Boise State OC Zak Hill on Broncos' unique QB rotation
Think of trying to figure out when Boise State will put Montell Cozart at quarterback. And when Brett Rypien will come back in.
And then both of them are on the field all of a sudden.
It can be confusing, for sure. So imagine what opposing defenses feel like.
“They’re playing two QBs probably better than I’ve ever seen somebody play two QBs,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said. “I don’t know how (coach) Bryan (Harsin) does it. He’s managed both of them very well. ... I’m sure they’re good teammates and it’s all working. It’s neat to see.”
Both Cozart and Rypien have seemed to accept the two-quarterback system as well as one could hope. Cozart was a captain at Kansas before transferring earlier this year, and Rypien has been a captain the past two seasons.
“This has been an interesting year,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “They handle it really well, our team handles it well. It’s not awkward for the team.”
But Hill also said that “it’s not typical, it’s not ideal.”
Rypien has completed 81-of-130 passes (62.3 percent) for 842 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Cozart is 45-of-69 (65.2 percent) for 539 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception. Cozart also has 260 yards and four TDs rushing.
It sort of begs the question: Why does the team stick with Rypien?
Hill mentioned Rypien’s leadership and his command of the entire offense, while noting that “he’s not getting the opportunities he did in previous years.”
“You can look at all the stats, the one that really matters is wins,” Harsin said. “When he’s been in there, we’ve done pretty well. As far as how we mix those guys up, people aren’t making those decisions. We are. We watch film every day, watch practice every day.”
Rypien’s role has been fairly thankless this season, especially last Saturday against Wyoming, when he did a good job converting on second- or third-and-long plays and then handed the offense over to Cozart, often around the opponent’s 30.
Rypien is 16-of-23 (69.6 percent) on third-and-7 or longer, with 10 of those completions going for first downs. Cozart is 10-of-15 in such situations, for three first downs.
“He is a selfless person that is all about the team and Boise State football,” Hill said of Rypien. “All those guys in that room, they have a ton of unit pride. ... A lot of egos have already been pushed aside.”
The offense does sometimes move better with Cozart, especially because of his running abilities. That threat often forces teams to move a safety closer to the line of scrimmage, leaving senior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson in single coverage. With Rypien in, Wilson often is the focal point, since the other receivers have struggled to get open.
“Certain things we might have truly packaged for Montell, and there may be times where we want him to come in for a series and run our normal offense,” Hill said.
Cozart said he went before the team this summer and declared that he would do whatever it takes to help win. There’s no doubt he has done that, and like good coaches should, they’ve put him in advantageous situations.
On only one series against Wyoming did Cozart take a snap in Boise State territory. It was a series in which he was the only quarterback used, and the drive ended with a punt.
“Brett and I, we have a great relationship,” Cozart said. “... He was one of those guys I could go to for anything. We flow really well, we feed off one another. Going into the game, that’s what makes it so easy, being able to have two guys where a defensive coordinator has to prepare for both guys because both guys can do (it all).”
The two have appeared on the field together a few times the past two games. Expect that to continue, further challenging defenses.
“Stay tuned,” Cozart said with a smile.
SLOWER IS FINE, BUT NEED BIG PLAYS
Harsin joked earlier this week when hearing about teams that boast running 80 or 85 plays per game, saying “25 of them suck.”
But it was just two years ago that the Broncos ran 82.9 plays per game. This year, it is 66.7. If the pace has been deliberate, so has the production.
Boise State is one of just six teams without a play of more than 50 yards from scrimmage this season. Utah State, Saturday’s opponent, has allowed just one.
“It hasn’t been pretty by any means, the lack of explosion that we’re in right now,” Hill said.
LOCAL CONNECTIONS TO THE AGGIES
Utah State’s backup center, junior Jake Templeton, began his college career as a walk-on at Boise State. Templeton, a Timberline High graduate, spent the 2014-15 seasons with the Broncos. He appeared in three games last season.
The Aggies’ defensive backs coach, Julius Brown, is in his second season on the staff. He played for Boise State from 1999 to 2003 and was an assistant coach for the Broncos for two years before being fired after the 2015 season.
Two other Idaho natives are on the roster: Declo High grad Stegan Garner (sophomore cornerback) and Madison High grad Logan Lee (redshirt freshman defensive end).
PREGAME ALCOHOL COULD RETURN
The Idaho State Board of Education last week approved pregame alcohol sales in designated areas for ticketed fans at Boise State. The school must provide an annual proposal for those areas. The five for Boise State were Caven-Williams Sports Complex, Allen Noble Hall of Fame, Alumni and Friends Center, Stueckle Sky Club and the club room at Taco Bell Arena.
Alcohol is already allowed in Stueckle, while the school experimented with serving before games at Caven-Williams in 2015. The SBOE disallowed that in June 2016, but the event might return next year.
“While alcohol sales in both Caven-Williams and the Allen Noble Hall of Fame for football games is a possibility for this year, we are focusing our efforts in those areas more toward implementation in 2018-19,” a Boise State statement read.
Boise State at Utah State
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Maverik Stadium (25,100; AstroTurf synthetic grass)
TV: CBS Sports Network (Carter Blackburn, Aaron Taylor, Jenny Dell)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 5-2, 3-0 (beat Wyoming 24-14 last week); Utah State 4-4, 2-2 (beat UNLV 52-28)
Series: Boise State leads 16-5 (Boise State won 21-10 on Oct. 1, 2016, in last meeting)
Vegas line: Boise State by 8
Kickoff weather: Low 50s, clear