Boise State Football

McNichols is receiving national attention, but Harsin wants more: ‘I don’t get it’

Boise State coach Bryan Harsin says McNichols should earn national attention

Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin discusses junior running back Jeremy McNichols' big season and looks ahead to the big game against Air Force.
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Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin discusses junior running back Jeremy McNichols' big season and looks ahead to the big game against Air Force.

When you have the season Jeremy McNichols is putting together, attention follows.

The Boise State junior running back is on the NFL Draft radar, and he’s statistically perhaps the best back in the Football Bowl Subdivision this season. McNichols, as usual, reacts with his usual quiet style.

“It’s cool right now, but at the end of the day, I’m still in the season. I still care a lot about my teammates and the coaches,” McNichols said. “It’d be cool to look at it after the season, but we’ll continue to go 1-0.”

McNichols was named the Mountain West offensive player of the week for the fourth time this season Monday after his 206-yard, four-touchdown performance in Friday’s win over UNLV. He’s the sixth player in conference history and the second Bronco to earn the honor four times in a season, joining Kellen Moore in 2011.

A semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back, McNichols was not among the finalists named Monday. That trio is Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, Texas’ D’Onta Foreman and San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey. About three hours before that news, coach Bryan Harsin stumped a bit for his standout workhorse.

“I don’t know what else he has to do. Look at his stats,” Harsin said. “If anybody is watching and following college football, how is this guy not in the conversation with everybody else? I don’t get it.”

Consider the numbers, and he absolutely has a strong case for national recognition:

▪ McNichols: 273 carries for 1,575 yards, 22 TDs; 32 catches for 450 yards, four TDs

▪ Cook: 242 carries for 1,467 yards, 17 TDs; 27 catches for 400 yards, one TD

▪ Foreman: 292 carries for 1,863 yards, 15 TDs; seven catches for 75 yards, no TDs

▪ Pumphrey: 287 carries for 1,855 yards, 14 TDs; 25 catches for 197 yards, no TDs

McNichols is No. 3 in the FBS in rushing and No. 1 in rushing and total touchdowns. His 5.8 yards per carry are less than the three finalists. Pumphrey has 6,127 career yards, third-best in NCAA history, and it would be uncommon for two of the three finalists to come from the same Group of Five conference. Against common opponents (Wyoming, Utah State, UNLV, San Jose State and Hawaii), McNichols has outgained Pumphrey 792-687.

It’s a similar spot to the one Jay Ajayi was in during his last season at Boise State, in 2014. He was a Doak Walker semifinalist but didn’t make the final cut. Through 11 games, he had 1,390 yards and 19 touchdowns with 44 catches for 535 yards and four touchdowns.

Ajayi departed after his junior season for the NFL. McNichols may, too. He said he hasn’t given it much thought.

“I haven’t. I’m just focused on these guys,” McNichols said Friday. “Eventually it will come probably, but not right now.”

Harsin said any decision on whether McNichols will leave early will be discussed in the next few weeks. He said McNichols is comparable to “all the great ones” Boise State has had in recent years, adding that to be a Heisman Trophy or Doak Walker candidate, he meets the criteria.

“I don’t know how high the standard is. If it’s perfection, he’s about as close as anybody’s ever been here from that standpoint,” Harsin said.

Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin speaks to the media Nov. 21, 2016.

MATARANO HAS BROKEN LEG

Boise State junior linebacker Joe Martarano has a fractured fibula in his left leg, Harsin said Monday. The injury will almost certainly prevent him from playing again this season.

Martarano suffered the injury late in the first quarter against UNLV. The Fruitland native also injured his knee during the first quarter Sept. 3 at Louisiana and missed the next two games. He started at Louisiana and against UNLV, making 25 tackles in nine games and forcing a fumble.

“We’ll get him back. I don’t know when. We won’t have him probably the rest of the season,’’ Harsin said.

The Broncos will be minus Martarano and senior Tanner Vallejo (wrist) at linebacker Friday at Air Force (1:30 p.m., CBSSN). Senior Darren Lee, who has started eight games at the middle linebacker spot he shares with Martarano, is listed as the starter this week, while junior Blake Whitlock will start in Vallejo’s place on the outside.

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @IDS_BroncoBeat

No. 20 Boise St. at Air Force

▪ When: 1:30 p.m. Friday

▪ Where: Falcon Stadium (46,692, FieldTurf), Colorado Springs, Colo.

▪ TV: CBS Sports Network (Carter Blackburn, Aaron Taylor, Jenny Dell)

▪ Where to find CBS Sports Network: Cable One (channel 139, 1139 HD), DirecTV (channel 221) and Dish Network (channel 158)

▪ Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)

▪ Records: Boise State 10-1, 6-1 Mountain West; Air Force 8-3, 4-3

▪ Series: Tied 2-2

▪ Last four meetings: 2015 — AF def. BSU 37-30; 2014 — AF def. BSU 28-14; 2013 — BSU def. AF 42-20; 2011 — BSU def. AF 37-26

▪ Vegas line: Boise State by 9  1/2

▪ Kickoff weather: Mid 50s, sunny with slight winds

▪ Did you know? Air Force is one of 11 teams that owns a .500 record or better against Boise State all-time (minimum of two meetings). The others are Arkansas (2-0), Central Michigan (2-2), Georgia (1-1), Louisville (1-1), North Texas (3-2), Rice (1-1), San Diego State (2-2), TCU (2-2), Washington (2-2), Washington State (4-1).

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