Uniform No. 4 needs a wash

Brett Rypien’s first career start could not have gone much better, but don’t tell his jersey. Brett Rypien’s first career start at Boise State could not have gone much better, but don’t tell his jersey. In general terms, Rypien will be remembered for quarterbacking the Broncos to their largest margin of victory ever over a Power 5 opponent in a 56-14 win at Virginia. More specifically, though, he’ll be noted for his poise in the pocket. The true freshman took a number of licks while throwing for 321 yards and three touchdowns without an interception Friday night. Light rain fell throughout the evening, and Rypien’s No. 4 was smeared with classic grass stains.

“My number one thing for him is, when he was hit, he got back up,” said coach Bryan Harsin on his Learfield Sports postgame show. “The toughness that he showed—I really appreciate that, and it was a key ingredient in his success.” Toward the end of the game, a smiling Rypien could be seen showing a teammate a gash under his chin. At least one hit on him was clearly late (and not flagged), but let’s not go there. Most impressive was Rypien’s final throw of the night, a quick-release 64-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Sperbeck as an oncoming Cavalier was headed for his grill.

Virginia may have looked like it was sleepwalking into this game, but make no mistake about how important the Boise State game was to the Cavaliers. Beat writer Andrew Ramspacher of Charlottesville’s Daily Progress said in a video preview, “This game will determine the future of this season, maybe the future of Mike London as head coach. This is huge. Absolute must-win for the Cavaliers.” Then he picked the Cavs in an upset. This was the same team that had taken Notre Dame to the wire two weeks earlier, but it took the wrong fork in the ol’ road Friday. The way the Broncos took it to them will stay with them for a long time—probably too long for London to save his job.

The first fumble recovery of the season was a big one for Boise State. It was courtesy of Ben Weaver midway through the third quarter and set the Broncos up on the Virginia 30. On the next play, Rypien hit Sperbeck for the touchdown that was probably the best catch of Sperbeck’s career. That effectively ended any hope the Cavaliers had of staying in the game. As for the fumble recovery, it came on a running play, a source of particular frustration for the Cavs—and for all Boise State opponents this year. Virginia managed just 40 yards on the ground, and the Broncos are now allowing only 44.3 yards rushing per game, tops in the nation. Add that to four interceptions, two of them pick-sixes, and that’s high-level defense.

Boise State received a surge of votes in the polls but is still waiting in line to get back into the Top 25. The Broncos are fourth in the “Others Receiving Votes” category in AP and sixth in the Coaches Poll. Maybe they’d had gone higher had BYU not been skunked 31-0 at Michigan. Among Group of 5 schools, Boise State is still looking up at Toledo in the AP Poll—the Rockets are 26th—but it’s the top Group of 5 representative on the Coaches’ list.

Unbelievably, Kellen Moore almost looks younger than even his Boise State days. The former Boise State great got a small dose of camera time yesterday while he, as expected, suited up for his first NFL game but did not play. In one shot during the fourth quarter of Dallas’ 39-28 loss to Atlanta, Moore was standing with newly-acquired quarterback Matt Cassel. Fox’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman addressed Moore’s temporary status, noting the Cassel is ticketed to become the Cowboys’ No.2 QB behind Brandon Weeden. Now eyes will be on the transaction wire—if and when Dallas reinstates Moore to the practice squad.

The Mountain West picked up two other non-conference wins versus FBS opponents (how about that). Nevada picked up a 24-20 win at Buffalo, a member of the Group of 5’s current beacon league, the MAC. And Colorado State edged UTSA 33-31 in the Alamodome. Hawaii suffered its second shutout at a Big Ten school in three weeks, falling 28-0 at Wisconsin (the Warriors are headed for the blue turf this week), and San Diego State was on the short end of a 37-21 decision at Penn State. And should we even mention this? Idaho State’s 80-8 annihilation at the hands of UNLV? Holy moly. I really thought the Bengals would be respectable down there.

In conference play, New Mexico State extended Wyoming’s misery in Laramie, 38-28, and San Jose State punished Fresno State 49-23 behind 300 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Tyler Ervin. The biggest issue for the Bulldogs right now is the quarterback spot. West Virginia transfer Ford Childress started at SJSU while Zach Greenlee served a suspension, but Childress suffered an internal injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of the season. He was the third different QB to start for Fresno State this season. That leaves the job to Greenlee by default, as Chason Virgil is already out for the year. The Bulldogs, now 1-3, have gone 7-12 since winning the Mountain West championship game in 2013.

Idaho was right with the defending Sun Belt champion during the first half Saturday night in the Kibbie Dome. The Vandals were down just 16-13 to Georgia Southern and its vaunted triple-option attack. But the ground assault wore Idaho down in the second half, and the result was a 44-20 loss that leaves the Vandals with a 1-3 record. The Eagles rushed for 199 yards in the first half, enough of a body blow that the 242 yards they ran for over the final two quarters took their toll. The Vandals showed explosiveness, though. Dezmon Epps had eight catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns and is now the FBS leader with 154.7 yards per game in the three contests he has played.

The fourth quarter has been sticking in the collective craw of the College of Idaho football team. The Coyotes saw another one slip away Saturday, as Montana Tech scored the final 10 points of the game in a 29-21 win in Butte. The Yotes had taken a 24-19 third-quarter lead on a five-yard touchdown pass from A.J. Martin to Marcus Lenhardt before the Orediggers went almost exclusively to the wildcat for the remainder of the game due to injuries to their top two quarterbacks. The loss spoiled a career day by Lenhardt, the former Eagle Mustang, who had nine catches for 111 yards. The C of I has lost four in a row and has a bye week now to regroup.

I mentioned a week ago that Boise State cross country runner Allie Ostrander was going to be fun to follow the next four years. With a lot of help from her friends, Ostrander led the 20th-ranked Bronco women to perhaps their most prestigious victory in program history Saturday. Boise State not only won the 30th annual Roy Griak Invitational, besting 25 other teams in Falcon Heights, MN, it topped defending national champion Michigan State by 79 points. The Spartans entered the event ranked sixth. Ostrander finished second individually and was joined in the top 10 by Annie Bothma (third) and Minttu Hukka (sixth).

This Day In Sports…September 28, 2010, five years ago today:

Sports Illustrated unveils the cover for that week’s magazine, and it’s Boise State football, three days after the Broncos’ 37-24 win over Oregon State on ABC. The cover story was “Boise State—The Great Debate,” discussing the Broncos’ worthiness as a contender for the BCS Championship Game. It was another national first for the program; the Broncos had been on the cover of SI the previous month for the College Football Preview issue, but that was a regional cover.

(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.)