George Holani looked good in Boise State’s Spring Game, but has he really bounced back from the injury that limited him to just three carries and four receptions after the first quarter of Game 2 last season? “He looks awesome—he’s explosive, now,” said coach Andy Avalos at his Tuesday press conference. “George has the ability to do it all. It doesn’t matter the scheme. He’s (even) able to split out at the wide receiver position.” Whoa, is that a hint? Offensive coordinator Tim Plough’s new offense promises to bring a lot of wrinkles. Catching the ball out of the backfield is clearly on the docket, and that’s part of Holani’s skill set. In 18 career games for the Broncos, he has 33 catches for 258 yards and five touchdowns. Two of the three TDs he scored during his abbreviated 2020 season came through the air.
A 100 percent Holani is surely a sight for sore eyes at Boise State’s fall camp. He joined the Broncos’ lengthy 1,000-yard rushers club as a true freshman in 2019, netting 1,014 yards. Holani wasn’t the feature back at the beginning of that season, as he had to work his way past Robert Mahone. Holani’s poised to be the main man this year if he stays healthy, so a 1,000-yard campaign is certainly in the cards. Here’s where an argument can ensue—I’ll just say that if Holani reaches that plateau, I’ll call it “Boise State’s 12th consecutive non-COVID season with a 1,000-yard rusher.”
LVE LIVES ON AS A COWBOY
The road back for Dallas linebacker Leighton Vander Esch begins tonight in the Hall Of Fame Game in Canton, OH. The former Boise State star and pride of Riggins may play more than the average veteran against Tampa Bay, as he tries to prove his mettle after the Cowboys declined to pick up the fifth-year option on his contract. “He looks fantastic,” said Voice of the Cowboys Brad Sham earlier this week on Idaho SportsTalk. “I don’t know if there’s three better players on the defensive side of the ball than what he’s been.” Maybe having his option year declined will be the best thing that could happen for Vander Esch. “He’s healthy, and he’s got a chip on the shoulder,” Sham said. “He should have a monster year.
ANOTHER NEW ADDRESS FOR HUTCH
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Washington is sending Chandler Hutchinson and a 2022 second-round draft pick to San Antonio as part of what has become a five-team deal that includes the Spencer Dinwiddie sign-and-trade from the Nets to the Wizards. Boise State’s only first round draft pick spent half a season in D.C. after being traded by the Chicago Bulls. Hutchison averaged 5.2 points in 18 games. Maybe Gregg Popovich can bring out the best in Hutch, because he’s at a crossroads. Meanwhile, Justinian Jessup scored just two points—both from the free throw line—for Golden State Wednesday night in the second game of the California Classic in Sacramento, a 94-87 loss to the Miami Heat. The Boise State product went 0-for-3 from the field in 28 minutes.
ONE MORE STEELIES ‘GRAYBEARD’ RE-UPS
You think Idaho Steelheads captain A.J. White has been around a long time as he goes into his fourth year? Forward Will Merchant has signed on for a fifth with the Steelheads. Instead of playing for another team during the Steelies’ COVID shutdown last season, Merchant hung around Boise and felt the hunger for hockey. “With the large amount of time off, I’ve spent a lot of time with fans and season ticket holders at work and at the gym I work out at,” said Merchant. “Every single time I see them, they tell me how excited they are for that first game.” Merchant has played 213 career games for Idaho, posting 60 goals and 78 assists. Oh, and that first game is Friday, October 22, against the Utah Grizzlies.
TOKYO OLYMPICS CHECK-IN
Here’s an update on roundabout Idaho ties at the Tokyo Olympics. Three-time Twilight Criterium women’s champion Jennifer Valente won bronze medal Tuesday as the U.S. finished third in the women’s team pursuit cycling event. San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills, who began his professional career with the Idaho Stampede, led Australia with 15 points and eight assists as the Aussies fell 97-78 to the U.S. in the men’s basketball semifinals today. And former Idaho Vandal Alycia Butterworth, representing Canada, did not make Wednesday’s women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase final. Butterworth ran a 9:34.25 in her heat on Sunday.
It may be the most thrilling win of the Boise Hawks season. Too bad it wasn’t at Memorial Stadium. Trailing 9-7 in the top of the ninth, the Hawks got a three-run homer from Nate Fisbeck to take down Grand Junction 10-9 in the first of a six-game series in Colorado. It was Fisbeck’s fourth game with the team. The Hawks also got homers from their Myles duo, Myles Miller and Myles Harris as they evened their second-half record at 8-8.
MISSING JUNE DAUGHERTY
Hard to fathom that June Daugherty is gone. The former Boise State women’s basketball coach passed away Monday in Boise at the age of 64. Daugherty left an indelible mark on the community during her time here, going 122-75 and leading the Broncos to their first NCAA Tournament invitation. And it was an at-large berth at that. Fans couldn’t help but like her. In 1994, I would take June around to radio stations to pump up big games. We did that the week of Boise State’s game against Big Sky power Montana. It was Dollar Night, and 11,558 fans turned out. Daugherty went on to Washington and Washington State, but she and her husband, Mike, chose to retire in Boise several years ago. We’re honored that they did.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by VETERANS PLUMBING…eliminate your drips and drops!
August 5, 2001, 20 years ago today: Trailing 12-0 in the third inning and 14-2 in the seventh, the Cleveland Indians stage a stupendous rally and beat the Seattle Mariners, 15-14, in 11 innings at Jacobs Field. The Indians joined the 1911 Chicago White Sox and the 1925 Philadelphia Athletics as the only teams in big league history to overcome 12-run deficits in a major league game. It was an aberration for the M’s, as they won an American League record 116 games that season.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)