Since halftime of the Nevada game, the Boise State offense has been on a roll. The Broncos have scored 118 points (albeit with some help from defense and special teams). But they’ve amassed 1,251 yards of offense in those 10 quarters. Brett Rypien has thrown for 881 yards and 11 touchdowns with one interception over that stretch. Is BYU’s defense better than those of Nevada, Colorado State and Air Force as it heads into Albertsons Stadium Saturday night? The Cougars held Northern Illinois to a paltry 204 total yards last week in their 7-6 loss in Provo. “They’re big, they’re physical, they’re mature,” said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin in a respectful nod to BYU’s extended careers due to LDS missions. “Their bodies are maybe physically more developed. They always play hard.”
The Boise State offensive line would seem to be at a crossroads in this game. That much-maligned unit still has the chance to turn the corner with Donte Harrington and John Ojukwu settling in at right guard and tackle, respectively. They helped Alexander Mattison post his second 100-yard game of the season—and first meaningful one—last Saturday at Air Force with his 136 yards. It was against BYU that Mattison recorded his first 100-yard game last year, gaining 118 yards and scoring two touchdowns. The other O-line facet to watch is pass protection. This is where the surprise comes. BYU, for all its size and skill, is 109th in the country in sacks and 126th in tackles-for-loss
If Rypien throws for 250 yards Saturday night, he’ll become the Mountain West’s all-time leading passer, moving beyond San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley. Rypien is the active leader among FBS passers with 12,441 yards. One thing I’m watching now is his chances at breaking the Boise State single-season record of 4,356 yards set 15 years ago by Ryan Dinwiddie. A key factor would be the Broncos making the Mountain West championship game. Rypien needs to average 298.5 yards per game the rest of the way with a MW title game appearance and 358.2 without one. Here’s something that seems so long ago now. The Broncos and Cougars played on October 6 in Provo last year. It was that night that Rypien finally threw his first touchdown pass of 2017. He has 23 TD passes this season.
There’s not much of a tangled web between the coaching staffs of Boise State and BYU. But Cougars offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes has some history. Grimes understands the roots of the Bronco dynamic, having been Boise State’s offensive line coach in Dirk Koetter’s final season in 2000. Grimes followed Koetter to Arizona State the following year and was at ASU for three seasons. He also coached the O-line for Dan Hawkins at Colorado in 2007-08. Grimes, who was hired by BYU after Ty Detmer was fired following last season, is going to be one determined guy Saturday night, and it has nothing to do with the blue turf. Grimes’ offense produced just two field goals last week versus Northern Illinois and is ranked 120th in the country with 326 yards per game.
Air Force needs a bounce-back after its loss to Boise State, as one of its defining games of the year looms Saturday at Army. It’s tough for the Falcons to choose what’s more important to them, a Mountain West championship or the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. Air Force racked Navy 35-7 four weeks ago, so a win at West Point would steal the coveted hardware from Army, which won it last year. The Falcons have taken the trophy four times this decade, the most of the three service academies. This game is also essential to Air Force’s bowl hopes, as the Falcons go in at 3-5.
As if things weren’t bad enough at New Mexico, what with San Diego State coming to town Saturday night after the Lobos’ 61-19 loss at Utah State last week, UNM has suspended its leading tackler after a fight with a teammate. Linebacker Evahelotu Tohi is accused of beating up another player who ended up in the hospital. The Albuquerque Journal said the teammate “has been described as a friend of Tohi that doesn’t see much playing time.” Tohi has 57 tackles this season and recovered a fumble for a touchdown at USU.
I don’t know if you’d call this a trap game, but Idaho State faces a vastly improved Portland State team Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium. These are the same Vikings who finally ended a 15-game losing streak with a 63-14 victory over College of Idaho on September 15. PSU is now 4-4 overall and 3-2 in the Big Sky. The Bengals, who are 5-3, need one more win to clinch a rare winning season and are bubbling under the FCS Top 25. ISU is sixth in the FCS in total offense with 524 yards per game and has produced 26 plays of 30 yards or more.
On the campus cruise today: the women’s basketball Preseason AP Poll was released yesterday, and Louisville sits at No. 5. The Cardinals play Boise State at Taco Bell Arena on November 19. And the College of Idaho men step out of the NAIA box tonight when they meet Utah in an exhibition game for the third time in the past seven years. The Utes were 23-12 last season and made the NIT championship game. The Yotes, now coached by Cody Blaine, are coming off a 30-7 season and a trip to the NAIA Tournament semifinals.
On the pro sports front—I’m so used to the Idaho Steelheads playing on Wednesdays I didn’t notice their game against the Indy Fuel was actually on Tuesday this week. The Steelheads scored four goals in less than a five-minute span of the second period to top the Fuel 5-3, with Brad McClure notching a two-goal night. It was the first Steelies’ game this season that wasn’t decided by one goal and pushed them over the .500 mark at 4-3-1. And Troy Merritt is back on the course today as the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open tees off at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. The former Boise State star has made the cuts in both of his events in this young PGA Tour season, including a tie for fourth in the inaugural one, the Safeway Open.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by POOL DOCTOR & SPA…so many ways to soak and save!
November 1, 2003, 15 years ago today: Arkansas outlasts Kentucky 71-63 in seven overtimes, equaling the record the Razorbacks already held for the longest game in NCAA history—and setting the mark for highest-scoring Division I-A game since official records began in 1937. That I-A scoring standard would be broken four years later by Boise State’s 69-67 quadruple-overtime victory over Nevada (and it’s been exceeded several times since). Incidentally, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt had one overtime game in his one season with Boise State, the 30-23 win over Idaho in the 1997 season finale at the Kibbie Dome.
(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.)