Boise State’s true freshman quarterback won’t be the semi-mystery to Hawaii that he was to Virginia. Hawaii has a full game of tape to devour on Brett Rypien. Boise State’s true freshman quarterback won’t be the semi-mystery to the Rainbow Warriors tomorrow night that he was to Virginia. The buzz surrounding Rypien is palpable after his performance in his starting debut last week. But there’s always the prospect that Rypien will fall flat on his face. After all, it happened last Saturday to fellow true freshman Tanner Mangum, the Eagle High grad who ruined the Broncos’ night three weeks ago and had become a BYU sensation. Magnum threw for just 55 yards on 28 attempts, less than two yards per attempt, in the Cougars’ 31-0 loss at Michigan. But after watching Rypien stand poised in the pocket and deliver with step-in rather than back-foot throws in the face of multiple blitzes, somehow I think he’ll prove to be the real deal.
Thomas Sperbeck has buckled down. And when the Boise State junior gets in a groove, look out. Sperbeck, of course, had zero catches until the end of September last year—then after Matt Miller was injured, he finished with a flourish and was named Offensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl. This season Sperbeck muddled through the first two games with just five catches for 41 yards, but he’s hauled in 12 balls for 220 yards and two touchdowns since. The TDs are worth noting. Sperbeck had only three touchdown catches all of last year.
A week ago I talked about the need for the “second wave” of Boise State wide receivers to start making appearances in the box score. But what do I know? The Broncos got by without them again. Austin Cottrell made only the second catch of the season outside the “big three” (Sperbeck, Shane Williams-Rhodes and Chaz Anderson) when he hauled in a 37-yard throw from Tommy Stuart in mop-up time at Virginia. Somebody’s bound to have a breakout game at some point. Who’s it going to be—Cottrell, A.J. Richardson or Akilian Butler? And will it be tomorrow night?
With chances good that the pickins will be slim for the Hawaii running game tomorrow night, quarterback Max Wittek is going to have to make things happen. It hasn’t really happened yet for the transfer from USC. Wittek has completed just 49 percent of his throws for 730 yards, with five touchdowns and four interceptions. His pass efficiency rating is 108.3, which is at the lower end of the scale. At 6-4, 240 pounds, Wittek looks the part. He decided to leave USC after Cody Kessler secured the Trojans’ starting QB job early in the 2013 season. Wittek considered a number of programs, including Texas, before settling on the Rainbow Warriors. “It was really coach (Norm) Chow that did it for me,” said Wittek. “And their history of airing it out. That didn’t hurt.”
Boise State seeks its fourth straight win in the month of October tomorrow night on the blue turf. Seems modest enough, but October has been pretty good to BSU over the years. The Broncos went 3-0 during the month last year—recovery time in the aftermath of the Air Force debacle—and have won 53 of their last 54 October games. It was the 37-20 loss at BYU in 2013 that snapped Boise State’s epic 50-game October winning streak that had dated back to 2001.
I hope fans are in their seats in time to see this tomorrow night. Boise State’s honorary captain will be native Hawaiian and former Bronco safety Jeremy Ioane. And he’ll be joined by twin sister Jasmine, who donated a kidney to Jeremy five months ago. It should be almost as cool as when he led the team on the field with the Hammer on Senior Night last November. Ioane is living back on Oahu, coaching defensive backs at Punahou, his old high school. But he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser he’s thinking about coming back to Boise. And why wouldn’t he? When Ioane became sick in 2012, his parents moved to Boise. And they liked it so much, they stayed. Now five other family members have joined them, including Jasmine after her graduation from Weber State.
There’s a plethora of games of interest in the Mountain West tomorrow. The Game of the Week is Colorado State at Utah State. The Aggies have had a bye week to get backup quarterback Kent Myers up to speed in place of the injured Chuckie Keeton. The other conference tilt sees Fresno State already in survival mode in the West Division as the Bulldogs visit San Diego State. There are three big rivalry games. The first of the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy games sends Air Force to Navy, New Mexico hosts New Mexico State, and Nevada and UNLV scrum for the Fremont Cannon at Mackay Stadium. Finally, I’m kind of interested to see if San Jose State can hang with Auburn after the Spartans’ confidence-building win over Fresno State last week.
The Mountain West has a seventh bowl tie-in this year with the official announcement yesterday of the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson December 29. The MW and Conference USA are the primary representatives, with the Sun Belt the backup. There is no set selection order; teams will be placed in the Arizona Bowl based upon who is eligible and what makes the most sense in terms of match-ups, geography and availability. The Mountain West just has to hope it can find six bowl-eligible teams (BYU is slated to take the spot in either the Las Vegas Bowl or Hawaii Bowl).
For a team getting some grief for off-field issues and player problems, Idaho has played some disciplined football on the field. The Vandals go into tomorrow’s game at Arkansas State tied for second in the nation for fewest penalties per game at 3.25. Avoiding infractions, especially on the offensive line, may prove a little more troublesome if quarterback Matt Linehan can’t play tomorrow. Coach Paul Petrino has called his hobbled sophomore signal-caller “questionable” for the game in Jonesboro and has been getting backup Jake Luton ready to go. Despite the fact that both teams are 1-3, the Red Wolves have been established as 20-point favorites.
This morning the Boise State men’s basketball squad starts preseason practice without Derrick Marks for the first time in five years. So where are expectations for the Broncos? Pretty high if you go by college hoops publications. Lindy’s and Sporting News both predict Boise State to win the Mountain West this winter, with San Diego State second. Athlon flips the Broncos and the Aztecs. UNLV is picked third in all three magazines. Lindy’s has the Broncos’ James Webb III and Anthony Drmic as first-team All-Mountain West, while Athlon picks Drmic as the preseason MW Player of the Year—but inexplicably doesn’t have Webb on its first, second or third all-conference teams. Sporting News just ranks the top 10 players in the league—and Webb is No. 1 (Drmic is No. 6).
Idaho Steelheads training camp begins Monday, and Neil Graham’s first roster as head coach is just about filled out. The Steelheads have agreed to terms with defenseman Mark Louis, who spent the past four seasons in the AHL. Let’s just say the 6-4, 230-pounder will have a presence on the ice. Louis played 174 games for the Portland Pirates from 2012-15—and racked up 349 penalty minutes, 12th all-time in club history.
This Day In Sports…October 2, 1993:
Quarterback Tony Hilde, the last true freshman to play quarterback for Boise State before Brett Rypien, burns his redshirt year and makes his first career start against Montana in Missoula. HIlde threw the first of his then-BSU record 70 career touchdown passes—that one pulled in by Ryan Ikebe, who was burning his redshirt year that day as well. Hilde’s 388 passing yards and 406 in total offense in his collegiate debut would also be his career highs. He would rack up over 9,000 yards passing and over 10,000 in total offense over the next four years, and 26 of his TD passes would go to Ikebe.
(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.