Any goodwill built up can immediately be forgotten when you lose, especially in surprising fashion.
Take Boise State senior quarterback Brett Rypien, one of the best passers in the nation coming into last Saturday’s game against San Diego State. Following the 19-13 loss to the Aztecs, which was one of his worst outings, the doubters came out in force.
That’s the way it is at a program so used to double-digit win seasons and home blowouts. But Rypien understands it, and that’s part of why he came to Boise.
“I definitely didn’t play to the standard I’m looking for, the way I played the first four games,” Rypien said.
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Rypien was 21-of-41 passing against the Aztecs for 170 yards with two interceptions — which came on his first six passes. He hadn’t thrown an interception this season coming into that game. It was the second no-touchdown, multi-interception game of his career, the other being 2015’s 52-26 loss at Utah State.
“There’s a few plays I can learn from in that game, that’s what they turn into at this point. I can’t do anything about it now; learn from it and not make those same mistakes again,” Rypien said.
Those mistakes were multiple, and Rypien had no problem reflecting on them.
There was the interception on his third pass of the game, when cornerback Darren Hall stepped in front of a pass for A.J. Richardson on a quick out near the sideline. Rypien said that with no safety help, the Aztecs did not sit on routes, so he thought Richardson would have room.
“It was a one-man route, we had off coverage out there, and the guy made the jump of his life on the ball,” Rypien said.
His second pick came two possessions later after the defense recovered a fumble in its own territory. Rypien tried for John Hightower deep, but safety Tariq Thompson nabbed the one-handed interception near midfield in double coverage.
“We had a shot dialed up. ... We weren’t really able to grab the safety in the middle, and I have to see that and not force that one up there,” he said.
After those interceptions, Rypien said he wanted to “keep having that gunslinger mentality,” but consistent pressure no doubt had an effect. Rypien stressed all week that it was a learning experience for everyone, and it even was for offensive coordinator Zak Hill.
“Trying to get him in a flow was important, and we didn’t do that,” Hill said. “I didn’t do a good job of getting him going early on, even just getting some quick touches to the receivers.”
Avoiding turnovers the rest of the game, Rypien was sacked four times after the interceptions. He led a very good drive to cut the lead to 19-13 that covered 73 yards in 2:02 late in the fourth quarter, going 5-for-8 for 62 yards. He even had a 10-yard run.
But with the chance to take the lead late, the final drive was a microcosm of the game. Rypien completed an 8-yard pass to CT Thomas the first play, but on second down he was called for intentional grounding. He threw in running back Alexander Mattison’s direction, but the back was still near the line of scrimmage, and Rypien overthrew him by 10 yards.
“I thought Alex was going to be out further, he kind of got caught up because he was trying to help out in protection. ... That was a tough one, but we’ve got to be able to respond,” Rypien said.
On third-and-9 from his own 34, Rypien threw just behind Thomas past the first-down marker, the ball hitting off the sophomore’s hands. On fourth down, Rypien went deep to Sean Modster, but overthrew him with three Aztecs nearby.
The Broncos’ quarterback said he likely should have thrown it to a receiver short of the chains — not ideal, but it would have been a higher-percentage throw than the deep ball. “That’s me maybe needing to be smarter as a quarterback,” he said.
“Their safeties were doing a pretty good job reading my eyes. ... Sean, I don’t think was expecting the ball in that situation because it looked like he slowed up a little bit,” Rypien said.
It’s safe to say Rypien was more than aware of what he needed to fix, but he can certainly use some help. After the game, coach Bryan Harsin said “he can’t protect himself out there.” Rypien has been sacked 11 times in the team’s two losses, and just three times otherwise. Rypien said that if teams continue to blitz, then his goal is to “get the ball out quick.”
The offense has averaged 130.5 yards per game on the ground the past nine games, dating to last season. Rypien had thrown an interception in just one of those eight games before Saturday.
“It obviously wasn’t his best performance and it wasn’t our best performance as an offense. ... I can go through a lot of things we had done well that we didn’t do,” Harsin said.
Criticism has fallen on Rypien for not stepping up in “big games,” and he didn’t last week. How quickly it was forgotten he was excellent at Oklahoma State, or made big throws in the Mountain West championship game and Las Vegas Bowl last year.
But the senior is hopeful that when those key spots arise in the coming weeks, those mistakes against San Diego State don’t linger.
“Whether we need to protect better, whether I need to put the ball in a better spot, whether our receivers need to be more urgent out of their routes, everybody learned something from last game,” Rypien said. “That’s the mentality. ... We still control our own destiny. Obviously it’s going to be a little bit harder, but that’s the challenge we’re looking forward to.”
BOISE STATE AT NEVADA
When: 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday
Where: Mackay Stadium (27,000, FieldTurf), Reno, Nev.
TV: CBS Sports Network (Rich Waltz, Aaron Murray, Cassie McKinney); CableOne ch. 139/1139, DirecTV ch. 221, Dish Network ch. 158
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 3-2, 1-1 (lost to San Diego State 19-13 on Saturday); Nevada 3-3, 1-1 (lost to Fresno State 21-3 on Saturday)
Series: Boise State leads 29-13 (won 41-14 on Nov. 4, 2017, in Boise)
Vegas line: Boise State by 16 1/2
Weather: Mid 50s, clear