The last time (and only time) Brett Rypien played in Sam Boyd Stadium, it was a very good day for Boise State’s then-true freshman quarterback. In a 55-27 win over UNLV in 2015, Rypien set a new Bronco and Mountain West record for single-game passing yards by a freshman with 469, a mark he later broke with a 506-yard game against New Mexico. Of course, that does not relate to what is ahead Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl. Rypien has been responsible for a lot of Boise State’s offense the past two games against Fresno State. He threw for 524 yards and almost 14 yards per completion in those games, and he did not turn the ball over. But he threw exactly zero touchdown passes in the back-to-back clashes with the Bulldogs. Rypien cannot afford a third straight game with that latter stat.
More on Oregon players’ reactions to Mario Cristobal being promoted to head coach ahead of the Las Vegas Bowl. The one who arguably matters most to the Ducks, quarterback Justin Herbert, was rocked by the quick exit of coach Willie Taggart to Florida State a week ago. “It was definitely tough,” Herbert said. “Guys kind of lost focus there for a little bit but we just had to gather the guys and put our focus on Boise State coming up. Luckily we got a guy like coach Cristobal coming around.” Herbert’s fortunes are tied to Cristobal, and vice-versa. Cristobal’s the fourth Oregon offensive coordinator to be promoted to head coach since 1995, following Mike Bellotti, Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich. At least for Herbert, perhaps the hottest QB in the Pac-12 going into bowl season, Cristobal is a really good fit.
Which brings up the Boise State defense as it tries to game-plan for Herbert and company. The Broncos made great strides in Game 2 against Fresno State, holding the Bulldogs to 309 yards, and just 85 in the second half. The first contest in Fresno wasn’t as pretty, with the ‘Dogs totaling 441 yards. But 81 of them came on one play, the bomb from Marcus McMaryion to KeeSean Johnson. You can’t take that away, though, because that’s what Herbert likes to do: go up top. He has averaged 10.3 yards per attempt and 15.5 per completion this season. Herbert’s pass efficiency rating is 174.6; Rypien’s is 144.0. Bronco defensive coordinator Andy Avalos has to come up with his best plan yet.
Boise State is striking while it feels the iron is hot after the Mountain West championship and has put season tickets on sale for the 2018 football season. And there are some price reductions. North End Zone seats in Albertsons Stadium have been reduced by $66, seats in the curves are down as much as $45, and South End Zones seats have been cut $15. Family Plans have also been reduced by $80. All new season ticket purchases between now and December 22 will include a $75 gift pack from the Bronco Shop. It’s a good move, and besides, it’s the way of the world in college football. You can still count Boise State’s losses on the blue turf this century on two hands. There have been seven of them—against 108 wins.
After Washington State survived its triple-overtime win over Boise State, things were hunky-dory on the Palouse, as the Cougars won their next four games to start the season 6-0. But Wazzu is 3-3 since as it prepares for the Holiday Bowl against Michigan State. Mike Leach is still there after hearing coaching overtures from a couple other schools, but leading receiver Tavares Martin Jr. is not. Martin has been dismissed from the program for a violation of team rules. He had eight catches for 66 yards against the Broncos and 70 receptions and nine touchdowns for the season—and 150 catches and 17 TDs in his career. In fact, the Cougs will be without their second-leading receiver as well. Isaiah Johnson-Mack has requested his release to transfer closer to his home in Florida.
Well, here it comes for one of Boise State’s favorite sons. “The end could be near for Doug Martin,” reads the headline on a Greg Auman story in the Tampa Bay Times. “One costly fumble Sunday did what two seasons with the worst average per carry in the NFL couldn’t do: Put Martin on the bench,” writes Auman. He cites a lost second-quarter fumble at the Detroit 23-yard line in a 24-21 loss to the Lions as the straw that broke the camel’s back for Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter, who had stuck by Martin through his struggles, including a concussion that kept him out the previous week. Martin had only 26 yards on 10 carries before he was pulled. He’s averaging 3.1 yards per carry, the worst among any NFL back with 100-plus carries. Last year, Martin averaged 2.9 yards, also worst among any qualifying back.
There’s chip-on-the-shoulder stuff in this week’s college basketball rankings. Boise State did receive its first two points in the AP Poll and has eight now in the Coaches Poll. Not saying that the Broncos are a Top 25 team yet, but their resume deserves more votes. Nevada also has reason for chippage. The defending Mountain West champion Wolf Pack fell out of the polls after losing their first two games of the season, but they both came against ranked teams (82-76 in overtime at Texas Tech and 84-80 to TCU at Staples Center in L.A.). Yet Nevada garnered just 13 points in the AP Poll—and only one in the Coaches Poll. No way the Pack dropped that far.
So why is Boise State 9-1, its best 10-game ledger in 29 years? The easy answer is chemistry on the offensive end, where the Broncos are shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 42.6 from three-point land. But lockdown defense has been a huge factor. With a 38.2 percent shooting day from Sacramento State in the books on Saturday, Boise State has now held opponents under 40 percent from the floor six times in 10 games this season. And foes are hitting just 26.7 percent from beyond the arc. Next up is Grand Canyon tomorrow night. Believe it or not, the Antelopes look to be the biggest threat of the Broncos’ non-conference home schedule. GCU is 7-2 after a 64-59 victory over North Carolina Central last night in Phoenix.
Back to football—College of Idaho’s Nate Moore has become the first NAIA player ever to be named a three-time All-American by the American Football Coaches Association. Moore, a senior defensive back from Mountain View High, earned second-team NAIA honors yesterday after landing on the first team the previous two seasons. Moore led the Yotes with 97 tackles this season and topped the Frontier Conference with 22 passes defended. He finished his career with a school record 326 tackles and 11 interceptions.
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December 12, 1985: One of the greatest two-sport athletes in history wins the Heisman Trophy. Auburn tailback Bo Jackson took the award by just 45 votes over Iowa quarterback Chuck Long in the closest Heisman vote ever. Jackson would go on to star for the Los Angeles Raiders and in baseball for three different big league teams before his career was derailed by a hip injury in the 1991 AFC Playoffs. He is the only athlete to be named an All-Star in two major American sports.
(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.)