Boise State faces QB decision for road trip to Virginia after 52-0 win
Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin said Friday night that he doesn’t know yet who will start at quarterback next Friday at Virginia.
The Broncos beat Idaho State 52-0 at Albertsons Stadium but the game was overshadowed by a significant injury to sophomore starting quarterback Ryan Finley and the debut of true freshman quarterback Brett Rypien, who was the third quarterback into the game and the most successful.
Rypien or sophomore Tommy Stuart likely will make his first start at Virginia. The extent of Finley’s injury hasn’t been announced but he was carted to the locker room with crutches. He appeared to injure his lower right leg.
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Harsin admitted that his gut feeling was that Finley’s injury was serious.
“One of those guys will be out there for the first time on the road,” Harsin said of the co-backup quarterbacks. “We had that last week with Ryan (at BYU). Hopefully we’ve learned something as a team how to handle that and we can help that quarterback be better prepared when we go play against Virginia.”
The Broncos need to identify the quarterback early in the week to prepare him for the game.
“We’re not going to be able to go 50-50 all week long,” Harsin said.
Coaches can only hope the backups execute the plan as well as they did against Idaho State.
The plan if anything happened to Finley was for Stuart to enter the game while coaches and trainers evaluated Finley.
“It worked exactly as they knew it was going to work,” offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said.
By halftime, the coaches knew Finley wouldn’t be able to return to the game. That’s when they made the final decision to play Rypien and forgo his redshirt year.
“When I told him at halftime he was going to play,” Drinkwitz said, “that guy had a look in his eye like, ‘It’s about time.’ So I’m impressed with him.”
Rypien has continued to compete for a spot higher on the depth chart despite losing the battle for the starting job and facing the prospect of not playing this year.
“He’s never even kind of settled into a role,” Drinkwitz said. “He’s pushing himself every day.”
Drinkwitz said he had trouble enjoying the win because of the injury to Finley, whose right ankle got caught under the Bengal who tackled him at the end of a scramble in the first quarter.
“I spoke with Ryan and shared a few tears,” Drinkwitz said. “I’m just praying for the best. You never know. Right now Ryan Finley is my starting quarterback. That’s just how it is. We’ll figure it out as the doctors and those guys do their diagnosis and go from there.”
Finley was playing his best game yet with 5-of-6 passing for 59 yards in the early going.
Stuart maintained that momentum in his first action as a Bronco.
“We knew Tommy would go in and he did exactly what we expected him to do,” Harsin said. “At the same time, we’ve got to have a couple guys ready. Brett has done a nice job. He has put himself in position to play. The decision was after halftime we need to get him in. He’s been ready to play. We’ve talked about it each and every week. At this point, it was time to go. I thought he went in there and showed what he’s capable of doing with his first opportunity.”
Rypien was 8-for-9 for 126 yards. His three drives with the first team resulted in touchdowns and one with the second team ended with a field goal.
Stuart was 9-for-13 for 69 yards and a TD with three sacks. He rushed 11 times for 46 yards.
“They both operated,” Harsin said.
Rypien wasn’t necessarily going to redshirt even though he hadn’t played yet this season, Harsin said. He was preparing to play and coaches didn’t plan to broach redshirting him unless he didn’t play through the first half of the season.
“In a perfect world you’d love to redshirt all your quarterbacks,” Harsin said. “We never felt like that was going to be the situation.”
Rypien, the first true freshman QB to play at Boise State since 1993 (Tony Hilde), or Stuart, who would be playing close to his Maryland home, will face a daunting task next week. It’s possible both could play.
“Maybe they’re crazy enough to not even think about (the situation),” Harsin said. “Why not? Just go out and attack it. ... I don’t think the emotions got to them. They just operated.”
QB Finley leaves with injury
Boise State sophomore starting quarterback Ryan Finley left with an apparent leg injury in the first quarter Friday night at Albertsons Stadium.
Finley was tackled at the end of a 5-yard scramble. He appeared to injure his lower right leg. He hobbled off the field. The training staff re-taped his ankle but he struggled to walk. He eventually was helped by two people to the Idaho Sports Medicine Institute in a corner of the stadium. He was taken to the locker room by cart in the second quarter.
Sophomore Tommy Stuart replaced Finley and led two touchdown drives in the first half and another early in the second half.
“I think he's making good decisions. He's ran the ball effectively,” coach Bryan Harsin told CBS Sports Network at halftime. “We got to continue that, that's a part of his game so we've got to build some things, some momentum for him in the second half.''
However, there have been indications that true freshman Brett Rypien would be the quarterback if the Broncos needed a long-term solution to replace Finley.
And Rypien entered the game for the second drive of the third quarter. His first three plays were short passes that gained 12, 9 and 7 yards. Jeremy McNichols added a 26-yard run, Rypien threw another short pass for 14 yards to Shane Williams-Rhodes and McNichols ran for 4 yards. Rypien’s only incompletion was a wise throwaway at the goal line. McNichols finished the drive with a 4-yard TD run.
Rypien started the next drive with a 46-yard completion to wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck — the Broncos’ longest offensive play of the season. McNichols scored on the next play.
Rypien led the Broncos to a TD on his third drive, too. And he took them to a field goal with the second team on his fourth and final drive.
Rypien is the first true freshman quarterback to play at Boise State since Tony Hilde. He made his debut against Montana on Oct. 2, 1993.
Boise State has lost a starting quarterback to an ankle injury twice in its previous 14 seasons in the WAC/Mountain West era: in 2002, when B.J. Rhode replaced Ryan Dinwiddie for four starts, and in 2013, when Grant Hedrick replaced Joe Southwick for all but a series the rest of the season. The 2002 team went 12-1 and won the WAC; the 2013 team went 8-5.
Dinwiddie and Southwick both broke their right ankle.
Finley was 5-for-6 for 59 yards before leaving. The 165.9 rating was by far his best of the year.
— On the game: “They did a really nice job of coming off a short week, a physical week against BYU, turning around and we probably had the best Tuesday practice that we’ve had this entire season. I thought the energy this week was where it needed to be. ... Any time you get a shutout, that’s impressive. That’s hard to do no matter who you play. I thought our offense showed some rhythm tonight and some consistency, which is what we’ve been talking about. It was much needed.”
— On the win: “The most important thing that we were able to come out of this win with was a turnaround from disappointment — erase all the negativity and go out there and just play. These guys did exactly that. There’s still plenty to work on.”
— On playing Idaho State: “There was plenty to work on going into this game. I don’t think anybody was looking past anyone. We’re just trying to go out there and prepare and really be a better football team than we were the week before, and we did that tonight. It shouldn’t change. After you win, your attention to detail shouldn’t be any different than your attention to detail after you lose.”
— On the defense not talking as much during the game: “That’s an emphasis with our whole team. That’s all we need to be doing when we walk onto the football field is just play. We’re out there to win. We’re out there playing to win and that’s all that matters. Football is emotional. At the same time, it is very thought out and planned and the only guys that matter are the other 10 that are on your team. And that’s how I addressed that this week.”
RB Jeremy McNichols
— On the improved run game: “I just think we started running more downhill and that just opened a lot of holes for us. We were more aggressive.”
— On watching Kelsey Young run hard on the opening drive of the second half: “When we see each other do good, it just fires up the next person. We want to compete. If we see somebody bust a long run, then the next guy wants to bust a long run.”
— On whether players try to find out what happened when the quarterback gets hurt: “We just have to focus on the game. If we focus on the other stuff, it’s not good for us and we lose our concentration.”
LB Tyler Gray
— On the shutout: “All the guys out there were really excited when we finally got that zero up on the board.”
LB Tanner Vallejo
— “When you see 7-nothing on D, you just know, they don’t score, we win. That’s our mentality on defnese.”
— On the QBs: “If you were to ask me if Rypien would be playing now when he first came in, I would say you’re crazy. But he’s a good player. Tommy, he’s a gamer. He knows little things to do and scrambles when he needs to scramble.”
— On whether he’s confident in Rypien: “I’m confident in this whole team. Obviously he knows he can lean on us as a defense. We’ve got his back. If he knows that, he should be playing pretty well.”
WR Thomas Sperbeck
— On his limited stats in the first two games: “That stuff happens. Every receiver goes through that. You kind of know that going into the season.” (He had seven catches for 99 yards against Idaho State.)
— On Rypien: “He does a good job just seeing the play develop. Just like tonight with that long ball he threw to me. He read the safety and put it on me.”
— On Stuart replacing Finley: “Tommy did a great job of not letting the tempo drop. He said we’re going to go down and score the ball.”
BSU— Jeremy McNichols 6 run (Tyler Rausa kick), 9:21. Key plays: Quarterback Ryan Finley hit freshman tight end David Lucero for a 15-yard gain and senior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes for 10 yards. Drive: 8 plays, 48 yards, 3:05. Boise State 7, Idaho State 0
BSU— Devan Demas 13 run (Rausa kick), 2:34. Key plays: Finley hit senior tight end Holden Huff for 15 yards and scrambled for 5 more, but on the run Finley was injured and left the game. Sophomore Tommy Stuart took over at quarterback and led the touchdown drive, which included a 24-yard run by Stuart on fourth-and-2. Drive: 11 plays, 95 yards, 3:27. Boise State 14, Idaho State 0
BSU— Huff 9 pass from Stuart (Rausa kick), 3:42. Key plays: McNichols rushed for 11 yards on third-and-2 and Stuart connected with junior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck for 13 yards on third-and-8. Stuart was 3-for-4 on the drive. Drive: 11 plays, 58 yards, 3:38. Boise State 21, Idaho State 0
BSU— Kelsey Young 9 run (Rausa kick), 13:02. Key plays: Idaho State botched its punt, which didn’t even make it back to the line of scrimmage. Young carried on three of four plays. Drive: 4 plays, 27 yards, 1:09. Boise State 28, Idaho State 0
BSU— McNichols 4 run (Rausa kick), 7:50. Key plays: True freshman QB Brett Rypien came off the bench and completed passes on the first three plays of his career for 12, 9 and 7 yards. McNichols added a 26-yard run. Drive: 8 plays, 80 yards, 1:45. Boise State 35, Idaho State 0
BSU— McNichols 16 run (Rausa kick), 5:46. Key play: Rypien tossed a deep ball to Sperbeck for 46 yards, the Broncos’ longest offensive play of the season at that point. Drive: 2 plays, 62 yards, :19. Boise State 42, Idaho State 0
BSU— Young 1 run (Rausa kick), 2:05. Key plays: Rypien threw over the middle to Huff for 27 yards and Demas busted a 47-yard run, the new longest play of the year. Drive: 6 plays, 87 yards, 1:42. Boise State 49, Idaho State 0
BSU— Rausa 45 field goal, 8:57. Key plays: Wide receiver Terrell Johnson contributed a 13-yard run and a 6-yard catch as the second team took over. Drive: 10 plays, 37 yards, 5:32. Boise State 52, Idaho State 0
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First quarter: Boise State’s defense dominated while the offense started to find some rhythm. The Broncos went three-and-out on their first drive and drove 48 yards for a touchdown on the second drive (Jeremy McNichols scored the TD, giving him all six for the Broncos at that point). On the third drive, starting quarterback Ryan Finley injured his right leg on a scramble. Sophomore backup Tommy Stuart entered and continued the drive which eventually went 11 plays for 95 yards and a TD. Tailback Devan Demas scored on a 13-yard run. In-game analysis: Coach Bryan Harsin had said the Broncos had a backup QB plan depending on what happened. Many interpreted that to mean Stuart would play in a pinch buy true freshman Brett Rypien would play if Finley were seriously hurt.
Second quarter: Both offenses sputtered until the end of the quarter. First Stuart led the Broncos 58 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown that followed junior cornerback Jonathan Moxey’s second career interception. Senior tight end Holden Huff scored on a 9-yard reception. Then Idaho State got moving. Xavier Finney gained 2 yards on fourth-and-2 from the Bengals’ 33-yard line. Quarterback Michael Sanders chipped his way down the field on short throws, including a 17-yard gain on a screen pass to Finney. But Sanders threw incomplete on two plays from the 4-yard line to end the half. In-game analysis: Stuart used his legs to power the Broncos’ offense with some designed runs and a lot of roll-outs to the right. It worked well against the Bengals but that might be difficult next week against Virginia. Halftime stats: Boise State outgained Idaho State 234-125. Stuart was 9-for-13 for 69 yards and a TD. He also led the team with 10 carries for 41 yards. McNichols only gained 19 yards on 11 carries. Sperbeck made six catches for 53 yards. For Idaho State, Michael Sanders was 14-for-27 for 94 yards. Finley rushed seven times for 16 yards.
Third quarter: Stuart stayed in the game for one drive in the second half and it resulted in a touchdown. But the stadium came alive when Rypien entered for the second drive of the half — and the buzz lasted for the rest of the quarter. Rypien led TD drives on each of his first three drives. He completed passes on each of his first three plays. He threw the Broncos’ longest pass of the season, a 46-yarder to Thomas Sperbeck, and his only incompletion was a throwaway. In-game analysis: Rypien likely will be the quarterback going forward now that his redshirt has been burned. His poise was remarkable for his first college appearance. And his teammates responded around him with some terrific running with the ball. Also of note: Senior tailback Kelsey Young started the second half and looked good. After that, McNichols was a force. He might not have enjoyed watching the action from the sideline on the opening drive.
Fourth quarter: Boise State emptied the bench. By night’s end, about 15 players had made their program debuts. Redshirt freshman tailback Cory Young, who made his first appearance on special teams, rushed for 69 yards in the fourth quarter. That tied for the team lead for the game.
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RECORD PACE FOR MCNICHOLS
Boise State sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols scored three more touchdowns Friday night against Idaho State — giving him eight this season.
McNichols scored the Broncos’ first six touchdowns of the season, a program record, until fellow tailback Devan Demas scored in the first quarter.
The Boise State single-season record for touchdowns is 32 shared by Jay Ajayi (2014) and Brock Forsey (2002). Ajayi had four TDs through three games that year; Forsey had three.
McNichols is on pace for 37 touchdowns in a 14-game schedule.
VALLEJO BLOCKS TWO KICKS — MAYBE
Boise State junior middle linebacker Tanner Vallejo blocked a punt and field goal on consecutive drives in the third quarter, at least according to the stats.
The punt was more of a botched kick that hit Vallejo 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
“He just kicked it into me,” Vallejo said. “I guess I get a blocked punt. ... I just saw the ball hit me in my stomach. I didn’t even have time to react. I wasn’t sure if it was past the line of scrimmage or not so I jumped on it.”
He busted through the line to try to block the 36-yard field-goal attempt moments later. Vallejo said he thought defensive tackle Justin Taimatuia actually blocked that kick.
“I don’t know if I got my hand on the ball,” Vallejo said.
AVERILL REPLACES LEWIS ON O-LINE
Boise State juggled the offensive line after sophomore right tackle Archie Lewis struggled last week at BYU. Junior Mario Yakoo moved from left guard to right tackle. Junior Travis Averill, who started every game last season but was suspended for the season opener this year and didn’t start in the second game, stepped in at left guard. Averill was the left guard last year.
“We need to get (Averill) back in the mix,” coach Bryan Harsin said.
BRONCO GO ORANGE-BLUE-ORANGE
Boise State unveiled a new uniform combo for the game: orange helmets, blue jerseys and orange pants. The Broncos went 0-2 in the orange helmets last season. They debuted for the Ole Miss game and were worn again for the Air Force game.
MCNAIR ADDED TO INJURED LIST
Boise State junior defensive end Gabe Perez and sophomore wide receiver D.J. Dean missed their third straight game with injuries. Senior defensive end Rondell McNair also missed the game. Perez and McNair likely will be out next week against Virginia, Harsin said, but Dean could return.
WEIRD FINISH TO FIRST HALF
Idaho State tried to break up the shutout with a 26-yard field goal by Zak Johnson late in the first half. He missed wide left. Idaho State argued that Boise State had too many players on the field. After replay review, the Broncos were flagged for an illegal substitution. Idaho State appeared to snap the ball after the play clock expired, too, but that wasn’t called.
Idaho State got a first down at the 4-yard line with 6 seconds left. Coach Mike Kramer decided to go for the touchdown. QB Michael Sanders threw an incomplete pass toward the right corner of the end zone and the clock expired. But with half of each team off the field, the officials decided to review the clock.
Two seconds were added and Idaho State tried for the TD again. Sanders tried the left side this time, but defensive end Kamalei Correa dropped into his throwing lane and ruined the slant pass Sanders threw.
“We were just trying to put our nose down in the dirt and get it done,” said senior linebacker Tyler Gray, who led the defense with seven tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and two pass breakups.
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin and Athletic Director Curt Apsey will speak at the Bronco Luncheon Series at noon Monday in the Student Union Building. Tickets are $15 at BroncoAthleticAssociation.com. ... Senior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes and senior linebacker Tyler Gray were the Broncos’ single-game captains. ... Former safety Marty Tadman was the honorary captain. ... Linebacker Darren Lee carried the Hammer. ... Boise State won the coin toss and took the ball. ... Boise State senior tight end Holden Huff caught a touchdown pass in the second quarter, his first TD since the 2012 bowl game vs. Washington. ... The attendance was 33,868.
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