Brett Rypien has taken some hellacious hits this season, but he’s kept on tickin’. Big hits are Fresno State’s calling card this year, as noted by Fresno State play-by-play man Paul Loeffler yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk. “After a quarterback gets hit by No. 9, the game changes,” said Loeffler. No. 9 is linebacker Jeffrey Allison, the Bulldogs’ leading tackler and a Preseason All-Mountain West pick. Allison was dinged on the first drive of Fresno State’s rout of UNLV last week and was held out the remainder of the game. The speculation is that it was precautionary, as the Rebels offense wasn’t going to pose much of a threat. They saved him for Rypien. Boise State used to build a fortress around Kellen Moore, giving up only five sacks in all of 2009 and eight in both 2010 and 2011. Rypien has been sacked 23 times already this season.
Loeffler also pointed out a quote by Boise State coach Bryan Harsin after the Mountain West championship game that has stuck with Fresno State the past 11 months. “We physically beat ‘em when it was all said and done,” said Harsin after the intense 17-14 victory over the Bulldogs in the Mountain West championship game. The ‘Dogs don’t like people thinking they were “out-physicaled,” especially when they beat the Broncos 28-17 in Fresno and led most of the way a week later until Boise State prevailed on the blue turf. There’s pride on that defense—it has now gone 20 games without allowing 30 points. That’s the longest such streak in the nation.
Let us not forget how much resentment there was in Fresno last season over Boise State’s homefield advantage in the Mountain West championship game. On Christmas Eve, as the Bulldogs geared up for the Hawaii Bowl, the Fresno Bee’s Marek Warszawski did not want to let it go: “By all rights, the Bulldogs should have played in the Las Vegas Bowl against a disinterested Oregon team. Except the Mountain West screwed Fresno State out of hosting the conference title game because it bent over backward to please Boise State. Does anyone actually think that 17-14 outcome would’ve been the same had the MW championship been held at Bulldog Stadium?”
A.J. Richardson has been one of Boise State’s great stories of 2018, and his back story puts an additional spotlight on Friday night’s showdown against Fresno State. Richardson is tied for second in the Mountain West with eight touchdown receptions and is second on the team with 39 catches for 653 yards. Rewind to 2013, when Richardson had committed to Cal before the firing of coach Jeff Tedford, now the mastermind of Fresno State’s remarkable turnaround. The Broncos had a commit at that time named Jack Austin, but he flipped to Cal, and Richardson basically took his place in Boise. Tedford would have enjoyed coaching A.J.
Fresno State and Utah State remain on a rampage through the Mountain West schedule. You know about the Bulldogs, who held steady in No. 23 yesterday in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Aggies are the Mountain Division leaders but are still outside the CFP rankings. They’ve now won eight games in a row, though, after their 56-17 pummeling of Hawaii in Aloha Stadium last Saturday night. USU had not one, but two players rush for three touchdowns in the game, Darwin Thompson and Gerold Bright. The conference had to pick one of them for its Offensive Player of the Week and went with Thompson, who ran for 141 yards. On a 26-yard TD dash in the third quarter, Thompson broke seven tackles. The Aggies keep rising in the non-CFP polls—No. 14 in AP and No. 16 on the Coaches’ list.
This Boise State-Fresno State battle for the Milk Can seems like a series steeped in tradition. But here comes the battle for the Little Brown Stein in Moscow Saturday between Idaho and Montana. This rivalry has it all over anything the Vandals ever experienced in the Sun Belt, as it dates back to 1903. Idaho leads the all-time series with the Grizzlies, 55-27-2. And the Vandals hold a 36-22-1 advantage when playing for the Little Brown Stein, which was introduced in 1938. But the trophy currently sits in Missoula. The teams have played five times since Idaho left the Big Sky in 1995—and the Griz have won the last four. Idaho and Montana haven’t met since a 41-28 Grizzlies home win 15 years ago.
Tanner Vallejo doesn’t have time to worry about the “internal discord” that Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam cited in firing coach Hue Jackson on Monday. The former Boise State standout is focused trying to re-establish himself as an NFL-worthy linebacker after joining Cleveland upon his release from Buffalo at the end of the preseason. Vallejo finally got some significant time on defense for the Browns last Sunday, making six tackles in a 37-21 loss to Kansas City. He didn’t even have a tackle until October 21.
Now that its exhibition win over Vanguard is in the books, Boise State turns its attention to the official season opener versus Idaho State Saturday night in Taco Bell Arena. And this will be a special one for Pocatello’s Malek Harwell. Not only is he looking forward to facing his one-time hometown team, he anxious to finally break out as a Bronco. Harwell started and played 31 minutes Monday night, scoring 12 points and adding 12 rebounds. Coach Leon Rice was really high on Harwell, USA Today’s 2015 Idaho Player of the Year out of Century High—then he tore the ACL in his right knee during an October practice and missed the entire season. He’s been playing catch-up since then and has scored a total of 30 points in 25 career games.
The Idaho Steelheads’ new goalie is going to take up a lot of space in the front of the net. Colton Points, a 6-4, 220 pounder, has been reassigned to Idaho by the Dallas Stars and will be in uniform tonight when the Steelheads open a three-game series against Tulsa in CenturyLink Arena. Points was 1-3 with Texas of the AHL in the early season. The Stars sent him to Boise for a reason. “He’s going to get some work here,” said coach Neil Graham on IST yesterday. “We’ll get him up and running.” Point was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award (hockey’s Heisman) last season at Colgate.
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November 7, 1998, 20 years ago today: Boise State clinches its first winning season as a Division I-A school with a wild 55-51 victory at New Mexico State. The back-and-forth track meet saw Bronco quarterbacks Nate Sparks and Bart Hendricks throw for over 200 yards each. It was an emotional moment for Boise State seniors who two years earlier had endured a 2-10 season and the death of coach Pokey Allen. Dirk Koetter, in his first year as head coach, hailed it as a night to remember. No one anticipated the amazing story that would begin to unfold the following season.
(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.)