It doesn’t seem like that long ago that Brett Rypien burst on the scene in a 2015 romp at Virginia — opening a world of possibility for Bronco Nation.
Less than three and a half years later, Rypien’s career is over. The fact that it ended in confusing fashion, with the first-quarter cancellation of the First Responder Bowl, seems fitting. For all the promise and all the talent, Rypien was unable to attain the results he wanted — winning one conference title and coming up short in the annual quest for a New Year’s Six bowl bid.
Still, statistically, Rypien wedged his name right behind Kellen Moore’s in Boise State’s record book in many categories. He broke the Mountain West record for career passing yards and earned first-team all-conference honors three times.
So where do you place him in Boise State history? Is he second to Moore because of the stats and conference accolades? Is he behind all three Fiesta Bowl-winning quarterbacks? And how might that perception change if he becomes the first player to finish his college career as a Boise State quarterback and be selected in the seven-round NFL Draft?
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Here’s how I’d rank the top five Boise State QBs of the Football Bowl Subdivision era — based on how they performed in college. The comparisons are challenging because the Broncos have played in three conferences, the quality of opposition has intensified and the talent in the locker room has increased over the two-decade span.
You can vote on where you’d place Rypien in the polls embedded below in this story.
1. Kellen Moore (2008-11): He remains college football’s winningest quarterback (50-3) and a lock for the College Football Hall of Fame. His name dominates the school record book. But more importantly, he led the Broncos to two undefeated regular seasons, lost three games by a combined total of five points (the Broncos missed game-winning field goals in two of them) and never trailed by more than seven points in his four-year career. And while it’s easy to dismiss the WAC as a weaker conference, Moore was 6-0 against the Power Five and 7-3 against ranked opponents (the rest of Boise State’s QBs have combined for eight Top 25 wins).
Key stat: He threw 142 touchdown passes in his career — 52 more than Rypien, who is second in school history.
2. Ryan Dinwiddie (2001-03): He’s the forgotten man, it seems, when people reminisce about great Boise State QBs. But Dinwiddie is the closest thing to Moore the Broncos have had — exceptional accuracy and feel for the game, remarkable consistency and never flustered in big moments. Dinwiddie still holds one key record Moore couldn’t pry away, for pass efficiency in a season (188.18 in 2002), and Moore barely topped him for career pass efficiency (168.98 to 168.89). Dinwiddie didn’t face as much high-end competition, but he was the starting QB for the Broncos’ first Top 25 win (at Fresno State in 2001), first Power Five win (vs. Iowa State in the 2002 Humanitarian Bowl), first Top 25 season (2002) and first 13-win FBS season (13-1 in 2003). That 2003 team was perhaps the best testament to Dinwiddie’s play: The Broncos went 7-1 on the road, including a win at No. 18 TCU in the Fort Worth Bowl, with only one other All-WAC offensive player.
Key stat: Dinwiddie was 19-1 in his last 20 college starts, with the loss coming by two points at Oregon State. The Broncos scored at least 40 points in 12 of those games.
3. Brett Rypien (2015-18): Rypien stepped into a bit of a mess in 2015 after Ryan Finley got injured, changing the course of both players’ careers. Finley ended up transferring to North Carolina State and developing into an NFL prospect; Rypien burned his redshirt, which is the reason he won’t be the Broncos’ quarterback in 2019. Rypien’s place in the Mountain West record book likely is secure for a while with 13,581 passing yards. And he probably will be appreciated more in hindsight than he was during his career, which unfortunately was marked by a few lousy games and some terrible luck, like playing his final full college game in some of the worst conditions ever seen at Albertsons Stadium and getting knocked out of his dream game at Washington State with a concussion.
But his passing talent and toughness were apparent, particularly in the loss last season at Oklahoma State, and his leadership was key to helping the Broncos right the ship after 2015. Boise State finished in the Top 25 the past two seasons and posted two wins against ranked opponents to qualify for the 2018 Mountain West championship game.
Key stat: Rypien was 4-3 as a starter in games against Top 25 opponents with two overtime losses. One of the overtime losses was that Washington State game, when he was knocked out in the first half.
4. Grant Hedrick (2013-14): Hedrick is a difficult player to rank because, unlike the rest of the guys on this list, he was a starter for only a season and a half, taking over for the injured Joe Southwick in the middle of the 2013 season. But Hedrick’s dynamic combination of speed, guts and improved accuracy led to one of the best seasons in school history in 2014. He completed 70.8 percent of his passes, threw for 23 touchdowns, rushed for eight touchdowns and produced 306 yards of offense per game, coming up just shy of Dinwiddie’s school record set in 2003. Hedrick’s performance came amid the coaching transition from Chris Petersen to Bryan Harsin, and he led the Broncos to the 2014 Fiesta Bowl championship.
Key stat: Hedrick holds the school record for career completion percentage at 70.2. Moore is second at 69.7.
5 (tie). Jared Zabransky (2004-06) and Bart Hendricks (1997-2000): It’s easy to lump these two together because they had similar styles as dual threats, they hit significant bumps that threatened to derail them, and they overcame that adversity to lead the Broncos to breakthrough successes. Zabransky, who got bitten by the turnover bug as a junior in 2005, fought off a challenge from Taylor Tharp to retain the starting job in 2006. Zabransky’s efficiency rating that year was better than any single season Rypien had, helping Boise State win its first Fiesta Bowl.
Hendricks and then-coach Dirk Koetter had their issues in 1998 and early 1999. But when Koetter opened up the offense in the middle of the 1999 season, the Broncos’ entire program changed. Hendricks went 16-2 in his final 18 games, including the first two bowl wins in school history, and was named the Big West Offensive MVP in 1999 and 2000.
Key stat: Zabransky is the only Boise State quarterback with four rushing touchdowns in a game and still has the third-longest run in school history (85 yards). Hendricks ranks fourth in school history in total offense, behind Moore, Rypien and Tony Hilde (1993-96).
Boise State’s most efficient passers
Here’s where Boise State’s FBS-era quarterbacks rank in career pass efficiency:
1. Kellen Moore: 168.98
2. Ryan Dinwiddie: 168.89
3. Grant Hedrick: 153.74
4. Brett Rypien: 149.22
5. Joe Southwick: 145.93
6. Taylor Tharp: 145.62
7. Jared Zabransky: 144.99
8. B.J. Rhode: 143.38
9. Bart Hendricks: 139.93
Note: Southwick started for a season and a half (2012-13) and Tharp for one season (2007). Rhode was a backup who filled in for Dinwiddie for games in 2001 and 2002.