The Boise State football coaches have made it clear the last two weeks: The Broncos must protect true freshman quarterback Brett Rypien better.
At the the same time, they say the protection has been better than it appears and Rypien needs to better protect himself, too.
Rypien was hit six times in about 65 snaps last week against Colorado State. He was sacked once.
“Some of those were big hits,” offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said, “but he delivers big plays. The No. 1 requirement of playing this position is toughness. Obviously we’d like for him not to get hit at all but this is football and this is a contact sport. We’re going to do a better job protecting him, that’s going to be a focus for everybody involved, but he’s going to have to do a better job moving in the pocket, sliding out of trouble. And then sometimes, hey, you’ve got to take one.”
Rypien certainly has proven that he’s willing and able to take a shot to deliver a key throw. Against Colorado State and Virginia, he faced a blitz where the opponent brought more defenders than the Broncos could block.
He tossed a 64-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Sperbeck against Virginia and a 35-yard fade to Chaz Anderson on an almost-blind throw against Colorado State.
“They gambled,” Drinkwitz said, “and we made them pay.”
Some of the protection breakdowns have been the result of third-and-long situations that allow defenses to rush without reservation. Some have been the result of 1-on-1 defeats of linemen or tailbacks by defenders. Others have come from mental or communication errors.
“(Rypien) has been taking too many hits,” junior right tackle Mario Yakoo said. “They’re not getting sacks on him but we’ve got to finish. We’re letting him get hits because we’re not finishing our blocks or we’re having miscommunication or sliding someone to the wrong side or cutting people free. We’ve got to have better awareness and communicate better and make sure we pick it up and finish.”
Offensive line coach Scott Huff said Virginia was particularly aggressive with its blitzes, choosing to expose the secondary for a chance at the big play. Colorado State also went after Rypien.
At times, Huff said, the Broncos have had enough players “on paper” to pick up the blitz but all it takes is one small mistake to allow pressure on the quarterback.
“We’ve been pretty consistent the last few weeks,” Huff said. “We’ve got a lot of meat left on the bone. We’re capable of playing better than we have.”
Like Drinkwitz, Huff is glad to see that Rypien has made defenses pay a steep price for attacking him.
“What hurts you is when you miss on those opportunities,” Huff said, “because the quarterback is potentially taking a hit and we’re not getting anything for it. It doesn’t hurt as bad I’d guess (if the result is a big play). ‘The Natural,’ when he broke his bat at the end, he broke Wonder Boy for a foul ball. Let’s break Wonder Boy for a home run.”
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A few other offensive line notes:
— Yakoo on the Broncos’ short-yardage issues: “It’s one block every time, getting your head from here to here. ... That’s one thing that has been a disappointment. Us five should have no problem getting a yard.”
— Huff said offenses and defenses have become very similar in college football. The differences are more situational and coaches try to predict what the other team will do. That’s where surprises come in. “Hopefully if you don’t (guess right), if you’ve prepared enough you can overcome that,” he said.
— Center Marcus Henry says it’s getting more difficult for him to read defenses’ intent before the snap: “Defenses are getting a lot better at disguising their blitzes,” he said. “Our coaches do a very good job of preparing us. We’ve seen almost everything but every team is going to have a little wrinkle in there somewhere that we haven’t seen yet.”
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