Two things came out of Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien’s first appearance in front of the media. The two things that came out of Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien’s first appearance in front of the media: his willingness—make that eagerness—to be a leader and his acceptance of responsibility when things go south. There was a lot of “that starts with me” when Rypien sat down at the microphone for the first time after making his Bronco debut two months ago. The timing was interesting, coming as it did after an embarrassing loss to New Mexico. One of the most curious plays Saturday night was the fourth-and-one at the Lobos’ 15-yard line with just over four minutes left in the game, when Rypien overthrew a fade in the back corner of the end zone. “Bad decision,” he said. “That play wasn’t designed to do that.”
On the subject of leadership, well, Rypien embraces it. “I really don’t feel like a true freshman, because I’ve been here since spring,” Rypien said. He was asked if his style in the huddle is “rah-rah guy” or lead-by-example. “As a quarterback, you have to be both,” said Rypien. “When you need a voice, you have to have that voice.” Rypien recognizes there have been ups and downs in his first Boise State season—and that he hasn’t always met coaches’ expectations. “If they trust me to have the ball in my hands and throw 75 times, I’d better make good decisions with it.” But he’s all about preparation, preparation, preparation. “That’s the hardest part about college football, is being consistent every week,” Rypien said. “And that starts with me.”
As Boise State tries to refocus for a face-saving opportunity this week, one of New Mexico coach Bob Davie’s comments following the Lobos’ stunning upset of the Broncos struck me. “That’s a team that was already talking about playing Friday night for the Mountain West Conference championship against Air Force,” Davie observed. I wouldn’t think that perception actually came from something the team said or did, but there was certainly that type of thread running through the community. “After we win out, what bowl game will we go to? What has to happen in the American conference for us to get to a New Year’s Six bowl?” There was too much buy-in to that ridiculous spread of 30.5 points. If there was any such thought inside the Bleymaier Football Center last week, there certainly won’t be this week. There can’t be.
All three of yesterday’s Mountain West Players of the Week came out of the Boise State-New Mexico game, and one of them was actually a Bronco. Thomas Sperbeck was too hard to ignore. His 20 catches for 281 yards against the Lobos shattered the Bronco records in each category. And in both cases, they were the highest outputs by an FBS receiver this season, topping an 18-catch game by TCU star Josh Doctson and and a 268-yard game by Tulsa’s Kenyarris Garrett. The junior wide receiver leads the Mountain West with 69 receptions for 1,210 yards and is five yards away from Boise State’s single-season record set by Titus Young five years ago. Sperbeck is also now within reach of the Broncos’ season record for catches, 88 by Matt Miller in 2013.
They had never played together in Taco Bell Arena, but they sure played well together last night. James Webb III and Anthony Drmic combined for 44 points as Boise State ran away from Northern Arizona for a 101-81 victory. It was the Broncos’ first 100-point game since hitting the century mark three times in their first four games two seasons ago. Webb had only five points at halftime but finished with 22 and added 11 rebounds. Drmic also scored 22 points, canning four three-pointers along the way. The senior Aussie is said to be still recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left ankle back on January 15. If so, I’m anxious to see Drmic when he’s actually 100 percent.
In the first half last night, Boise State didn’t look like a team prepared to play at No. 12 Arizona Thursday. The Broncos led just 47-44 at the intermission and seemed discombobulated trying to handle NAU’s penetrators. In fact, in coach Leon Rice’s halftime interview on ROOT Sports, he said, “That was awful defense.” But BSU ramped it up in the second half, holding the Lumberjacks to sub-39 percent shooting after the break and outrebounding them by 14 for the game. If the Broncos play Arizona for 40 minutes the way they did the final 20 against NAU, they have a chance to put their best foot forward in the McKale Center.
One of the brightest spots in a down season for the Idaho Stampede last winter was Jack Cooley, and now the 6-9 forward is headed back to Boise. Cooley has been reacquired by the Stampede, who held his D-League returning player rights. Cooley, the former Notre Dame star, appeared in 20 games for the Stampede last season and averaged 16.8 points and 12.5 rebounds. On March 13, he set a new D-League single-game record by grabbing 29 rebounds against the L.A. D-Fenders while scoring 27 points. That led to a callup by the Utah Jazz, for whom he played 16 games down the stretch. Cooley was in training camp this fall with both the Jazz and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Stamps’ home opener is set for tomorrow night against Iowa.
This story has been told before, but it’s a good day for a repeat. Kris Bryant, the highest draft pick ever to play for Boise, made his Hawks debut on July 23, 2013. The No. 2 overall selection would like to forget it. Bryant went 0-for-5 and struck out all five times. But he went on to bat .354 in 18 games before moving to the next rung in the Chicago Cubs’ ladder. Bryant reached the top this year, and last night he was unanimously named National League Rookie of the Year. It was an easy choice. Bryant, now one of the most popular sports figures in Chicago, hit .275 this past season with 26 home runs and 99 runs batted in. He’s the second former Hawk to win an NL Rookie of the Year award—Dontrelle Willis took it with the Florida Marlins in 2003.
Back to football—it was downright frightening to see former Idaho star Mike Iupati go down with a neck injury after a hit to the helmet Sunday night in Arizona’s 39-32 win at Seattle. After a long time spent down on the field, the sixth-year offensive guard was carted off CenturyLink Field in an ambulance, and it did not look good. But by the end of the game, the Cardinals had announced that Iupati had movement in his extremities, and he was out of the hospital in time to fly home with the team. Now coach Bruce Arians says Iupati is “day-to-day.” There’s even a chance he’ll play this Sunday night against Cincinnati if he passes concussion protocol.
Here’s a College of Idaho record book wrap for 2015. Quarterback Teejay Gordon, who was named the Frontier Conference Offensive Player of the Week yesterday, finished his Coyotes career holding school records with 2,372 passing yards this season and 4,100 for his career. And Eagle High grads Austin Diffey (44 receptions) and Marcus Lenhardt (40 receptions) became the first C of I players to record 40 or more receptions in back-to-back seasons. In the season-ending win over Carroll College, Tyler Higby’s 87-yard touchdown catch was entered as the second-longest in program history, and Kevin McLemore’s 71-yard punt also went down as the Yotes’ second-longest.
This Day In Sports…November 17, 1968:
In pro football’s most famous TV game of all-time, the New York Jets take a 32-29 fourth quarter lead on a field goal in an AFL showdown at Oakland. NBC then cut away from the game to show “Heidi”, a two-hour children’s special. NBC’s phones in New York just about blew up. All the while, the Raiders were scoring twice in the final minute to win, 43-32. The controversy forced a network policy change—and pro games have been shown in their entirety ever since.
(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.)