Sacramento area impacts Mountain West football openers

Sixth-year senior Sam Whitney is listed as Boise State’s starting STUD on the Broncos’ first

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Sixth-year senior Sam Whitney is listed as Boise State’s starting STUD on the Broncos’ first depth chart of the season.

Bouncing around the college football regions in a forward lean:

All seasons in (almost)

Saturday was a kickoff bonanza for the Mountain West Conference. The Pac-12 starts Nov. 7.

Both will only play conference games. And there will be no fans amid COVID-19 health guidelines, hollowing out the atmosphere. The only FCS or FBS conference on the West Coast that will not play this fall is the Big Sky, which includes Sacramento State and UC Davis.

The Big Sky pushed its schedule to the spring and remained committed to it, counter to what the Mountain West and Pac-12 did in scheduling a spring season and then reversing course. Defending Big Sky co-champion Sac State opted out of the spring season, a move sparked by coach Troy Taylor, out of concern that a late playoff run into late May would make it too risky health wise to turn around and start full contact camp in August with seasons starting in September.

In other words, Cal isn’t going to postpone its Sept. 18, 2021 home game against Sac State to accommodate the Hornets. Sac State won’t be the only Big Sky team to opt out for spring games, just the first.

Stud backer back

His position at Boise State is called “stud” linebacker, and how fitting. That’s what Sam Whitney is.

He was a tackling terror at Folsom High School, earning Bee Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2014. If that seems like a long time ago, it is. Whitney is in his sixth season at Boise State, no thanks to season-ending injuries that have stalled progress.

After missing last fall with a knee ailment, Whitney returned Saturday. Whitney helped lead the defensive charge in a 42-13 rout of Utah State with a career-tying seven tackles and a sack as the Broncos opened their season with a victory for the 19th consecutive time.

”Felt good,” Whitney said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Strong showing

Carson Strong gets better with age. The sophomore from Wood High of Vacaville passed for a career-best 420 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-34 overtime home victory over Wyoming, whose defense included end Victor Jones of Inderkum and tackle Rovantae Holt of Sheldon.

Strong joked with the Nevada Wolf Pack All Access that he has shed his baby-faced look, “I hit puberty over quarantine. I finally got some facial hair to grow in. I’m not that freshman kid anymore.”

Strong’s 39 completions are third-most in program history. The leader is former Woodland High star Chris Vargas, who completed 43 passes against McNeese State in 1992. The Nevada offensive line includes Moses Landis of El Camino and American River College and Zac Welch of Oak Ridge.

For kicks

Nevada’s Julian Diaz of Lincoln and ARC was a busy man, kicking off and punting. He boomed a 71-yard punt to pin Wyoming on its 1-yard line and also had a 76-yard punt. The man knows how to get a roll from his efforts.

Diaz averaged 55.4 yards on five punts. Brandon Talton of Vacaville had a 21-yard field goal for a fourth-quarter lead and made all three of his extra points.

Capra duo

They dreamed of playing together in college and are living it.

Jacob and Joey Capra are offensive linemen from Placer rooted in the trenches at San Diego State. The Aztecs rolled UNLV 34-6, rushing for 213 yards in the first half for a 27-0 lead. The game was played some 115 miles from San Diego in Carson.

Arroyo angst

Marcus Arroyo’s head-coaching debut for UNLV was not a joyous one. An offensive guru in his play-calling days at Oregon, the Colfax High product saw his team pass for zero yards in the first half against San Diego State as he cycled through three quarterbacks.

The Rebels averaged 1.1 yards per play in the first half for 25 total yards. UNLV hosts Nevada on Saturday at new Allegiant Stadium, also home of the Raiders. Up to 2,000 fans will be allowed.

“We didn’t get what we wanted tonight, but I think we’re going to learn from this,” Arroyo told media after the game. “(Players) are hurting. I think we all are. We’ll play better. We’ll be a better team for it, regardless.”

Spartans spark

San Jose State halted Air Force’s nine-game winning streak with a defensive gem, a 17-6 home effort.

San Jose’s roster includes receivers Andre Crump of Monterey Trail, Chance LaChappelle of Sheldon, offensive lineman John Weiss of Ponderosa, tight end Jackson Canaan of Jesuit, linebacker Lorenzo Burkes of Jesuit, lineman Grady Manley of Lincoln and end Christian Johnson of Wheatland.

A promising NFL prospect for the Spartans: 6-foot-4, 235-pound tight end Derrick Deese, Jr.. He caught two Nick Starkel touchdowns. Deese is the son of former 49ers lineman Derrick Deese.

Movers and shakers

Other Mountain West starters with regional roots include: Fresno State linebacker Levelle Bailey of Burbank, Air Force fullback Tim Jackson of Vacaville and Nevada defensive tackle Zak Mahannah, who grew up in Reno and played at ARC.

Fresno State lost its opener 34-19 at home to Hawaii.

Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988 and is award-winning authority on high school sports, specializing in going behind the scenes. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.

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