Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien is probably good at shutting out the noise. And forgetting the past—good or bad. But somewhere in his subconscious, he likely sees tomorrow night’s game against Utah State as a chance to right two ships. It was last October, after sterling road starts at Virginia and Colorado State, that Rypien had his sobering true freshman moment in the 52-26 loss at USU. His 299 passing yards were offset by three interceptions, two lost fumbles and a 50 percent completion rate. Last week at Oregon State, Rypien missed some open receivers and went just 3-of-10 for 18 yards in the second half. He also lost one first-half fumble on a sack and another while combining with center Mason Hampton on a bad exchange.
Rypien has been inconsistent the past two games—er, the offense has. “I don’t think it’s him, I think it’s everybody,” said coach Bryan Harsin. “At the quarterback position, Peyton Manning didn’t even play the game long enough to master it.” Sometimes it seems Rypien is feeling the pressure to live up to the massive hype that comes from being named first-team All-Mountain West as a true freshman and all the consequent press clippings. Is Rypien pressing? Nobody on the outside knows. But maybe it’s like two years ago, the first season under Harsin, when the coach felt the team was pressing in its 28-14 loss at Air Force. His answer was to make football fun again for his players and encourage them to enjoy the ride. Perhaps Harsin can tell Rypien to just relax, be himself, and let it fly.
In all the years he was at Utah State, Boise State never faced Chuckie Keeton. But the Broncos have seen plenty of current USU starter Kent Myers. With Keeton injured, Myers got the start against the Broncos in both 2014 and 2015. His passing numbers were serviceable in each game—he threw for three touchdowns in last year’s rout while working with short fields. But even in Boise State’s dominating 50-19 win two seasons ago, Myers did damage running the ball. He has rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns combined in two appearances versus the Broncos, and that includes 35 yards lost on five sacks. “Contain” is an important word tonight.
Let’s take the eight turnovers out and look at Boise State’s numbers from that Utah State game last year. Total offense: the Aggies 334, the Broncos 333. Passing yards: BSU 299 yards, USU 157. First downs: the Broncos 20, the Aggies 15. Penalties: Boise State three for 30 yards, Utah State 11 for 104. Add the eight turnovers back in, and you have that pile of short fields that spelled disaster. The Bronco defense, in particular, wasn’t that bad.
It was a mild surprise yesterday when Boise State athletic director Curt Apsey said on KTIK that only 1400 tickets remain for tomorrow night’s game, with the student section sold out. Are fans warming up to this ranked 3-0 team, despite the fact they’ve been handed another 8:15 p.m. kickoff? Are they caught up in what happened in Logan last year? The Broncos drew a near-sellout crowd of 36,163 for Washington State three weeks ago, but hey—that was a Pac-12 opponent. Are the Aggies officially rivals now? Geographically, they’re the closest team to the Broncos. It’s a nice concept, anyway.
When you look out on the blue turf tomorrow night and see No. 70 in white, take note of him. That’s Utah State senior noseguard Travis Seefeldt, who said recently in the Deseret News, “I really appreciate being out here with my teammates and getting the opportunity to play football again.” And for good reason. Seefeldt was in a horrific car accident with other USU athletes in June, 2015, and afterward doctors didn’t even give him a chance to ever return to football. Through the support of his teammates and a rigorous 14 months of rehab, Seefeldt got himself back on the field. He has 15 tackles so far, with half a sack and a forced fumble.
The Mountain West’s performance in non-conference play has been abysmal again, and there’s not much that league teams can do about it from here on out. There are only two such games tomorrow, one of them the first leg in the battle for the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy between Air Force and Navy, two of the top five rushing teams in the country. The other sends San Diego State to South Alabama, with the Aztecs seeking their 14th consecutive win. One of the other compelling conference matchups has Wyoming at Colorado State in the 107th edition of the Border War, a rivalry that dates back to 1899.
Matt Linehan needs to improve his accuracy, but the Idaho quarterback appears to be settling in otherwise this season. Linehan’s completion percentage is just 53 percent, with 736 yards and two touchdown passes through four games. But he has thrown just one interception—and none in the last three games versus Washington, Washington State and UNLV. Linehan also proved his can still deliver in the clutch with his legs, running for a seven-yard touchdown last week with six minutes left in the game in the Vandals’ win over the Rebels. Troy, coming into the Kibbie Dome as a 13½-point favorite tomorrow, will be troublesome. But Linehan and Idaho, after a 2-2 September, have some swagger back.
College of Idaho will try to control what it can control tomorrow at Southern Oregon, which is ranked ninth in the NAIA. A successful ground game would help turnovers, which buried the Coyotes last Saturday. Mike Kirby has emerged as the Yotes’ feature back this season, rushing for 220 yards. Kirby has logged double-digit carries in each of the past three games. Quarterback Tyler Cox looks to bounce back after a three-interception day against Rocky Mountain. The Boise High grad has four touchdown passes and eight picks on the season.
Jay Ajayi led the Miami running back committee in the first half at Cincinnati last night, rushing for 30 yards on six carries. The former Boise State star hardly participated in the second half, though, as the Dolphins were playing catchup throughout in a 22-7 loss to the Bengals. Ajayi had just one tote for three yards and one reception for 11 yards after halftime, both on Miami’s first possession of the third quarter. Hard to know what to make of that. On the other side, Cincy safety and ex-Bronco George Iloka had three tackles, one for loss.
Logic would tell us we won’t see much of Rob Zastryzny in the playoffs, so last night was a big one for the former Boise Hawk. Zastryzny, who was called up in mid-August, got his first major league start in Pittsburgh. It will be remembered as the first tie in the big leagues in 11 years, as rain stopped the game in the sixth inning with the score knotted 1-1. Manager Joe Maddon’s plan was to rotate relievers—so Zastryzny went 3 2/3 innings and allowed one unearned run, dropping his ERA to 1.13. He made eight appearances for the Hawks in 2013 with no decisions and a 3.14 ERA.
This Day In Sports…September 30, 2006, 10 years ago today:
Boise State wins its 11th straight game over then-members of the Mountain West Conference by shocking Utah, 36-3, in sold-out Rice-Eccles Stadium. Star linebacker Korey Hall set up two scores with interceptions, and fellow senior Colt Brooks notched his first career touchdown on another, as the Broncos had four picks on the day and held the Utes to 178 yards. Things were just as impressive in the stands, as the Salt Lake Tribune estimated 8,000 BSU fans made the trip. And they made noise wire-to-wire.
(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.)