Weird start has Boise State’s Brett Rypien searching for consistency
BOISE — There are 114 quarterbacks in FBS college football that are averaging at least 14 pass attempts per game in 2017.
Boise State’s Brett Rypien is the only one yet to throw a touchdown pass.
It’s been anything but the season most expected from Rypien through four games. He’s been benched, injured and inconsistent, and his team is just 2-2.
But with Boise State set to embark on a crucial part of the season starting Friday night at BYU, the Broncos are banking on the junior signal caller stepping up to lead and fix what’s been a largely disappointing offense.
“I think he’s pretty positive about it,” said wide receiver and roommate Cedrick Wilson. “Everybody knows it’s early in the season so he’s not really beating himself up. Brett is a competitor. If he doesn’t throw any touchdowns, he just cares about winning. If he throws all the touchdowns, he’s just more focused on winning.
“He’s definitely the same guy. … He gets frustrated at himself when he doesn’t do his part but he doesn’t get frustrated at anybody else. He’s very hard on himself, but I think that’s good because he’s going to come out and do his work.”
Rypien entered the year with huge expectations after being named the All-Mountain West first team quarterback in each of the two previous years. He spoke barely two months ago about wanting to lead the Broncos to a conference title and a big-time bowl game and create a legacy like some of the all-time great quarterbacks here.
But through four games he’s thrown for just 521 yards — he threw for 506 during a game against New Mexico his freshman season — and has no touchdowns. He’s actually -2 in the touchdown department after accounting for two his opponents on an interception and a strip-sack that were both returned for scores.
Rypien’s quarterback efficiency rating of 114.7 ranks 103rd among the 114 qualified quarterbacks. In 2016, his 155.7 rating ranked 15th in the country.
Worst of all might be the team’s overall play. The Broncos rank 68th in scoring offense at 29.8 points per game and 101st in total offense at 351.3 yards per game. An ugly home loss to Virginia only added to the frustration.
“I’m sure deep down he’s struggling a little bit in the fact that he wants to be the guy every single play and have not gotten injured and not missed games,” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Zak Hill said. “You always want that as a starting quarterback. You never want to be out or watching, but with the situations he’s been in this year and how he’s handled himself, he’s been awesome.
“He’s done a good job of trying to stay in the present moment and focus on how he can help the team, whether it was being out and signaling or helping Montell (Cozart) or stepping up and leading when he needs to. I appreciate how he’s handled himself. It’s not always the easiest situation…”
Rypien’s coaches and teammates were left to speak for him this week because he was not made available to the media. Rypien hasn’t spoken with the media since prior to the Washington State game in week two.
His season got off to an unexpected rough start when he completed just 13 of 23 passes for 160 yards against Troy and had an interception returned for a touchdown. He was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of backup Montell Cozart, who played the final three drives and led the Broncos on the score that made it a two-possession game.
He looked strong early against Washington State on the road in week two, completing 7 of 8 passes for 76 yards and leading the Broncos on a touchdown drive to start the game. But he was hit and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and then was hit again and knocked out of the game due to an injury late in the first quarter.
The Broncos lost in heartbreaking fashion when an ill-advised shovel pass from Cozart was intercepted and returned for a touchdown during a crazy 21-point fourth quarter comeback from the Cougars. All Rypien could do was watch from the sidelines as Boise State lost in triple overtime.
Rypien missed the following week against New Mexico due to the injury, but returned against Virginia and completed 24 of 42 passes for 285 yards and an interception. Boise State lost the game, suffering their worst home loss in 16 years while dropping to 2-2 on the year.
“It’s a really tough challenge for him,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “This is the reality in my opinion. You have this plan in your head that it’s going to go a certain way and it usually never does, and I mean that in a good way sometimes. Some guys accelerate a lot faster than they even expected.
“Brett has had struggles. He was out of the game, we’ve had some turnovers, we’ve had some issues and he’s had some struggles. Does that make him a bad football player or make him not care or anything like that? No, it doesn’t. It just means he has struggled. So how do you come back and respond to that?”
Friday’s game at BYU is the first of three in a season-defining stretch. A road game at San Diego State follows a week from Saturday, with a home game against Josh Allen and Wyoming after that.
A win or loss against BYU will do nothing for Boise State’s hope at a Mountain West title. But playing well and winning could give them momentum they need heading to San Diego. A loss would only add to the pressure and outside noise for a team that would be 2-3 for the first time in several years.
Rypien returning to form would go a long way in helping Boise State — both against BYU and for the rest of the season. It’s just one game Friday, but it feels like a big one for the team captain.
And his teammates are confident his best is yet to come.
“He comes everyday to work to get better and you can really tell, and any guy on this team would say that,” tight end Jake Roh said. “I think that’s a sign of a great leader. Sometimes don’t go the way you expect them to how you want them to go, so you keep bouncing back and keep fighting and keep getting better every day.”