It’s Week 4 of our new feature: BSU Takes.
After each game, I post my top takeaways. During the game, I solicit takeaways from fans on Twitter and Facebook. We’ll run a select few — and a shorter version of my story — in the newspaper. But the full version will always be in the Bronco Beat blog with many contributions from fans.
Boise State whipped Virginia 56-14 on Friday night. You can find our comprehensive, multimedia coverage of the game here and Dave Southorn’s traditional game story here.
1. Rypien ... wow. Boise State true freshman quarterback Brett Rypien became just the second Broncos quarterback to win a true road game against a Power Five team — and he did it in his first college start.
He showed accuracy, poise, vision, a smidge of scrambling ability and the willingness to attack every area of the field.
“He handled the moment beautiful,” offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said.
Rypien finished 24-for-35 for 321 yards and three touchdowns with three sacks. His rating of 173.90 ranks third among Boise State quarterbacks making their first starts since 2001, but Kellen Moore (229.56 in 2008 vs. Idaho State) and Jared Zabransky (179.10 in 2004 vs. Idaho) didn’t have to go on the road or face a Power Five team.
Rypien replaced Ryan Finley, who is out for about eight weeks with a broken bone in his right ankle.
“He took control of the offense,” sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols said. “Everyone rallied around him and that gave him confidence. He did great tonight. Coach (Bryan) Harsin and the offensive staff have been getting him ready since camp. As a freshman, it’s tough. Last year I was only getting four to five plays but he has to remember the whole playbook. That’s his job. His poise was most impressive to me. He got hit, he got up, he operated. He was confident. We were fast on offense and finished all of our drives.”
Coaches capitalized on Rypien’s accuracy with a game plan that emphasized intermediate throws. They wanted to neutralize Virginia’s defensive line and give the receivers a chance to run with the ball.
That was particularly effective in the first half, when the Broncos used spread formations with two tight ends on the field. Virginia was stuck with 4-3 personnel and couldn’t match up.
“I think we had them confused a little bit with our personnel,” Drinkwitz said. “They couldn’t figure out the flats.”
But Rypien showed he could do much more in the second half. Twice, he hit junior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck on go routes — for touchdowns of 30 and 64 yards.
“He was the ultimate leader out there,” junior linebacker Ben Weaver said. “I know how difficult our offense is, so to see him out there and running it the way he did, make the decisions he did, it was really exciting. The kid is a baller. He plays like that all the time and makes plays.”
The success — and the reaction of a fan base eager to find the next Kellen Moore-type quarterback — had Drinkwitz cautioning against an overreaction.
The Broncos were 3-for-14 on third down. Rypien took three sacks. He wasn’t perfect.
“It was only one game,” Drinkwitz said. “... Believe me, when we watch the tape on Monday, he won’t be walking out of there thinking he’s a superstar.”
2. Teamwork pays: The Broncos’ defense and receivers took much of the pressure off Rypien with stellar performances of their own.
The defense scored 16 points on two touchdowns and a safety and set up two field goals kicked after the offense failed to go anywhere. That’s 22 points essentially scored by the D.
“We’ve needed to have one of these games all year,” Weaver said. “We haven’t scored on defense. We’ve been lacking in the turnover area so we made that a point of emphasis, especially on the road.”
The receivers turned many of Rypien’s short passes into 8-, 10- or 20-yard gains. The Broncos averaged 14.3 yards per catch — a significant increase over the 11.0-yard average in the first three games.
Sperbeck’s two touchdowns were the first by a wide receiver this year.
“For our quarterbacks and our wide receivers, we got in the end zone,” Harsin said. “We threw a touchdown. We needed to do that and we wanted to do that. We need to do it more.”
3. What might have been ... The Broncos’ 42-point win — their largest ever against a Power Five team — makes even more confounding the fourth-quarter collapse two weeks earlier at BYU. Where was this composure and tenacity that night?
The Virginia win kept the Broncos in the running for a New Year’s Six bowl berth. If they were 4-0 they’d be in a much stronger position.
But like last year’s game at Air Force, the BYU loss might have made this team better.
“Today was about us,” Harsin said. “It was 3 1/2 hours of getting away from every distraction in their lives and just playing football and doing it together. I thought the reason why we played so well was they had fun, I had fun, the coaches had fun, and we were just out there playing ball, not worried about a thing other than trying to find a way to beat Virginia.”
NOW FOR READERS’ TAKEAWAYS ...
Gena Bedegi Miller: Strong in all areas! Good, solid team effort!! Rypien is one talented QB!
Quinn Hassler: Again a nice defensive performance against the run game only allowing 40 yards rushing, granted Virginia needed to pass, but it was the defense which set the tone. Rypien has a "touch" much like Kellen Moore with the ability to hit open receivers when they’re in stride, and look at the result. Well done.
Tyson Monson: Why would Finley be the starter over Rypien? I’m sure the coaches felt like leadership was the answer. Because it definitely wasn’t talent. The offense is different all around when you have a QB that can threaten the deep ball. Well done defense.”
Brian Billingsley: My thoughts? The Blue and Orange Store needs to fabricate 25,000 #4 jerseys this week.
Tim Mosman: A+ now that our right handed Kellen Moore is under center. Kicking game gets an A+. Defense is doing awesome this year.
Ted Lindsley: Impressive game on the road. Well called plays and well balanced!
Jodi Nicholas: Always a Boise fan, but tonight’s game made me feel excitement I haven't felt since Kellen! Now it’s Rypien’s era! It feels like it’s all coming back together....and to top it off we have an awesome kicker too. So proud of our team.
#bsutakes one of the better games we've seen in awhile. Defense is oppressive. Rypien looks as advertised.— John Lavey (@JohnLavey1) September 26, 2015
swagger is back! playbook opened up and defense dominating. #bsutakes— Jared (@jaredisaac) September 26, 2015
#bsutakes Fun again— Kurt Farmer (@KurtFarmer) September 26, 2015