April 22, 2017
TUCSON, Ariz. - Strong finishes from Brian Humphreys and Donny Hopoi in Saturday's second round at the Mountain West Championships rejuvenated Boise State's pursuit of its first Mountain West title, bringing the Broncos to 11-under as a team.
Boise State, tied for second with UNLV, shot a combined 2-under in the second round and will enter Sunday's final round on the Catalina Course of the Omni Tucson National Resort two strokes back of pacesetter Colorado State, which topped all teams at 8-under Saturday to sit at 13-under overall.
"We are in a good spot heading into tomorrow. It will take a total team effort and one of our best rounds of the year, but we have exactly the opportunity we had hoped for, and everyone is playing well," said Boise State head coach Dan Potter.
Humphreys, with his birdie on the par-4 18th, carded a 4-under 68 on the day to move to 9-under for the tournament and into sole possession of the individual lead heading into Sunday's final round. He leads UNLV's John Oda by a stroke, and Wyoming's Ryan Wallen by two strokes after two rounds. Bronco junior Donny Hopoi also birdied No. 18 Saturday, taking sole possession of fourth place at 5-under.
"Brian has shown all year that when he is on, he can contend and win. Donny is as physically gifted as anyone and he's in a great place mentally this week, the best he's been all year," Potter said about the top two Bronco performers. "This course sets up great for the two of them and I expect more solid play tomorrow."
The birdies on 18 by Humphreys and Hopoi picked up the Broncos from what had been a tough final few holes Saturday. Boise State had taken the lead at 14-under just after the turn, but eight bogeys from the team over the final six holes dropped the Broncos to as far as 9-under. Hopoi, after bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14, bounced back with birdies on Nos. 15 and 18, with the latter coming on a 50-foot putt from off-green, to get down to 2-under for the day.
"The birdies from Donny and Brian on 18 were huge. We had leaked a little oil coming in, which is easy to do on that hole, so for them to hit good shots and capitalize helped us end the day on a high note," Potter noted.
Freshman Mason Schulze birdied two of the first six holes on the back nine before three-straight bogeys to close the round put him at 2-over for the day, as well as for for the tournament after his opening-round 72. Senior Kyle Mitsunaga also carded a 2-over 74 for the day. Mitsunaga got to 1-under after a birdie to start the back nine, but bogeys on Nos. 11, 13 and 18 put the senior over par. For the tournament, Mitsunaga is also at 2-over, tied for 29th.
Freshman Connor Johnstone finished the day at 3-over but closed strong, rebounding from a double-bogey on No. 12 and a bogey on No. 13 to birdie Nos. 14 and 15 and close with pars on each of the final three holes. Johnstone, along with Schulze and Mitsunaga, is tied for 29th among the field at 2-over through two rounds.
The Broncos will be in the final group of teams to tee off for Sunday's final round, along with Colorado State and UNLV. Johnstone will be the first Bronco up at 10:40 a.m. MT, followed in order by Mitsunaga (10:48 a.m. MT), Schulze (10:56 a.m. MT), Hopoi (11:04 a.m. MT) and Humphreys (11:12 a.m. MT).
"I'm telling the team how great they have looked all week. They've grown up as players so much this year, so we'll take confidence from that experience," said Potter. "If all five guys trust their process and stay confident tomorrow, we'll be in the mix.