The secret sauce on the glass

This unrelenting crashing of the boards is something new and unusual for Boise State. The program has never been known as a rebounding power, but that’s what it is now. The Broncos are currently No. 8 among the country’s 351 Division I teams in rebounding margin at plus-9.2 per game. It’s a mindset that has taken root, and it comes from coaching, effort and heart. The Broncos out-rebounded New Mexico by 20 last week—and in their first five Mountain West games, they’ve now out-boarded opponents by a total of 68. Four players are averaging more than five rebounds per game: Chandler Hutchison, Zach Haney, Chris Sengfelder and Justinian Jessup.

It’s Jessup who tells you a lot about this team. He’s a guard, and he’s a sophomore. But he’s 6-6, and he has great hands. Jessup led Boise State at Wyoming with eight boards and pulled down four at Fresno State. Further demonstrating that rebounding is a top-to-bottom thing, Robin Jorch came off the bench to fill in the gap against the Bulldogs. The 6-10 German may have gone 0-for-3 from the field and picked up three fouls in 17 minutes, but he pulled down six rebounds, an impressive four of them on the offensive end. Rebounding will be an area of focus Saturday night in the showdown against San Diego State at Taco Bell Arena. The always-athletic Aztecs are second behind the Broncos in rebounding margin at plus-6.8 per game.

Boise State pulled up this little nugget after the 70-64 win at Fresno State Tuesday night. Hutchison is now the 11th player in Bronco history to win a conference road game at every league venue in his career. John Coker, a 7-foot center who went on to a cup of coffee in the NBA, was the last to accomplish the feat in 1995 in the Big Sky days. Saturday night it’s home-sweet-home for Hutchison and the Broncos against San Diego State. And a word to the wise—get your tickets now. As of yesterday afternoon, Boise State reported more than 8,700 tickets already out for the game, and coach Leon Rice has pledged to walk across the Boise River if fans fill up Taco Bell Arena for the Aztecs and tweeted a video of himself preparing in the ice tub in the Broncos’ training room.

The last time San Diego State played at Boise State—a 78-66 loss to the Broncos last January—an Aztec named Max Hoetzel drained five three-pointers. This year SDSU has a forward the same size and weight (6-9, 210) named Max Montana who drilled three treys in Tuesday night’s 85-49 rout of San Jose State. It’s the same guy. Turns out the Indiana transfer’s German father and Danish mother visited Montana when they first moved to America, fell in love with the state, and gave Max and his two sisters the middle name of “Montana.” With his dad’s blessing, Max has changed his last name this season to Montana (although not legally, yet). Admittedly, it is a cool name. Max Montana.

John Chavis was named new Arkansas defensive coordinator Tuesday, and the dominoes have fallen. Former Boise State defensive line coach Steve Caldwell was officially hired yesterday for the same post with the Razorbacks. The popular Caldwell left the Broncos with a statement worth sharing. “I want to thank Coach Harsin for giving me the opportunity to coach at such a special place,” he said. “The future at Boise State is as bright as its past. The culture is strong, and the group we have is ready to make its mark, continuing what is already a strong tradition. Were it not for an opportunity to return home, a place where I will consistently get to be around my children and grandchildren, I envisioned Boise as a place I could have stayed for years to come. Thank you to everyone in this community for their support.”

Former Idaho coach Tom Cable has been fired as offensive line coach by the Seattle Seahawks. Cable, recognized as one of the better O-line coaches in the NFL, had been with Seattle for seven seasons sonce being released as head coach of the Oakland Raiders and helped the Seahawks to the Super Bowl XLVIII championship. The problem this season was personnel. Take left tackle, for example. Former Boise State star Rees Odhiambo was hot and cold at that spot, starting the first seven games before going on injured reserve in November with multiple dislocated fingers. Cable went 11-35 with the Vandals from 2000-03.

The Idaho Steelheads blasted out to a 6-0 lead early in the third period last night before cruising past Kalamazoo 6-2 in their first-ever meeting with the Wings. The Steelheads have scored 17 goals in three games in the new year. There was a cool footnote released by the organization yesterday. The Steelheads will honor one of their all-time fan favorites when they retire Scott Burt’s No. 12 jersey on February 3. Burt will be the fourth Steelie to have his number retired, joining Cal Ingraham, Jeremy Mylymok and Marty Flichel. Burt played for Idaho for seven seasons (2000-07) and was part of both of the team’s Kelly Cup championships.

Troy Merritt resumes his 2017-18 PGA Tour season with his first tournament of the calendar year, teeing off today at the Sony Open in Hawaii. The fall portion of the season was lukewarm for Merritt—he made three of five cuts, but his top finish was a tie for 51st at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas in November. It was at the Sony Open eight years ago that Merritt made his PGA Tour debut, making a nice splash with a tie for 20th.

The Boise State women’s gymnastics team, sporting its highest preseason national ranking ever at No. 13, competes in its season opener tonight versus No. 24 Southern Utah in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos are led by returning Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference all-around champion Shani Remme. And the Boise State women’s basketball team got back on track after a rugged home loss to Wyoming last Saturday by running past Fresno State 75-66 last night in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos trailed by five at the half but outscored the Bulldogs by 14 over the final two quarters. Riley Lupfer poured in 26 points for Boise State, including six three-pointers.

This Day In Sports…January 11, 1983:

The New York Yankees’ fickle owner George Steinbrenner hires Billy Martin as manager for the third time, saying, “I think this will be for a long time.” He would again fire Martin from baseball’s most perilous job on December 16 of that year. However, Steinbrenner’s revolving door continued to turn, and Martin would be back twice more as Yankees manager before the decade was over. Martin also skippered the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s during his managerial career.

(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.)