The smoke enveloping the Northwest right now is symbolic of the overcast skies surrounding Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien. This is an odd way for the junior starter to walk into a his homecoming tomorrow night at Washington State, a school that he grew up rooting for—and one that recruited him. Three years ago, Rypien decided to do something different and commit to the Broncos. Now he faces something different on the way to Pullman: massive amounts of pressure. This is different than last year when he faced Wazzu on the blue turf (and threw for 299 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions). This time Rypien has a backup quarterback, Montell Cozart, on standby. And he’ll hear about it from the crimson-and-gray fans in Martin Stadium—and how their Rypien, Mark Rypien, is best.
Of course, what happens tomorrow night is not all on Rypien. His offensive line needs to protect him better after allowing four sacks last week versus Troy. How far the O-line can come against Washington State is the question. Junior defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa promises to be a load. With 2.5 tackles-for-loss (including 1.5 sacks) in the win over Montana State last week, Mata’afa has 27 tackles-for-loss, tied for most among active players in the Pac-12. The Cougars no doubt expect Mata’afa to be double-teamed by the Broncos, so who’s next man up to get after Rypien? On his weekly WSU football chat for the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Theo Lawson said, “Nnamdi Oguayo seems to be a matchup nightmare with his speed and length.” File those names away—you’ll be hearing them.
Boise State’s linebackers were disruptive in last week’s win over Troy, with Leighton Vander Esch setting the tone on the first play from scrimmage, stopping a wide receiver with a forceful takedown after a one-yard gain. There’ll have to be a lot of that tomorrow night, as the Bronco ‘backers will spent an inordinate amount of time in pass coverage, especially while tracking Washington State’s running backs circling out of the backfield. Vander Esch was Boise State’s co-leader in tackles last week with seven, and Tyson Maeva was right behind him at five. A lot is expected of Maeva with everything the Broncos lost at linebacker this year, and he delivered. He picked up where he left off last season, when he finished by making 13 of his 21 tackles on the year in the final two games of the season against Air Force and Baylor.
The Mountain West has five matchups with Power 5 conference teams this week. San Diego State, which hosts Arizona State, has a good shot at a victory. Surprisingly, the Sun Devils are favored by 3½ points. Boise State is an underdog at Washington State but should be competitive. Then there are the other three. Fresno State visits No. 1 Alabama. A lot of good the Bulldogs’ 66-0 win over Incarnate Word will do in Tuscaloosa. Hawaii takes its five-game winning streak to UCLA. The country is still buzzing about the Bruins’ 34-point comeback to beat Texas A&M last Sunday. And San Jose State is at Texas. The Longhorns defense was embarrassed by Maryland’s 51 points last week. But, well, you know.
Oddsmakers pick Idaho by a touchdown over UNLV tomorrow in the Vandals’ quest to land another coveted victory over a Mountain West school. UI has won two straight over the MW, starting with last September’s overtime win at UNLV, and followed by the conquest of Colorado State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Vandals will look to get highly-touted Rebels quarterback Armani Rogers off-kilter after the redshirt freshman threw for 220 yards and rushed for 82 in the stunning loss to Howard. Idaho held Sacramento State to single-digit scoring and 190 yards of total offense in a 28-6 victory last week. It’s the first time the Vandals have done either of those things in seven years.
Other in-state nuggets: In the Mountain West’s second foray into live streaming on Facebook, Utah State built a 38-0 halftime lead over Idaho State and gored the Bengals 51-13 in Logan. (I never could get the Facebook stream on an iPad.) And College of Idaho finally plays its home opener tomorrow, hosting Southern Oregon in Simplot Stadium. The Coyotes may be 0-2, but the emergence of their running game against an FCS opponent last Saturday may bode well for the Coyotes. After a slow start, the Yotes carved out some running lanes at Northern Colorado, rushing 38 times for 216 yards from late in the first quarter on, more than 5½ yards per carry. Mike Kirby, the Mountain View grad who transferred from Utah, had 10 carries for 57 yards, and true freshman Nick Calzaretta debuted with nine totes for 58 yards.
As the NFL kicks off this weekend, the final pregame depth charts roll out—and lo and behold, Kellen Moore is listed No. 2 in Dallas behind Dak Prescott. That after the former Boise State great had been cut and re-signed after rookie Cooper Rush had apparently ascended to the top backup spot. We’ll see what the Cowboys do should they need a sub before garbage time. And if Cleveland fans can get past Jamar Taylor kneeling for the national anthem (if he does), they’ll see a pivotal day in Taylor’s resurgence as an NFL cornerback. The Browns host Pittsburgh Sunday, and ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi reports the Browns will use Taylor to shadow Steelers star wide receiver Antonio Brown. Taylor, once maligned in Miami, was Pro Football Focus’ No. 17 cover corner out of 119 qualifiers last season.
The Boise State men’s basketball schedule has been finalized, and there are some dandy non-conference matchups on the road. The Broncos have some RPI-boosters at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in November, with a game against UTEP to be followed by one versus either South Carolina or Illinois State. Boise State travels to Oregon and SMU in December in return games for previous visits to Taco Bell Arena by those teams (the series with the Ducks was a two-for-one). There are not dandy non-conference matchups at home this year. Not a single one can be singled out as a marquee game. The contest that may produce the most energy before Mountain West play rolls around is actually the opener, an exhibition against College of Idaho.
The 28th annual Albertsons Boise Open is upon us next week, so it behooves us to check in on the Web.com Tour Finals. The series is off this week after a win by Peter Uihlein in the first leg last weekend, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Columbus, OH. Uihlein’s victory gave him exempt status on the PGA Tour for the first time. Uihlein has peace of mind now. Most of the rest of the field at Hillcrest Country Club next week does not. Stuart Appleby, Hunter Mahan, Sam Saunders, and Jason Gore are among the bigger names headed to Boise to try to regain or retain their PGA Tour cards.
This Day In Sports…September 8, 2002, 15 years ago today:
Pete Sampras wins his 14th Grand Slam singles title, beating Andre Agassi in four sets in the U.S. Open final. It was the final Slam crown in Sampras’ career, during which he finished the year as the No. 1 player in the world six consecutive times. He was especially dominant at Wimbledon, winning at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club seven times.
(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.)