A year ago, Brett Rypien was a freshly-scrubbed college freshman, having graduated early from Shadle Park High. A year ago, Brett Rypien was a freshly-scrubbed college freshman, having graduated early from Shadle Park High in order to join the Boise State program. Rypien dove into spring football for the first time, and the steep learning curve that came with it. A good chunk of Bronco Nation wanted him to start out of the gate last year, but the BSU staff yearned for some seasoning for the Spokane record-setter—the kind Kellen Moore got eight years earlier. Then Ryan Finley won the starting job. As it worked out, of course, Rypien ended up being the guy following Finley’s season-ending injury in Week 3. Now as 2016 spring ball has dawned, it’s Rypien’s job to lose (not that anyone thinks he’ll lose it). And Finley, although not necessarily defined as such by the coaches, is No. 2.
The fact that Finley is back at Boise State this year says a lot. In fact, former Bronco coach Dan Hawkins gave Finley major props on Idaho SportsTalk last week for not just up and leaving when it became clear what would happen to the depth chart. Finley faced two very tough foes in his first two starts last year, Washington and BYU. The Huskies ended up as the Pac-12’s leading defense, 31st in the nation, and the Cougars were the No. 23 “D” in the country. Maybe that would have been the equivalent of Rypien facing Utah State two weeks in a row. To recap, Finley completed 65.7 of his throws for 485 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions in two games-and-a-quarter. He at least deserves the term “competition” in spring football.
What Finley is up against is the returning All-Mountain West first-teamer and conference Freshman of the Year. Rypien shattered the league’s freshman record for passing yards last year with 3,353 yards. His other numbers: a 63.6 percent completion percentage and 20 touchdown passes against eight interceptions. And what has he done for you lately? Rypien was the Poinsettia Bowl MVP after going 29-for-39 for 377 yards and three touchdowns versus one pick in the 55-7 rout of Northern Illinois. Consider the guy entrenched.
BYU spring football is more than a week in now, and what an interesting quarterback situation they have in Provo. Taysom Hill, of course, has opted to utilize a medical redshirt for a sixth year of eligibility and is in the mix with Tanner Mangum. Can Hill be a factor considering the strong freshman year Mangum produced? The Eagle High grad was one spot above Rypien in passing yards natioinally, throwing for 3,377 (and playing two more games). Mangum threw one more TD pass and two more interceptions than Rypien.
Everyone’s trying to figure out when Hill will be fully healed from the Lisfranc injury he suffered in the season opener at Nebraska last September—and his subsequent surgery. Dick Harmon in the Deseret News scoured the medical journals. “The science says Hill can return as early as nine months or as long as 15 months,” writes Harmon. “The average, according to a study by the University of Pennsylvania, is ‘a median 11.1 months.’ If Hill returns at the earliest, he’s looking at the end of May or June. If it’s going to take 15 months, Hill will be ready sometime close to Halloween but before Thanksgiving.” Blue turf October 20, anyone?
Former Boise State star Jeron Johnson is an NFL free agent—involuntarily. On the same day Robert Griffin III was released, Johnson was cut yesterday by Washington, one year into a two-year deal he signed after leaving Seattle. The move will save the Redskins $1.07 million in salary cap space. Johnson was supposed to compete with former WAC opponent Duke Ihenacho out of San Jose State for a starting job at safety but never beat him out. After Ihenacho was injured, two other players leapfrogged Johnson on the depth chart.
What about that mojo Boise State hoops wants to get back for the Mountain West Tournament this week? In the six games going into the San Jose State debacle Saturday, the Broncos had averaged 81.3 points per game and had shot 47.8 percent from the field. Those numbers sank to 63 points and 38 percent versus the Spartans. One place where Boise State held up its end of the bargain was points in the paint. The Broncos had 40 at SJSU, just about what they had been averaging the previous three weeks. They averaged 30.2 in the paint in their first 23 games against Division I opponents this season.
There are some quirky things going into the Mountain West Tournament, and many of them come courtesy of the host team, UNLV. The Rebels’ roster has been so depleted by injuries, desertions and academic issues, interim coach Todd Simon summoned a hotel clerk in the 92-56 loss at San Diego State Saturday. Bryan Glenn is a 6-11 forward who was a walk-on under former UNLV coach Dave Rice four years ago. Glenn then went on with his life, and this winter has worked the front desk at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel. Simon, needing a big body, found him a uniform and a plane ticket and suited him up at Viejas Arena. Glenn’s eligibility clock has a few weeks remaining. He played three minutes and grabbed one rebound.
In the Mountain West Women’s Tournament, Boise State now knows its quarterfinal opponent tonight, as UNLV dispatched Air Force 55-42 in one of the play-in games last night. The Broncos split with the Rebels this season, winning by 19 points in Boise and falling by 10 in Las Vegas. They’ll play the late game tonight in UNLV’s friendly confines. Boise State, by the way, landed two players on the women’s All-Mountain West team, Brooke Pahukoa and Shalen Shaw (the conference names just one all-conference squad, featuring 10 players). The Broncos’ Marta Hermida was MW Freshman of the Year.
Hard to believe, but Idaho’s 20-win season is the first one for the Vandals in 23 years. They have as much momentum as anyone going into the Big Sky Tournament in Reno this week—hey, Idaho beat regular-season champion Weber State just five days ago. On Thursday night, the Vandals face the winner of tonight’s play-in game between Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona. Idaho State, who fell 82-68 in Moscow Saturday night, has ended a string of 12 straight losing seasons. The Bengals, who also get a Big Sky bye, are 16-14 going into Thursday’s game versus tonight’s Southern Utah-North Dakota matchup. ISU’s last winning season was barely such, with a 15-14 mark in 2002-03. The Bengals had endured 20-loss campaigns five of the last six seasons (they were 7-23 a year ago).
The Idaho Stampede, essentially eliminated from contention for the D-League playoffs for the seventh straight year, have extended another streak: a sixth straight losing season. It’s actually been seven years since the Stampede have had a winning season (they were 25-25 under Bob MacKinnon in 2009-10). The last time the Stamps were over .500 was in 2008-09 with the most successful coach in franchise history, Bryan Gates, at the helm. Gates brought the Stampede’s only D-League championship to Boise in 2008. To be fair, win-loss records at this level aren’t as important as bringing along NBA talent, and current coach Dean Cooper has been doing a good job in that department. The Stampede are on the road against the Texas Legends tonight and tomorrow night.
This Day In Sports…March 8, 1976, 40 years ago today:
In the championship game of the first-ever Big Sky Tournament in Ogden, Boise State stuns Weber State 77-70 in double-overtime on the Wildcats’ home floor to earn its first conference title and first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Coach Bus Connor had only one senior to work with (Pat Hoke) as the Broncos were sparked by a trio of sophomores: Connor’s son, Steve, future Nevada, Stanford, LSU and TCU head coach Trent Johnson, and Danny Jones.
(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.)