BOISE — After early season losses to Washington State and Virginia, the Boise State Broncos are on course for the Mountain West title after five straight wins, four against conference opponents.
Saturday’s 41-14 win over Nevada at home paired a Colorado State loss to Wyoming means the Broncos are currently the only undefeated team in the Mountain West.
So what should we attribute the success to? It turns out, a lot of things.
Offensively, the Broncos level of play during the last five games has been enhanced by the performance of junior quarterback Brett Rypien. In the last three games, Rypien has completed more than 70 percent of his passes and has twice thrown for more than 250 yards, including against Nevada.
“If your quarterback plays well, your offense is going to play well,” Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin said after Satuday’s game. “And he’s done that.”
Rypien had some question marks early on in the season. In the season opener against Troy, he only completed 13 of 23 passes. He threw three interceptions in the first four games while dealing with injuries and the increased role of backup Montell Cozart.
But Harsin said Rypien and his coaching staff have shown the resilience necessary to have a comeback like this.
“They’ve fought through some of the downs to have some of these better games because that’s what you do,” Harsin said.
Rypien said the rushing game has made his task easier, as the Broncos have averaged 162 rushing yards per game during the streak.
“The run game has been opening up some opportunities,” he said. “(Now) I’m gaining more confidence in distributing the ball, which I needed to do.”
With how the defense has played over the last five games, it’s no wonder the offense is more comfortable. After giving up 42 points to Virginia at home, the Broncos have allowed 14 or fewer points in each of the five games thereafter.
Safety Kekoa Nawahine said that the defense has been successful in not letting individual mistakes impede its performance.
“We always know that teams are going to be able to get some explosive plays on us,” he said. “(But) we have a lot of guys on our defense who are composed under pressure.”The defense has been especially successful on third downs, only allowing about one conversion for every three attempts.
But defense isn’t the only way to keep an opposing offense off the field. Refusing to turn the ball over is also key.
Since an interception in the opening drive of their game at BYU, which kickstarted the win streak, the Broncos have yet to turn the ball over. That’s almost 300 minutes of turnover-free play by the Boise State offense.
All of this has come together to put Boise State in prime position for postseason opportunity. If Boise State can pull out two wins in its next three games, it will be playing for the conference title.
Harsin said the biggest factor in the team’s recent success is having a mindset that avoids this exact mentality of looking ahead, trying to gauge where they are amongst the Mountain West landscape and figuring out what’s “good enough.”
“We can do the minimum,” he said. “(But) that’s not how we want to operate.”
His message to his team during the streak has been, as he said, “avoid the noise.”
“For our guys, I hope the blinders are on,” he said. “They’ll enjoy tonight, and we’ll talk about Colorado State starting tomorrow.”
Correction: A previous version of this story included an inaccurate result for the Colorado State—Wyoming game. We regret the error.