BOISE - The Boise State football team travels to the Palouse to take on No. 20 Washington State on Saturday night in a nationally-televised rematch of last season's game on the Blue.
LIVE GAME TRACKER: Broncos vs. Cougars
Both teams opened the season last weekend with wins at home.
The Broncos claimed a 24-13 victory over Troy thanks to stout defensive play, and some impressive punt returns by freshman Avery Williams. Also on display were the talents of Boise State's newest offensive weapon - backup quarterback Montell Cozart, who used his feet to extend drives late in the game.
Meanwhile, the Cougars thrashed FSC foe Montana State 31-0. After losing their openers to Big Sky opponents the previous two years, the win came as a huge relief to fans, players and coaches alike. Linebackers coach Roy Manning even exclaimed on Twitter, "The curse is broken!"
With the first game jitters out of the way, Boise State and Washington State are each focused on the task at hand this week - one that undoubtedly be a bigger challenge than they faced in their openers.
The Broncos are heading to enemy territory to face a Top 20 team that is riding a high after its shutout of MSU, and boasts the nation’s active leader in career passing yards. And the Cougars will be facing a Broncos team that should never be underestimated. Boise State went 2-0 against the Pac-12 last season - including a 31-28 win against Wazzu at Albertsons Stadium - and is 11-5 against the conference since 2004.
- Boise State at Washington State
- Saturday, Sept. 9
- Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash.
- Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. MT
The game will be televised on ESPN, which can be found on the following channels:
- Cable One: Channel 133 / 1133 (HD);
- DirecTV: Channel 206;
- Dish Network: Channel 140
ON THE RADIO
Fans can listen to the game on the Bronco Radio Network, which can be found online or on the following stations in the Boise area:
- KBOI 670 AM
- KTIK 93.1 FM
For a list of Bronco Radio Network stations outside the Boise area, click here.
BRONCO ROUNDUP GAME DAY
KTVB's Bronco Roundup Game Day show will be live from Martin Stadium from 5 - 5:30 p.m. on KTVB, KTVB.COM, and in the Bronco Roundup app. Join Sports Director Jay Tust for a live look at all of the major storylines leading up to kickoff.
ABOUT LAST WEEK
Boise State beat a good Troy team thanks to brilliant defensive and special teams performances. Redshirt freshman Avery Williams introduced himself to Bronco Nation by returning a punt 81 yards for a touchdown in his first game action with the team. Williams, who walked on last season and earned a scholarship during fall camp, broke two tackles and stiff-armed a third before racing untouched the rest of the way. He finished with 172 kick return yards. The extraordinary effort earned him Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
Special teams, and kick returns in particular, were a focus during off-season drills. The team had a combined 159 punt return yards as a team last season, so Williams' immediate impact came as a positive sign of things to come.
"It felt like a dream to be honest, running down the sidelines," Williams said after the game. "It's a point of motivation for us, to see that our emphasis was to win the field position battle and get more turnovers than last year, and we are on a great track already."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos held a Troy offense that returned 98.7 percent of their production from last season to just 207 yards, the Trojans' lowest total in three years. Troy's only touchdown came on a 53-yard interception return.
In Pullman, the Cougars exorcised their demons, with a season-opening beatdown of Montana State. After losing to Big Sky Conference teams to open each of the last two seasons, the 31-0 win came as a welcome relief. And it wasn't just the win, but the fashion in which it happened. Washington State moved the ball at will against the Bobcats defense, with quarterback Luke Falk completing an impressive 33 of 39 passes for 311 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. In fact, Falk didn't have an incomplete pass until the third quarter of the game.
The Cougars also dominated on defense, which racked up eight tackles for loss, including three sacks. MSU quarterback Chris Murray spent much of the game under pressure from Wazzu defenders, and managed to complete just five passes for 28 yards.
In addition to Avery Williams, there were plenty of new Broncos on the field for Saturday's game; Coach Bryan Harsin said 16 freshmen made their debuts.
"We had five true freshman play and 20 new guys all-together, so we had some new faces out there that got a chance to get their experience on the Blue," Harsin said. "Plenty to learn from when you go back and watch the tape. That's the best part, you are able to win a game against a really good football team, a veteran team and come out with a win and a lot to work on and a lot to get better at."
Boise State coaches made it clear that nothing has changed when it comes to their quarterback situation. Brett Rypien, the two-time Mountain West first-teamer, will be the starter when the Broncos take the field on Saturday. But what last week's game showed was that the Broncos have another signal-caller with a very different set of skills available should they need him.
Rypien complete 13 of 23 passes for 160 yards against Troy, and was sacked four times. He also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Backup quarterback, and Kansas transfer, Montell Cozart came in for a couple planned series, but after the Rypien-led offense failed to get into the end zone, the Broncos' newest weapon took over, playing most of the fourth quarter. Cozart completed six passes for 50 yards, and added 36 yards rushing. His mobility put the Trojans' defense on their heels, and allowed for sustained scoring drives. The Broncos only two touchdowns of night came with Cozart at the helm.
After the game, there was plenty of fan chatter about whether Rypien would lose his starting spot, but coaches quickly put that notion to rest.
“Brett has put himself in that position to be the starter and he has earned it,” Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said Monday. “One game is not going to influence that either way.”
Harsin echoed that sentiment.
"I thought Brett played well," he said. "Quarterbacks get way too much credit, and they get way too much blame. Brett did some good things, but there are areas to improve. No different with Montell and the quarterback position - he did some good things, (and has) areas to improve."
For their parts, Rypien and Cozart took what could be an awkward and dividing situation and handled it with class. Both quarterbacks met with the media Tuesday.
"We were winning and Montell was doing a great job, so it really wasn't that hard for me," Rypien said.
"My relationship is great with Montell," he added. "He's done nothing but good things since he's been here. He's been unselfish, he's been a good leader, he's helped me out, he's pushed me every single day. I think I'm better because of him."
Cozart revealed just how close the quarterbacks are personally.
"We are always going to have each other's back," he said. "We are going to continue to feed off one another. Brett and I are best friends since I got here."
Saturday's game will be a homecoming of sorts for Rypien, who grew up in Spokane and was a big Cougars fan thanks to his uncle, Mark, who was the star QB in Pullman before he went on to NFL fame.
The younger Rypien was recruited by Washington State, but ultimately chose Boise State.
“It’s gonna be fun,” he told the Seattle Times. “I’ve grown up watching some games in Martin Stadium and going to a few Apple Cups. It’s going to be different for sure, being back home, but I’m looking forward to it. I have all my family coming, and some relatives. I had to get a lot of tickets to this one.”
According to the Times, Mark Rypien will be in attendance Saturday night, and he'll be rooting for the Cougars.
As the first regular season polls were released on Tuesday, Washington State jumped from No. 24 to No. 20 in the AP Top 25. The Cougars also entered the Coaches' Poll at No. 22.
Boise State, meanwhile, lost votes in both polls, despite winning their opener against a solid Troy team. The Broncos picked up 22 votes in the AP Top 25 and 36 votes in the Coaches' Poll, effectively putting them eight spots outside the top 25. The preseason polls had them six spots out.
Saturday's game will mark the sixth meeting between Boise State and Washington State. The Cougars won the first four meetings between the teams, which occurred between 1997 and 2001. The losing streak ended last year when the Broncos beat the Cougars 31-28 at Albertsons Stadium. Up until that game, the Cougars were the only team that the Broncos had played at least four times without registering a win.
Boise State's all-time record against Washington State:
- Sept. 27, 1997 - L, 58-0;
- Sept. 12, 1998 - L, 33-21;
- Oct. 7, 2000 - L, 42-35;
- Sept. 8, 2001 - L, 42-20;
- Sept. 10, 2016 - W, 31-28