Boise State did not allow a sack Saturday—news for an offense that has struggled in that department. Boise State did not allow a sack Saturday night, which is news for an offense that has struggled in that department. It’s also very encouraging with true freshman Brett Rypien settling in at quarterback, because the Broncos know they need to keep him clean the rest of the season if they’re to reach their goals. The no-sack accomplishment against Hawaii was part offensive line, part Rypien, part pass-protect from the running backs and tight ends, and part play-calling by Boise State offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz. Rypien was able to stay out of harm’s way thanks to his ability to get rid of the ball, plus a scramble here and there (that gave Bronco Nation a pit in its collective stomach). It’s the first time in more than two years Boise State has not allowed a sack—since the 42-20 win over Air Force on the blue turf in 2013.
Bronco left tackle Rees Odhiambo didn’t really notice the lack of a sack during the game, but he was happy to see that stat when it was over. “We take a lot of pride in running the ball, but at the same time keeping the quarterback up so he doesn’t get hurt,” said Odhiambo. Coach Bryan Harsin saw Rypien as a key piece of the “zero sacks” puzzle. “I think Brett in the pocket—that was a big point of emphasis,” said Harsin. Pass protection is a big deal. Boise State has gone from only five sacks total in 2009 to eight in 2010 and 2011 to 10 in 2012—to 26 in 2013 and 28 last year. The Broncos had yielded 13 this season before Saturday night’s shutout. Er, double shutout.
As much improvement as Harsin will demand from Rypien moving forward, it’s hard for the coach not to lavish praise on his emerging standout. He again brought up the dart Rypien threw to the back corner of the end zone in the second quarter Saturday, resulting in a great touchdown catch by Thomas Sperbeck. The play was supposed to go the other way to tight end Jake Roh. “The field safety never moved, and (Rypien) took advantage,” said Harsin. “Guys that see that—that’s a good thing.” Harsin maintains that Rypien has needed the seasoning that has come in practice since the beginning of the season. “I just think he’s come a long way from when he was in fall camp, even mechanically,” Harsin said. “He wouldn’t have made that throw if he hadn’t watched and seen that on film.”
There are legit signs of an emerging Boise State running game now. Jeremy McNichols recorded the Broncos’ first 100-yard rushing game of the season with his 108 against Hawaii. After five games last year, though, Jay Ajayi had logged only two 100-yard games himself. Of course, one of them was a 219-yard performance in a crucial win over Colorado State. Boise State as a team averaged 4.7 yards on their 279-yard total versus the Warriors. The Broncos just kept running it—59 times in all. Which brings up the no-huddle offense. Rypien operated it masterfully, considering it was his third collegiate game. BSU peeled off 88 plays.
Harsin’s revelation of Boise State’s internal players of the game after the Hawaii win were a bit entertaining yesterday. On defense, it was a tie between cornerback Donte Deayon and safety Darian Thompson. If you don’t know why that’s funny, you haven’t been paying attention. Rypien got the offensive nod. And on special teams, it was Leighton Vander Esch, the former star at Salmon River High in Riggins. Vander Esch, the “Baby Giraffe,” made his first career fumble recovery while playing linebacker in the fourth quarter. I’m anxious to see how his career plays out.
Maybe if Boise State plays really, really well, it can get a Mountain West Player of the Week award in the near future. But you can’t begrudge the conference honorees yesterday, Utah State quarterback Kent Myers on offense and UNLV linebacker Ryan McAleenan. Myers set a USU record for rushing by a QB with 191 yards on just 16 carries in the Aggies’ win over Colorado State Saturday. The yardage was the most by an FBS quarterback this season. McAleenan had the 52-yard interception for a touchdown that carried the Rebels past Nevada, 23-17.
New Mexico coach Bob Davie has always been a buttoned-up guy, dating back to his days as the head man at Notre Dame and as an analyst on ESPN. But he’s pretty excited about where this year’s Lobos are right now. They’re 3-2 after rallying from 15 points down to defeat New Mexico State Saturday in the Rio Grande Rivalry game. In fact, in a raucous UNM locker room, Davie called the team together—then broke into a, well, a dance of some kind. It’s good to see him having fun. Look up the video on YouTube. New Mexico plays at Nevada this Saturday in a pivotal game for both teams.
A lot of national media have been ready to pounce on Denver’s young offensive line, the one that features starting center Matt Paradis from Council, Idaho. But the Broncos are 4-0 with the former Boise State star snapping the ball to future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. How does that feel? “It’s pretty cool—a lot of fun,” said Paradis yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk. He knows so much about the game; he teaches me and everybody else so much.” Paradis has transitioned comfortably into an NFL system, though. “With how complicated the offense was at Boise State, it wasn’t stunning,” Paradis said. “You’re running the same plays, you’re just calling them differently. Paradis has gone from BSU walk-on to NFL starter. “It’s been quite a ride,” he said. And he’s still driving the 2000 Tacoma pickup he had while in high school in Council.
The Idaho Steelheads released their training camp roster in time for their first skate yesterday at CenturyLink Arena. There are 21 players on the list, and new coach Neil Graham isn’t much older than his troops. At 30 years old, Graham is now the youngest coach in the ECHL. The roster includes six returnees from last season, defensemen Jake Rutt and Shawn Boutin, forwards Jefferson Dahl, Rob Linsmayer, and Colton Beck, and goaltender Chris Rawlings. There are two more who played for the Steelies in previous seasons, James Isaacs and Andrew Carroll.
The Major League Baseball postseason begins tonight, starting with the American League Wild Card. The Houston-New York Yankees game includes one former Boise Hawk, Astros shortstop Marwin Gonzalez. The 26-year-old Venezuelan had his best season in the bigs, with career highs in average (.279), home runs (12), and runs batted in (34). Gonzalez played 65 games for the Hawks in 2008 and batted, coincidentally, .279.
This Day In Sports…October 6, 2010, five years ago today:
Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay becomes only the second major leaguer ever to throw a no-hitter in postseason play. The only other one was the legendary perfect game by the Yankees’ Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series. Halladay, making his first playoff appearance of a 13-year big league career, allowed just one batter to reach base (on a walk) in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Reds in the first game of the National League Divisional Series. It was quite a year for Halladay—he had thrown a perfect game earlier in the season against the Florida Marlins.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)