It says a lot about the standard set by Boise State quarterbacks and by Brett Rypien himself that his sophomore season left more to be desired.
Offensive coordinator Zak Hill said in the days leading up to the Cactus Bowl “things tend to build a little bit through a game if it’s not going great,” and Rypien couldn’t let early mistakes affect him. Against Baylor, he had two first-half interceptions as the offense struggled. Still, Rypien helped lead the Broncos to a 10-3 mark after going 7-3 in his 10 starts as a freshman. But there is that standard ... .
“You know there’s going to be that heat at this level,” Hill said last month.
Rypien, who spoke to the media following Monday’s first practice of the spring, said last season was a big learning experience. He also said cleaning up those mental mistakes Hill alluded to are key for him in preparation for 2017.
“A lot of it is just my confidence, having that confidence in myself,” Rypien said. “I know I prepare well, just going out and just playing. Playing in the framework of the offense, extending plays a little bit more and doing things that way.”
He noted “maturing with (his) decision-making” and continuing to step up as the offense’s leader, especially with players like receiver Cedrick Wilson, tackles Archie Lewis and John Molchon, center Mason Hampton and running back Alexander Mattison out or limited this spring.
“You just have to have a short memory, forget the mistakes you make, embrace when things do go wrong, (grit) your teeth and get going, make sure everyone else is on the same page, too,” Rypien said. “... I try to put too much on my shoulders sometimes, trust our other guys are going to make plays.”
Here’s a statistical look at how Rypien has fared in his career, on a per-start basis.
▪ 2015 (10 starts): 26.5 completions, 42 attempts, 63.1 completion percentage, 322.7 yards per game, 2.0 touchdowns, 0.8 interceptions
▪ 2016 (13 starts): 18.8 completions, 30.3 attempts, 61.9 completion percentage, 280.5 yards per game, 1.8 touchdowns, 0.6 interceptions
What is obvious is how the team leaned a little less on Rypien, going heavily to Jeremy McNichols and Mattison on the ground. In the first three games of November, Rypien threw a combined 63 times. He threw 75 times against New Mexico in 2015, by comparison.
“I think he’s going to take a huge jump between this offseason and next season,” Hill said. “... Everybody looks at the stats and what he did this year and what he did last year and how that compares, but we run different plays. Each game is different. Each season is different, and numbers will be different.”
Adding Wilson as a deep threat made a huge difference, a facet of the game Rypien said last spring he wanted to improve. The stats show some slight improvements, but not the big leap some had hoped to see. The difference this season will be in how he does in those key moments. Rypien didn’t often make big mistakes, but when he did, they haunted the Broncos: be it the safety in a 30-28 loss at Wyoming, two fourth-quarter interceptions in a 31-28 win over Washington State, three turnovers in the Cactus Bowl or completing 9-of-26 passes against Air Force.
In January, Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said “Brett is capable of being one of the best quarterbacks in the country.” That belief has not waned, and he thinks Rypien will be able to rise in those moments because of what is behind him.
“I think it comes with your expectations, it comes with maturity,” Harsin said. “As you become a more elite player, and I think Brett is one of those guys, like with anything in life, the better you get at it, the more you realize you don’t know.
“Confidence comes from that. I don’t see Brett as a guy that has shaken confidence at all. He understands there’s going to be a lot of different scenarios he’s going to be put in, to be calm, do the job he knows he’s capable of doing.”