You can’t overstate the importance of the quarterback spot in tomorrow night’s Boise State-Hawaii game. Consistency and reliability are king, and the Broncos have a little more of that than the Rainbow Warriors. Brett Rypien is the leading passer in the Mountain West, by far. He’s coming off one of the most efficient games of his career last week versus San Jose State. Hawaii has long been looking for an answer at QB. Remember Max Wittek, the transfer from USC last year? He wasn’t it. The Warriors began this season with Ikaika Woolsey but switched to Dru Brown after Week 4. Brown has been hot-and-cold, throwing for a career-high 312 yards in the road upset of Air Force, but managing just 135 yards with three interceptions in the 55-0 blasting at San Diego State last week. Brown will have to be on-point against the Broncos.
Pass efficiency rating is an interesting formula. And it tells you, despite some bumps in the road, that Boise State’s Brett Rypien is having a good sophomore year. His rating is 159.6, 13th-best in the country. The formula is heavily-weighted toward yards per attempt, completion percentage, and touchdown passes per attempt. It’s Rypien’s yardage that boosts his rating the most. He’s averaging 9.4 yards per attempt this season. That is high-end. His completion percentage is above average (but not where he wants to be) at 63.6 percent. And Rypien’s touchdowns per attempt: .065, a bit on the low side (18 TDs in 275 throws).
Here’s the tall task for the Boise State defense tomorrow night. I’ll preface it by saying the Broncos’ Thomas Sperbeck leads the Mountain West with 101 receiving yards per game. No. 2 is not Cedrick Wilson. Hawaii’s Marcus Kemp ranks second with 91 yards per game. Kemp has been a shining light during some pretty difficult seasons for the Rainbow Warriors. He’s now in the top 10 in career receiving yards for Hawaii, which has certainly had some pass-happy teams over the years. Both Sperbeck and Kemp could go over 1,000 yards for the season tomorrow evening. Sperbeck is 91 yards away—Kemp 90.
Linebacker Ben Weaver is an underappreciated Boise State Bronco, at least from my vantage point. Weaver, the senior from Klein, TX, is an entrepreneurial thinker, as is evidenced by his involvement with the Boise State Venture College. Weaver’s also an unquestioned leader on and off the field. On the field, Weaver has been on a roll. He posted 15 tackles in last Friday’s win over San Jose State and matched his career-high with 16 in the loss at Wyoming. Weaver now has 306 career tackles, just 22 away from reaching Boise State’s all-time top 10 (keeping in mind that tackles were awarded more liberally by stat crews of the past). He has 87 tackles for the season, tops on the team by a whopping 26. Weaver’s average of 9.7 per game is 19th in the country.
All signs point to bowl eligibility for Idaho tomorrow when the clock strikes zero in San Marcos, TX. The Vandals have the edge over struggling Texas State just about everywhere you look. One advantage that’s rather unusual for them is the sack category. It was just three years ago that Idaho was last in the FBS, allowing 53 sacks. This year the Vandals have yielded just 17 sacks, good foir 54th in the country. And they gave up zero in last Saturday’s win at Louisiana-Lafayette. The Bobcat defense, on the other hand, has managed just six sacks all season, tied for last in the FBS. On the other side of the ball, the Vandal defense has 13 sacks in the last three games, while Texas State is allowing almost four per game this year.
The College of Idaho running game has been generally effective and entirely odd this year. The top two rushers are the Coyotes’ two quarterbacks, with Darius-James Peterson and Tyler Cox combining for 1,101 yards and averaging 5.5 yards per carry—and that includes yardage lost on sacks. While the C of I running backs have not scored a single touchdown in 2016, the two QBs have scored 20 TDs (16 of them by Peterson). The Yotes will start there as they wrap up their season tomorrow at 1-8 Montana State-Northern.
The Boise State men’s basketball team played an exhibition against Northwest University last November. Tomorrow’s game against the Eagles in Taco Bell Arena is a counter, serving as the Broncos’ season opener (although it is an exhibition for the visitors). Northwest, which plays in the Cascade Conference with College of Idaho, is led by 6-7 senior forward Ben Tucakovic out of Borah High. Tucakovic has averaged 18.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game during the Eagles 4-0 start. He put up 12 points last November in a 79-55 loss to Boise State.
From the “I did not know that” department, Boise State is one of just nine teams in the six western Division I conferences to win at least 20 games in each of the last four seasons. The Broncos are joined on the list by Arizona, BYU, Gonzaga, New Mexico State, Oregon, Saint Mary’s, San Diego State and UC Irvine. Boise State was 20-12 last season but declined a postseason invitation when the new “Vegas 16” tournament dwindled down to the “Vegas 8.” Elsewhere in hoops, Idaho State opens the 2016-17 season with a difficult Mountain West foe tonight at New Mexico. Idaho is home in Memorial Gym tomorrow night, opening against Corban University. The NNU men begin their season this evening versus Simpson at the Johnson Sports Center. And C of I is at the Clearwater River Casino Classic in Lewiston.
Travel on the NASCAR circuit is brutal. The season starts in mid-February with the Daytona 500 and goes through late November, with only two weekends off. The grind got to Brian Scott this year, and the Boise High grad has announced he’s retiring from full-time racing. “Right now, I want to turn all my attention to my family and to be able to spend more time with them,” said Scott. He’s the great grandson of Joe Albertson, and the grocery chain also announced it will be discontinuing its NASCAR sponsorship at the end of the season. The 28-year-old Scott was part of the Richard Petty Motorsports team, which says it will seek a new sponsor and driver for the No. 44 car Scott drove.
The Idaho Steelheads have received a Finnish reinforcement for the weekend. Defenseman Miro Karjalainen has joined the Steelheads in time for the two games against the Adirondack Thunder in CenturyLink Arena. Karjalainen was assigned to Idaho by the AHL’s Texas Stars, although he hasn’t played a game in Austin yet. The 6-5, 205-pounder will be seeing his first professional action in North America. Karjalainen was a fifth-round pick of the Dallas Stars in the 2014 NHL Draft. Incidentally, the annual Boise State-Idaho “Black & Blue” rivalry game will be sandwiched in between the two contests between the Steelies and the Thunder. The Bronco and Vandal club teams will face off at 12:30 tomorrow in CenturyLink Arena in a benefit for Meals On Wheels.
Campus notes: the Boise State women’s volleyball team won its 10th straight match last night in a sweep of Fresno State. The Broncos improved to 21-6 overall and a conference-leading 12–2 in the Mountain West. And the Boise State men’s and women’s cross country teams are in Sacramento today for the NCAA West Regional. The top two teams from each of the nine regional meets across the country get automatic bids to the NCAA Championships a week from tomorrow. The top four individual runners not on qualifying teams will also earn bids to nationals.
This Day In Sports…November 11, 2006, 10 years ago today:
The closest call of Boise State’s unbeaten regular season, as Anthony Montgomery boots a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the game to beat San Jose State, 23-20. The Broncos had trailed 20-12 midway through the fourth quarter before mounting their rally, helped by Ian Johnson. The sophomore sensation had suffered a partially collapsed lung earlier in the game but played through it to the tune of 149 yards rushing. Johnson ended up spending five days in a San Jose hospital and missed the following week’s game after returning to Boise.
(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.)