When Boise State senior quarterback Montell Cozart was getting ready for his first game with the Broncos on Saturday, junior starter Brett Rypien gave him a simple piece of advice.
“Brett told me when I go in there to just be me,” the Kansas transfer said.
Cozart went out and flashed his dual-threat abilities and led two touchdown drives in the 24-13 win over Troy.
Rypien had a subpar performance, so after the game, Cozart returned the favor and gave him a simple piece of advice.
“I told him, ‘Just be you, 4, just be you. I’ve seen you play,’ ” Cozart said.
Boise State’s starting quarterback Saturday night at No. 20 Washington State will be Rypien, who has started for 24 straight games. But the addition of Cozart, who had immediate success, adds a new wrinkle.
No longer is Rypien taking every snap and throwing every pass. If Cozart plays well, some will clamor for more — look no further than the cheers he got when he came into play late in Saturday’s win. Pressure could build if Rypien has to look over his shoulder, but he feels that is always there.
“I always have to play good no matter what, whether Montell was here or not. I still have to play good because we need to win,” Rypien said. “That’s something I think I’ve always dealt with here. I can’t really focus on the external factors. I have to focus on the day-to-day process and getting myself better from Week 1 to Week 2.”
In Rypien’s last three starts, dating to the end of the 2016 season, he has completed just 54 of 100 passes for 781 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. The offense has scored 35 points in those games with him at the helm.
The Boise State staff is fully confident that Rypien can take what is thrown his way, and that pressure is sure to be ratcheted up a notch as the junior plays near his hometown of Spokane in the stadium where his uncle, Mark, used to start for the Cougars.
“Brett is a professional. I’ve said from Day One, he handles things really well,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “We got in the quarterback meeting room (Sunday) and it was back to work. There was a great vibe. Those guys both work well together and feed off each other and push each other, and that’s what you want as a coach.”
To be fair, Hill also said of Rypien before last year’s Cactus Bowl, “Things tend to build a little bit through a game if it’s not going great.” Rypien said spending occasional drives on the sideline certainly feels different, and playing two quarterbacks consistently can lead to issues.
Rypien’s first words when summarizing his game were, “I never really got into a rhythm.” Though he completed four of his first five passes, the Broncos’ first three drives ended when they were stopped on a fourth down, lost a fumble on a sack of Rypien, and punted. After Cozart’s first drive, in the second quarter, Rypien re-entered the game, and his second pass was intercepted and run back for a touchdown.
Cozart has been in Rypien’s situation before. While at Kansas, he was often part of a quarterback rotation, and it didn’t always work. Boise State is a stronger team top to bottom, though.
“It’s definitely tough, but I feel like when two guys have a great relationship and are able to talk, share what they see on the field, I feel it can help a little bit,” Cozart said. “You’ve always got to stay ready, because anything can happen. I definitely feel like it’s a little tough, you can’t get into a rhythm maybe, or coming off the bench cold. When the opportunity presents itself, you’ve just got to go out there and handle it.”
On Monday, coach Bryan Harsin said there’s no additional pressure being put on Rypien, that “every game’s the same to us.” He praised Rypien’s movement in the pocket and ability to find secondary options when others were covered.
But Rypien is in a unique spot, knowing that if he struggles, there isn’t any fear to put in Cozart. For Rypien’s part, all that matters is putting up a better game in Pullman.
“It’s something I think every quarterback in the country deals with. We don’t always have perfect games and I realize that,” Rypien said. “That’s not my first off game and its not going to be my last off game, so it’s something I realize and I’m just looking forward to getting better in Week 2.”
Boise State fell in the voting for both major college football polls, as the Broncos are eight spots out of the AP Top 25 and USA Today polls with 22 points and 36 points, respectively. They had 37 and 49 points, respectively, in those polls in the preseason voting.
Saturday’s opponent, Washington State, moved up four spots to No. 20 in the AP poll and went from unranked to No. 22 in the coaches’ poll.
Here is how I voted in the AP poll this week:
2. Ohio State
5. Penn State
9. Oklahoma State
11. Florida State
15. Virginia Tech
18. Miami (Fla.)
19. Washington State
20. South Florida
21. Notre Dame
22. Kansas State
25. South Carolina
Boise State at No. 20 Washington State
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Martin Stadium (32,952, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPN (Mark Jones, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 1-0 (beat Troy 24-13); Washington State 1-0 (beat Montana State 31-0)
Series: Washington State leads 4-1 (Boise State won 31-28 last year in Boise)
Vegas line: Washington State by 10
Kickoff weather: Upper 60s, clear