The attributes that made Brett Rypien a two-time first-team All-Mountain West quarterback did not just disappear over the summer.
In fact, the Boise State junior thought he was poised for his best season.
But the Broncos’ offense sputtered in the first half of 2017, as an unsettled offensive line tried to find consistency and Rypien’s passing targets fought growing pains.
It took until just before Halloween, but Rypien looks every bit the top-notch passer he was supposed to be in recent weeks, and BSU is thriving. The Broncos moved up to No. 23 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, released Tuesday night.
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In his last four games, Rypien is 78-of-119 (65.5 percent) for 1,149 yards with 12 touchdowns and just one interception (an excellent rating of 178.25). He had two touchdown passes prior to the impressive stretch.
“I feel like we’ve done a better job getting more guys involved in the offense, spreading it out a little bit more,” Rypien said. “I felt like coming into this year, I was playing a lot better, but didn’t really get to show it the first few weeks, just stuck with it and got better every week.”
Offensive coordinator Zak Hill said earlier this month that Rypien “just didn’t have a lot of opportunities” as the season began. His pass efficiency rating stands at 146.4 and has gone from 93rd before the Oct. 28 game at Utah State to 27th nationally as of Monday.
“He’s going into games feeling very confident and prepared, and it’s showing,” Hill said. “Through these last few games, he’s made some big-time throws. ... His confidence is to the point where he trusts all the wide receivers, he trusts our offensive line. It’s coming around at the right point, in the right time of the season.”
Hill praised Rypien’s ability to throw in some difficult spots in recent weeks, including under pressure against Air Force. According to Pro Football Focus, he was 9-of-12 for 203 yards with three touchdowns when being blitzed last Saturday.
“Brett’s toughness definitely showed up,” Hill said.
Though Rypien has still been spelled in spots by senior Montell Cozart, he’s taken a vast majority of the throws, with 92 in the last three games to Cozart’s 10.
As Rypien’s confidence has continued to grow, so has his trust in the receivers, who have been more involved than in the first half of the season.
“It’s great to see Brett throw the ball. He’s slinging it out there and just letting it loose,” wide receiver Sean Modster said.
Rypien, who has thrown just one interception in his past 175 pass attempts, also has been kept safe, a major reason for his ability to carve up defenses. Sophomore running back Alexander Mattison has come on strong with 795 yards since the start of October, and the offensive line, which allowed 13 sacks during the Broncos’ 2-2 start, has allowed just nine during the seven-game win streak.
“Our receiver room has done a great job every single week, our offensive line has gotten a lot better as well,” Rypien said. “It’s been a team effort.”
No. 25 Boise State at Fresno State
When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bulldog Stadium (41,031, FieldTurf)
TV: CBS Sports Network (Rich Waltz, Jay Feely, Jenny Dell)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 9-2, 7-0 (beat Air Force 44-19 last week); Fresno State 8-3, 6-1 (beat Wyoming 13-7 last week)
Series: Boise State leads 13-5 (Broncos won 28-14 in Boise on Dec. 6, 2014, in last meeting)
Vegas line: Boise State by 7
Kickoff weather: Low 70s, partly cloudy