Jeremy McNichols 'smells blood' when a touchdown is near
Jeremy McNichols has not had the time to truly sit back and admire what he has accomplished this season. He’s too busy scoring touchdowns.
It was assumed that the Boise State junior running back would improve in his second season as a full-time back. But his first nine games are the apex of whatever would have been considered reasonable expectations.
McNichols is No. 4 in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 1,216 rushing yards. His 20 total touchdowns are No. 1.
In the Boise State record book, he’s already 10th with 2,712 career yards, he’s fourth with 5.61 yards per carry and is tied for fourth with 48 career touchdowns.
“I’m still young at the position, still have got a lot to learn,” McNichols said. “The numbers are cool, I don’t really pay attention to them; I’ll pay more attention to them in the offseason.”
During the Broncos’ 45-31 win over San Jose State on Friday, McNichols added a pair of touchdown runs, giving him a score in 21 straight games, tying him with former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball for the longest such streak in the last 10 seasons. The Football Bowl Subdivision record is 27 (Lee Suggs, Virginia Tech, 2000-02).
“When we get close, or when we get the ball, I just smell blood in the water. I just want to get to the end zone as many times as I can,” McNichols said.
After averaging 25 touches per game last season, McNichols has seen it increase to 29 this season. A better focus on his body, including what he says are “smarter” plays to avoid unnecessary contact, have been key.
“It means a lot to me I can put the team on my back when I need to,” he said Monday.
McNichols’ name has been thrown around as a possible NFL Draft pick in the first few rounds next May. Leaving Boise State a year early is not a decision he has made at this point, but the Broncos should be in good hands whether he is back or not in 2017.
He’s helped take freshman Alexander Mattison (100 yards Friday) under his wing, just as McNichols’ predecessor did.
“From Jay (Ajayi) doing that with me for a year, knowing how much it really helped. ... Being in those shoes, to help a young guy that’s coming up and going to have a successful career, I really take to heart because someone did that for me,” McNichols said.
As McNichols has been racking up big game after big game, rushing for at least 116 yards seven times this season, it has been parallel to his old friend’s rise. Ajayi has rushed for 204, 214 and 111 yards the last three games for the Miami Dolphins.
McNichols said, “I usually talk to him on the phone once or twice a week.”
The subject the last time they talked?
“How happy he is for me and how happy I am for him. We just feed off each other,” McNichols said.
SORRY, JEREMY: WALE’S RUN A FAVE
Senior punter Sean Wale’s 29-yard gain on a fake punt late in the first quarter Friday was the Broncos’ longest run of the night. McNichols had 158 yards on the ground, his longest a 27-yarder.
Wale took a hit and was proud to show off his new bruise.
“I’m just glad we got the first down. We always preach ball security, I just had to make sure I was holding onto that thing,” Wale said.
McNichols weighed in on the run Monday, saying, “It was a huge play for us.”
Then came a few friendly jabs.
“He did have a big hole, though. If he couldn’t get through that one, I dunno,” McNichols said.
CONTRACT TALKS CAN WAIT
As the season starts to wind down, it’s an annual tradition for Boise State coaches’ names to pop up as potential candidates for openings around the nation.
Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey said he feels pay has been competitive, though the market may dictate if the Broncos must be proactive. Boise State coach Bryan Harsin is the third-highest paid Mountain West coach this season at $1.3 million, and will be paid $1.55 million next season. He’s under contract through the 2021 season.
“Usually don’t have those discussions until the season’s over. ... We’ll have some preliminary discussions, but nothing really until the season’s over,” Apsey said.
No. 24 Boise State at Hawaii
- When: 5 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Aloha Stadium (50,000, synthetic turf), Honolulu
- TV: CBS Sports Network (Rich Waltz, Adam Archuleta, Cassie McKinney)
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
- Records: Boise State 8-1 overall, 4-1 Mountain West; Hawaii 4-6, 3-3
- Series: Boise State leads 11-3 (won last season 55-0 in Boise)
- Vegas line: Boise State by 17
- Kickoff weather: Mid-80s, light winds