The Coug monkey is off the Broncos’ backs

All last week, the point spread for the Boise State-Washington State inched downward. It landed at 10 points by kickoff, as money rolled into Las Vegas from those doubting the original 12½-point line. Sure the Broncos twice built 17-point leads Saturday night at Albertsons Stadium, but they had to be about the most uncomfortable 17-point advantages in the 30-year history of the blue turf. The Boise State defense had its back against the wall in the fourth quarter after interceptions thrown by Brett Rypien on back-to-back possessions, but Raymond Ford’s Hail Mary bat-down, perhaps the most celebrated pass deflection in Bronco history, preserved a 31-28 win, the first ever over the Cougars. Point spread? Who’s counting?

Brett Rypien and Luke Falk each recorded 16 incompletions Saturday night, but that’s where the similarity ends. Rypien’s 16 misfires came on only 35 attempts, while Falk put it up a whopping 71 times. Rypien has been sharper. His 54 percent completion rate was his lowest since the loss to Air Force last November. And two of his three picks led to Washington State touchdowns. Rypien threw for 299 yards, while Luke Falk amassed 480. Rypien did, however, get mileage on his throws—8.5 yards per attempt and 15.7 yards per completion. His deep ball, a priority in the offseason, is showing promise. Rypien had three completions that went for 35 or more yards, including the highlight-reel 40-yard catch by Cedrick Wilson and the crucial 47-yard touchdown to Thomas Sperbeck.

Boise State elected to go primarily with a three-man rush, with the STUD end roving. The Broncos committed to pass coverage and mostly eliminated big plays from the Cougars. But the lack of pressure on Falk was so visible. Was it part game plan and part growing pains for a new Boise State defensive line? D-line coach Steve Caldwell rotated two sets of four up front, but they were all affected by the 5-on-3 advantage the Washington State offensive line had. The best performer from a rush standpoint was nose tackle David Moa, who was in on two sacks, and forced an errant throw by Falk when he collapsed the pocket on a key fourth quarter play. On the other hand, the Bronco linebackers and secondary have to get credit. Falk had a lot of time to throw because he needed it—it took a long time to find open receivers.

The turning point in Washington State’s rally Saturday night was a play that typified Boise State’s difficulty in getting pressure on Falk. With 11½ minutes remaining and the Broncos leading 31-14, the Cougars faced a fourth-and-six at the BSU 14. They were moving the ball methodically well, but a Bronco stop there would have put Wazzu in a real hole. The pocket moved to the right (without penetration), and after a few seconds, Falk rolled back to his left—looking, looking, looking. He finally found running back Jamal Morrow, who had broken off his route and knifed in for the touchdown that brought Washington State to within 10 points. Falk spent much of the night camping out back there, but the chess match ultimately worked in Boise State’s favor.

It’s surprising that Ian Johnson wasn’t voted in as one of the three wild cards on Boise State’s 30-Year All-Blue team. After all, Johnson had perhaps the greatest all-time performance on tbe blue turf 10 years ago, the 240-yard, five-touchdown night against Oregon State. Then again, it’s not surprising that Tyrone Crawford, Brock Forsey and Quintin Mikell were the three who made it. Crawford collected 13.5 sacks in 2010-11 and now starts for the Dallas Cowboys. Forsey became one the top scorers in college football history from 1999-2002, amassing 68 career touchdowns. And when Mikell stepped on the field at UCLA in 1999, debuting as a redshirt freshman, it was evident to all eyes that the Broncos’ talent level was ratcheting up. Mikell went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL.

Boise State picked up its ninth win over the Pac-12 since 2006 Saturday night, but that didn’t impress voters in the polls. The Bronco lost a little ground yesterday, down two spots on both lists in the “others receiving votes” category. They lost eight points in the AP rankings and fell to 30th, and they dropped by 15 points in the Coaches Poll and are now 31st. San Diego State leapfrogged Boise State to 28th in AP; the Aztecs are 33rd on the Coaches list. Houston remains the top Group of 5 representative, far ahead of the Mountain West duo. The Cougars are ranked Nos. 6 and 7 in the polls.

Washington didn’t keep its foot on the gas all the way against Idaho, but the Huskies were aggressive enough for a 59-14 win over Idaho Saturday in Seattle. UW got immediate help when the Vandals fumbled the opening kickoff—and Jake Browning threw a 21-yard touchdown pass on the next play. Idaho’s defense did stop Washington on three straight possessions from there, even getting a turnover on a Kaden Ellis sack-and-strip of Browning before the floodgates opened. The Huskies are No. 8 in AP and No. 9 in the Coaches Poll this week. Idaho next plays at Washington State in the Battle of the Palouse.

The light went on for College of Idaho Saturday night—under the lights at Willamette. The supposed step up to face an NCAA Division III program did not faze the Coyotes, who rolled up a 42-12 win over the Bearcats. The Yotes had it all going in this one. Boise High grad Tyler Cox settled in at quarterback, going 15-of-21 for 216 yards and two touchdowns. And the defense forced five turnovers, four of them interceptions, in helping C of I build a 34-0 lead late in the third quarter.

From the NFL’s opening weekend came no stats for Jay Ajayi. Because the former Boise State star didn’t even travel with Miami to Seattle. What we know is that Ajayi was left home because of a “coach’s decision,” and there are those who say his relegation to backup behind Arian Foster had Ajayi sulking. Foster gained 38 yards on 13 carries in a 12-10 loss to the Seahawks. Things were fine yesterday for the other former Bronco running back in the NFL. Doug Martin rushed for 62 yards on 18 carries and caught five passes for 34 yards in Tampa Bay’s 31-24 win at Atlanta. Two of this year’s three Boise State draft picks, Darian Thompson and Kamalei Correa, made their NFL debuts. Thompson had three tackles for the New York Giants, while Correa had no stats for Baltimore. Rees Odhiamo wasn’t active for Seattle.

Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge is hoping home will be sweeter after missing the cut at the DAP Championship, the first leg of the Tour Finals. This will be an important week for Aldridge. The winner yesterday in a four-way playoff at Beachwood, OH, was Bryson DeChambeau, the 2015 NCAA champion and U.S. Amateur champion. That sets the table for the 27th Albertsons Boise Open, which tees off Thursday at Hillcrest Country Club. That this will be the strongest field in tournament history goes without saying.

Two other weekend notes: In a rare Bronco-Vandal athletic matchup, Idaho defeated Boise State 1-0 in women’s soccer at the Boas Complex. It was the Vandals’ first win in Boise since 2002. The Broncos have now lost six in a row, all by one goal. And former Boise State track athlete Roderick Townsend-Roberts took fifth place in the 100-meter final yesterday at the Paralympic Games in Rio. Townsend-Roberts clocked an 11.08, the second-fastest 100 of his career, to finish just shy of the podium. He competes in the long jump Wednesday and the high jump Friday.

This Day In Sports…September 12, 1998:

Boise State plays only its second home game ever against a Pac-10 school, as Washington State comes into Bronco Stadium a year after waxing BSU 58-0 in Pullman. The Broncos led late into the third quarter before WSU pulled away with a 33-21 win. After the game, Cougar coach Mike Price was asked, “Did it feel like a Pac-10 game out there tonight?” Price—still very proud of the Cougs’ Rose Bowl appearance on New Year’s Day—smugly replied, “The last time I checked, Boise State played in the Big West.”

(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.)