A tough night for Boise State starting quarterback Brett Rypien led to more playing time for backup Montell Cozart on Saturday night at Washington State.
Rypien left the game with an undisclosed injury late in the first quarter, giving way to Cozart, a graduate transfer from Kansas.
Rypien led the Broncos on a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on Boise State’s opening possession, but that’s where the good news ended.
On BSU’s second possession of the first quarter, Rypien was sacked by Washington State linebacker Frankie Luvu and defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa.
The ball came loose, and safety Robert Taylor scooped up the fumble for a WSU touchdown.
“That’s a tough one. We’ve got to eliminate the turnovers,” BSU coach Bryan Harsin said. “At the quarterback position as well, you get hit, you’ve got to hang onto the ball. Running backs get hit, you’ve got to hang onto the ball. Anybody that has the ball on our team, we’ve got to take care of it and got to hang onto it.”
But the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Luvu wasn’t done yet.
Near the end of the first quarter, Luvu broke through the Broncos’ offensive line, tagging Rypien for a bone-crushing 6-yard loss. Rypien’s head bounced off the turf twice on the hit, and he briefly bent down, resting his hands on his knees.
Rypien then went to the sideline and sat on the bench with his helmet off for the remainder of the first half.
Cozart, who came in for one play earlier in the game, took over at QB. The drive ended in a punt, and Cozart came over to Rypien on the sideline and gave him a high-five.
When the Broncos returned to the field after halftime, Rypien had traded his uniform for warmup pants, a long-sleeved shirt and cap.
Cozart finished 12-for-20 for 161 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also led the Broncos in rushing with 14 carries for 72 yards and another score.
If Rypien has a concussion, recovery protocol guidelines may keep him from being cleared in time for Boise State’s Mountain West opener Thursday at home against New Mexico.
Harsin did not provide an update on Rypien’s injury in a postgame press conference.
“He wasn’t able to come back in the game. I don’t know everything moving forward, so I won’t comment on that,” Harsin said. “It was tough because he was hit, and he was hit solid.”
Offensive line issues continue
Washington State had four sacks on Saturday, three of them in the first quarter. In the Broncos’ season opener Sept. 2 against Troy, they also allowed four, with three coming in the first half.
As was the case with the Trojans, once Cozart came into the game, the pressure was eased by the mobile senior.
“The adjustments need to happen sooner, that’s really the key,” Harsin said. “They need to happen faster, we need to go out there and have them, be ready to go from the start. We can’t always just be adjusting as the game goes on. We have to go out there and have those things ready.”
Horton a hero again
Boise State junior cornerback Tyler Horton has two career interceptions — both on Washington State quarterback Luke Falk, both inside the Cougars’ red zone.
Horton had an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown against Washington State in Boise last year, and on Saturday intercepted Falk at the Broncos’ 3-yard line. They didn’t capitalize, however, as Rypien’s fumble came four plays later.
Rypien vs. Rypien
Rypien faced Washington State on the same field his uncle, Mark, became a Cougar legend.
“I know I won’t have to get a ticket for him because I think he gets season tickets for life,” Rypien said during game week.
Mark played for the Cougars from 1982 to 1985 and played 11 NFL seasons. He told the Idaho Statesman last year when the Broncos and Cougars faced off: “My heart and soul is in both directions, but I’m a Cougar through and through. I hope Brett throws for 490 yards and seven touchdowns, but loses to my Cougars 63-49.”
Boise State won 31-28 in the 2016 meeting. Brett Rypien grew up in Spokane, but had never played at Martin Stadium in Pullman. He did take part in a few summer camps here, though. A fan at plenty of Washington State games, he compared the BSU-WSU matchup to when hated rival Washington visits.
“Hopefully an Apple Cup atmosphere, that’s what I would prep for,” Rypien said. “Loud, exciting, I’m looking forward to it.”
Air quality better than expected
Air quality, which had been a concern in Boise and Pullman over the last week — forcing both teams to practice indoors — cleared up at Martin Stadium before kickoff.
At 6 p.m. local time, the Air Quality Index was 67, which is considered moderate. It had been as high as 185 in the middle of the week.
Senior tight end Jake Roh was Boise State’s game captain in addition to season-long captains Rypien, Cedrick Wilson and Leighton Vander Esch. … The Broncos wore white helmets, white jerseys and white pants. The Cougars wore all-red uniforms. … Redshirt freshman Avery Williams, who had an 81-yard punt return touchdown in Sept. 2’s opener against Troy, carried the Hammer for Boise State before the game. … Washington State won the coin toss and kicked off. Running back Jamal Morrow, who once appeared on the “Price Is Right,” was the lone Cougar on the field, and the show’s theme song was played afterward. ... Late in the second quarter, Washington State quarterback Luke Falk became the program’s all-time leader in passing yards. He now has 11,397. Connor Halliday held the previous record with 11,304. In WSU’s season opener, Falk broke the school record for career touchdown passes with 92. Halliday also held that record with 91. ... Sophomore linebacker Will Heffner and sophomore right guard Eric Quevedo made their first career starts for Boise State. ... Junior wide receiver Akilian Butler left the game and was carted off with a knee injury. Harsin said he did not know its severity.