The first three games in this two-year Boise State-Fresno State saga have been hotly contested. Maybe none moreso than Saturday night’s Mountain West championship game will be, though. That’s magnified by the 2018 conference honors doled out yesterday. Brett Rypien’s Offensive Player of the Year nod is not only emblematic of his outstanding senior season, it’s kind of a lifetime achievement award for everything he’s been through. Rypien was the only MW quarterback to rank in the league’s top three in every major passing category. And here’s you obligatory Kellen Moore reference: Rypien is the first Bronco since Kellen in 2011 to be named a conference offensive player of the year.
The other prong here is Jeff Allison, Fresno State’s star linebacker, the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. Allison has been central to the Bulldogs’ startling rebound the past two seasons. He leads the ‘Dogs this season with 109 tackles, with double-digit stops in five games, including a career-high 17 at Nevada. “A lot of respect for him,” said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin of Allison. “He’s a playmaker. He’s an NFL guy.” Allison will be on the prowl against Rypien Saturday night. He’s not only an imposing pass rusher, he also has two interceptions this season.
Alexander Mattison, Ezra Cleveland and John Molchon join Rypien on the Mountain West first-team offense. Mattison has to be the most satisfying pick for the Broncos, essentially earning the spot through his impressive November surge. He goes into Saturday’s game with 1,215 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns this season. With Cleveland and Molchon, the Boise State offensive line, much-maligned early in the season, makes up 40 percent of the first-team All-Mountain West O-line. Boise State has had at least one first team all-league offensive lineman in each of its eight seasons in the MW.
Curtis Weaver, Jabril Frazier and Tyler Horton are Boise State’s first-teamers on defense. For Weaver, it’s a continuation of the breakthrough he had as a redshirt freshman. For Frazier, it’s the payoff for the expectations everybody had going into his senior year. And for Horton, it was the icing on the cake in a career that began in 2015 when he was a true freshman who was too good to keep off the field. Conference coaches and a “select media panel” did the all-league voting, and they tabbed Utah State’s Matt Wells as Coach of the Year. Not that Wells isn’t deserving, but I guess that’s the price Harsin pays for never having a losing season to bounce back from. By the way, there was a report from Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal yesterday that Wells “is the leader right now” to become the next head coach at Texas Tech.
Weaver and Wyoming safety Andrew Wingard were the only repeat All-Mountain West first-teamers from last year. Which brings up Wingard, who made five tackles last Saturday at New Mexico and tied the Mountain West record for career tackles at 454. He’d break it if the 6-6 Cowboys make it to a bowl game, but MW commissioner Craig Thompson said on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday that the Pokes may be left home. Wingard has family in the Treasure Valley and was a Boise State fan as a kid (his dad and grandpa attended the Broncos’ first Fiesta Bowl). Had he not grown up in Colorado instead of in Idaho, my crystal ball says he would have been a perfect Boise State walk-on and would have developed into a star here.
Boise State announced late yesterday that just over 20,000 tickets have been sold for the Mountain West championship game. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s pacing okay, all things considered. The stadium has to be sold from ground zero in the title game—there are no season tickets built in. Attendance for last year’s championship was 24,515, and for the 2014 title tilt it was 26,101. I think this one will top that latter number. Can it get to 30,000 with two days to go? It’ll be interesting to see. The throng of almost 36,000 at the Utah State game was unfazed by the chill. This Saturday there’s a slight chance of rain or snow showers, with the kickoff temperature in the upper 30’s. Last year it was just a couple degrees warmer with no precipitation.
ROSE BOWL WOULD BE COOL FOR COACH PETE
Although he has been to the College Football Playoff, Chris Petersen has never been a head coach in a Rose Bowl. The opportunity is staring Coach Pete and Washington in the face as the Pac-12 championship game approaches tomorrow night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The Huskies face Utah with a spot in the Granddaddy Of Them All on the line. Petersen has been to three Fiesta Bowls, two with Boise State and one with UW. But the Rose Bowl would be something special. It was the shiny object that kids dreamed of when he was growing up in Yuba City, CA. Petersen is 3-1 versus the Utes since taking over at Washington (he also had a 2006 win against them with the Broncos).
DOES TANK THINK BEFORE HE SPEAKS?
Thursday Night Football has a little extra juice tonight, thanks to former Boise State star DeMarcus Lawrence. He was asked the other day if the Saints have the best line the Cowboys have faced this season. Lawrence’s response is probably on every bulletin board in New Orleans today. “They’re going to have to match our intensity,” Lawrence said. “****, for 60 minutes straight. If you hit a ************ in the mouth and then they ain’t doing what they’re regularly doing, putting up 50 points, they start to get a little distressed. Now you got them where you want them at, and then you ******* choke their ass out.” Lawrence leads the Dallas with 8.5 sacks, not to mention 25 quarterback pressures and 10 tackles for loss. He also grabbed the first interception of his NFL career on Thanksgiving Day.
SEARCHING FOR THE SAME PAGE
Some of the veterans appear to be settling in for Boise State men’s hoops. Junior guard Marcus Dickinson, for example, played 30 minutes and put up 14 points to go with Justinian Jessup’s 21 points Tuesday night in the 83-74 loss at Drake. On the other hand, senior posts Zach Haney and David Wacker were lured into foul trouble, primarily by Drake big man Nick McGlynn. Wacker fouled out (as did RJ Williams). If you read between the lines of coach Leon Rice’s postgame interview afterward, he has a rotation of eight or nine players who are not only going in different directions, they are not dialed in. A lot can happen between now and Mountain West play. Rice is banking on it. Bronco Nation, too. Boise State plays at Grand Canyon in Phoenix Saturday night.
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November 29, 2003, 15 years ago today: Ryan Dinwiddie plays his final game in Bronco Stadium, throwing for 375 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for two more scores in Boise State’s 56-3 rout of Nevada. On the day, Dinwiddie broke school career records for passing yards and touchdown passes, as well as single season marks for passing yards, total offense and passing attempts. And the Broncos clinched their second straight WAC championship. The next day, Nevada coach Chris Tormey was fired by athletic director Chris Ault, who would return as Wolf Pack coach in 2004.
(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.)