoming is used to this stuff. Boise State showed it can handle climatological adversity in its big win at Nevada. Even with limited depth. The Broncos were missing guys who have accounted for 14 of their 25 sacks this season, yet they logged four of them at Mackay Stadium. And if Cowboys quarterback Andrew Peasley is unable to go Saturday, the Broncos will be dealing with inexperienced backup Jayden Clemons. Wyoming’s defense, meanwhile, has given Boise State fits in recent years, allowing 23, 17 and 20 points. Two of those games were on the blue turf.


I did this on Sunday Sports Extra the other night. Call it Scott Slant weather. This is going to be only the second time Boise State has had to play in Laramie beyond the month of October. The first time was November 22, 2014. The temperature at kickoff was 35 degrees and the wind was 20 miles per hour. The snow started in the second half, and the Broncos won nevertheless, 63-14. Then two years ago, the game at Wyoming was pushed back to December 12 by the COVID schedule. Temperature 15, with a 15 mile-per-hour wind. Boise State slogged out a 17-9 victory in a snow game. The forecast this Saturday in Laramie: sunny with a high of 31 and a low of 8. But it’s the wind that gets you over there. And it’s right there in the forecast. “Breezy.” That’s your divisional championship backdrop.


There was an inordinate amount of injuries in the Boise State-Nevada game. None as scary as that of Wolf Pack defensive tackle James Hansen, who was taken off the field on a stretcher with a neck injury. Hansen was taken to the hospital, but Chris Murray of Nevada Sportsnet reports that he was thankfully released after X-rays on his neck were negative. The most worrisome injury to a Bronco was suffered by nickel Tyreque Jones, who left the field early in the second quarter and did not return. Backup safety Zion Washington, who was also playing some nickel, went out about a minute later. But the big name on the injury list right now remains Demitri Washington, who may or may not be lost for the season due to his shoulder injury on the first snap of the BYU game. We’re still awaiting word on Zeke Noa.


The quote of the week comes from Dirk Koetter, as it sometimes does. On Taylen Green’s rapid development, the interim Boise State offensive coordinator said Monday, “It’s exceeded my expectations. And I have very high expectations.” The Broncos’ redshirt freshman quarterback, playing in his first snow game, managed to complete 50 percent of his throws in the team’s romp in Reno. More importantly, he averaged almost 10 yards per attempt as the flakes fluttered. Green’s pass efficiency rating is up to 146. That’s good. And it’s now No. 1 in the Mountain West. Asterisk: Fresno State’s Jake Haener hasn’t played enough games to qualify. Haener’s at 169. But still. Green is indeed a quarterback, not a running quarterback. In fact, he only rushed twice at Nevada—for 22 yards and a touchdown.


Boise State has reached the 30 points per game scoring benchmark—on the button. For a team that used to average 40, that might not seem like a big deal. But this is an offense that was getting just 22 points per game after the devastating loss at UTEP, epic futility for a proud program. The Broncos have scored 300 points in 10 games. Yes, that’s 30 on the button. Even with the 19 points they put up at Air Force, they’ve averaged 35.3 points per game since Taylen Green took over as starting quarterback. And after racking up 528 yards in the snow in Reno, Boise State’s total offense average is up to 373 yards per game. It was 283 after the UTEP debacle. Can we expect the Broncos to reach 30 points at Wyoming Saturday? The weather may have something to say about that.


Nobody finishes a run quite like Boise State’s George Holani. That was on display in the Broncos’ 41-3 romp at Nevada last Saturday. Holani’s 49-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter at Mackay Stadium was a work of art. A couple shake-and-bake moves got him into the open, but once Holani got inside the 10, the Wolf Pack converged on him. He took a couple of them into the end zone with him. Holani now has 845 yards and 10 touchdowns for the season—155 away from that coveted 1,000-yard season.


Former Boise State quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie has one more mountain to climb in the CFL this week. The Toronto Argonauts coach has his team in the 109th Grey Cup Sunday in Regina, Saskatchewan, where the Argos will face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. (Ironically, one of the highlights of Dinwiddie’s playing career was starting the 2007 Grey Cup for the Blue Bombers.) This is only Dinwiddie’s second season with Toronto—he’s ahead of schedule. He started his coaching career in 2013 with the Montreal Alouettes under short-lived head coach Dan Hawkins. Would Dinwiddie ever to return to the Broncos as their offensive coordinator? He may be setting the bar too high for that right now.


Despite no sellout, it was a great scene in downtown Boise last Saturday. May the Capital City Classic become a tradition at Idaho Central Arena. The game started the same way the South Dakota State opener did for Boise State, as it fell into an 8-0 hole versus Washington State. But the Broncos tied the Cougars at 11-11 and never trailed again. It was tight throughout, though. The difference in this one was Marcus Shaver Jr. Instead of missing two free throws at the end like he did against South Dakota State, he aggressively went to the hoop and made two layins in the final minutes that took the Boise State lead from five points to nine and put away the 71-61 victory. Shaver had his first career double-double: 15 points and 10 boards.


Boise State is on now to the Myrtle Beach Invitational in South Carolina. The Broncos open Thursday against Charlotte, with Tulsa and Loyola-Chicago also on their side of the bracket. It’s a solid field, as Colorado, Murray State, Texas A&M and UMass are on the other side. Five of the teams made postseason appearances last year. As for Boise State, it answered a lot of questions about grit in its win over WSU. And the Broncos’ post presence was a lot better with Lukas Milner scoring 10 points. At some point Chibuzo Agbo is going to get going. Agbo fouled out again versus the Cougars, but he did score his first five points for Boise State, including a three-pointer.


Idaho has a lot to deal with Saturday in the final regular season game at Idaho State. The energy of the “Battle of the Domes” takes a backseat to the tragedy of the four murders in Moscow last Sunday. The Vandals will try to focus, as they’re heavily-favored to beat the Bengals and get to 7-4 on the season. If it happens, Idaho will nervously await the selection committee’s brackets for the FCS Playoffs. A 7-4 record is the cutoff point, but the Vandals’ resume is good, with two of their losses respectable ones against Power 5 schools and the other two to upper-echelon Big Sky teams.


It’s an empty feeling in Caldwell. Carroll College got the best of the College of Idaho in the season finale last Saturday, and it’s the Saints going to the NAIA Playoffs and the Coyotes staying home despite an 8-2 record and a No. 18 ranking. It’s the third straight season the Yotes have earned a share of the Frontier Conference title with no postseason berth. Fortunately at C of I, men’s basketball strong, too. The Yotes are 1-1 and are back in action Friday night in their home opener against Montana Western at the J.A. Albertson Activities Center.


The Idaho Steelheads are atop the ECHL’s Mountain Division with a 7-2-1 start, but they have company. The Wichita Thunder have matched that record and are tied with the Steelheads. Now Idaho’s road trip continues with a three-game series against the Utah Grizzlies beginning Thursday night. Two things stand out for the Steelies: the penalty kill and the third period. They’re leading the ECHL in the penalty kill at 94.6 percent, and they’re outscoring opponents 18-6 in the final stanza.


Troy Merritt, after a week off, now tries to build on his best finish since the summer of 2021. Merritt tied for third tied for two weeks ago in the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba in Mexico, shooting in the 60s all four rounds and earning $375,560. Next stop is the RSM Classic in Sea Island, GA, beginning tomorrow. Merritt has made four of five cuts this season and is already at $431,335 in season earnings.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BACON BOISE…fresh breakfast and brunch every day!

November 16, 1974: Boise State quarterback Jim McMillan sets a record that even Kellen Moore didn’t break, throwing six touchdown passes in a 56-42 win at Montana. The victory in Missoula clinched a second straight Big Sky championship for the Broncos. It was McMillan’s senior year, and he finished the season with 33 TD passes, a record that would stand for 26 years until Bart Hendricks broke it in 2000. Moore is the current season record-holder with his 43 touchdown passes in 2011.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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