Three days after Boise State’s lone loss of the season, coach Bryan Harsin did not feel the Broncos’ ability to run the ball late in games was as reliable as the pass.
“We haven’t reached that point yet as a team,” Harsin said Nov. 2 after processing the 30-28 loss to Wyoming.
Though the team always has prided itself on using its rushing attack as the basis of its offense, it wasn’t clicking as much as coaches would like. But ever since that moment, Harsin’s offense has been at its best, and the run has been more than trustworthy.
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In the three games since losing to Wyoming, Boise State has rushed for 298, 246 and 271 yards, three of its top four games on the ground this season. The team went from averaging 160.8 yards per game on the year to 191. Junior running back Jeremy McNichols has rushed for 317 yards in that trio of games.
“It’s not just a one-man show, but sometimes when a guy’s feeling it, you give him a chance to carry the rock,” Harsin said.
It has come, obviously, with less reliance on the passing game. This month, sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien has completed 44-of-63 passes for 666 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception. He’s attempted 21, 22 and 20 passes in those games, all three the fewest he’s had as a starter.
“I think my role’s changed since the year started a little bit, I think we’re doing a great job running the ball, Jeremy’s doing a great job, our offensive line is doing a great job and our receivers are doing a good job in the running game as a well,” Rypien said.
Rypien said part of that change has been serving as a director of the offense, that coaches have trusted him to check out of run plays that won’t work against a certain look and into more advantageous ones. He’s even been in on the fun, rushing for touchdowns the last two weeks after having one rushing score his entire career previously.
When Rypien has thrown, it has been a little easier, getting more one-on-one coverages on the outside and posting two of the three most efficient games of his career.
“It’s definitely helping open up the pass game for sure,” Rypien said. “When running the ball that effectively, you don’t need to throw. It’s kind of that attitude of we don’t need to overthink things.”
The Broncos have scored 139 points since their loss, so don’t expect less work for the Broncos’ backs Friday at Air Force.
“I just feel like we want to be more physical than the other team,” McNichols said. “... It just helps the whole offense if you can establish the run.”
Harsin said even though Rypien probably would “like to sling it 50 (times),” embracing the shift in how the offense operates has been another part of why it can run smoothly. Rypien is on board, and even if he’s less of the gunslinger lately, the team is on a three-game win streak.
“After that game, we kind of realized we need to run to win. ... More so, the mentality has kind of changed that we need to run first and foremost,” Rypien said.
REPORT: FORMER COACH HAWKINS TO FIU
The Sporting News reported Sunday night former Boise State head coach Dan Hawkins will join Butch Davis’ staff at Florida International as offensive coordinator. Hawkins, who has maintained a residence in Boise, currently works as an ESPN analyst.
Hawkins was 53-11 as the Broncos’ coach from 2001-05 before departing for Colorado, where he went 19-39 from 2006-10.
No. 20 Boise State at Air Force
- When: 1:30 p.m. Friday
- Where: Falcon Stadium (46,692, FieldTurf), Colorado Springs, Colo.
- TV: CBS Sports Network
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
- Records: Boise State 10-1, 6-1 Mountain West; Air Force 8-3, 4-3
- Series: Tied 2-2 (Air Force has won last two; won 37-30 in 2015 in Boise)
- Vegas line: Boise State by 8
- Kickoff weather: Low 50s and sunny, slight winds