The Boise State football team’s offensive staff trims and tweaks the playbook each week to match the opponent.
The Broncos’ first touchdown of the 2018 season didn’t come from that process.
Quarterback Brett Rypien hit wide receiver Sean Modster for a 20-yard touchdown Saturday night against tight coverage in the corner of the end zone on a play that was installed for the Troy game simply because the two seniors had found a special chemistry on the play in fall camp. They even beat the Broncos’ own defense for a touchdown with the same throw in the second scrimmage of camp.
“That was a money ball,” Modster said. “... Brett let loose tonight.”
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Rypien threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns without a turnover in the 56-20 win — a huge development for a team that struggled with its usually dynamic passing attack last season. Rypien threw for 160 yards and no touchdowns in last year’s opener against Troy.
His favorite target Saturday was Modster, who made six catches for 161 yards and touchdowns covering 20 and 54 yards in the first half. He finished with career highs of seven catches and 167 yards against a Troy defense known for stingy play.
“It meant a lot just for our whole offensive unit,” Rypien said. “... It was nice to air it out a little bit in that first half. Our receivers have been doing a great job all fall camp. They’ve been laying in the weeds. There’s no more secrets anymore.”
Modster overcame his own slow start to last season and became a rising playmaker during the second half of 2017. His role likely was larger than initially planned Saturday because of the injury absence of sophomore Octavius Evans. Modster stepped into the X receiver position vacated by Cedrick Wilson, an NFL Draft pick who set the school record for receiving yards in a season last year.
“He’s playing confident, you can tell,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said.
That confidence stems, at least in part, from the bond Modster has built with his quarterback. Rypien’s throws to Modster weren’t just on target — they were dropped into precise spots, a product of many repetitions to perfect the timing.
Rypien’s throw hit Modster in stride on the 54-yard TD and the 20-yarder came on a pass that would have been knocked down by the defender or forced Modster out of bounds if it was almost anywhere else. The two also connected on a 46-yard completion in the second quarter to set up the Broncos’ fourth touchdown.
“He just does a good job of being consistent in practice every single day,” Rypien said. “I always know where he’s going to be. That’s the thing I try to tell these guys all the time: If you run your routes the exact same way every single time, our camaraderie is going to get better.”
Rypien has taken on a leadership role with the receivers and those practice habits he wants are the ones he models himself. Coaches have raved about how Rypien has prepared himself for his senior year, and that was evident to anyone who watched him in the opener. He was 20-for-28 in the game and would have accumulated much more yardage if not for a couple of near misses while throwing to junior college transfer John Hightower in the second half (Rypien said he might have underestimated the newcomer’s speed).
Rypien also rushed for 14 yards while taking just one sack, on the first play of the night.
Several of the throws to Modster were “elite,” coach Bryan Harsin said.
“Brett is like he was tonight about every practice,” Harsin said. “He’s locked in, he’s focused, he’s trying to get game reps, he’s trying to make sure when he goes out and plays there’s not a whole lot of difference. ... He led really well tonight, stayed focused really well, made great decisions, he ran the ball well. Everything he’s been working on that he’s wanted to accomplish, a lot of those things showed up tonight.”
Rypien is the “most prepared” quarterback Hill has encountered in his career, the coordinator said. He had been hinting throughout the offseason that an outburst like this was coming.
The next step for Rypien is to show he can do it on a weekly basis.
“He is truly committed to being great,” Hill said, “and it was fun to see him that first half light it up.”