Boise State at Washington State

Sports Xchange

September 06, 2017 at 5:37 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash.
TV: ESPN
SERIES: Washington State leads 4-1; Boise State won 31-28 last year in Boise, Idaho.
RANKINGS: Washington State No. 20

PLAYERS TO WATCH
–QB Luke Falk, a senior Heisman Trophy candidate, threw three touchdown passes against Montana State, breaking Connor Halliday’s school career passing touchdown record of 90. Falk now has 92 career touchdown passes. Falk threw for 311 yards, his school-best 25th career 300-yard game. He passed Alex Brink for second in school history in career passing yards with 11,204, trailing Halliday’s record of 11,304. Falk recorded his 19th career win, trailing only Jason Gesser’s school record of 24. Falk started the game with 20 consecutive completions.

–RB James Williams, a sophomore, caught 13 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns against Montana State, setting school single-game records for receptions and receiving yards by a running back.

–DE Hercules Mata’afa, a junior who was a second-team All-Pac-12 pick last season, tallied 2.5 tackles for loss last week, including 1.5 sacks. He now has 27 tackles for loss in his career. He finished fifth in the conference last year with 13.5 tackles for loss with a team-high five sacks.

Broncos

–CB Avery Williams, a redshirt freshman, ran back a punt 81 yards for a score on the first touch of his college career. It was the fifth-longest punt return in school history, and the first punt-return score since Donte Deayon’s 75-yarder at Wyoming on Nov. 22, 2014. Williams also returned a kick 48 yards. He was selected the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week.

–RB Alexander Mattison carried 13 times for 82 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown run, in the season opener. He rushed for 328 yards and four touchdowns last season while serving as the backup to Jeremy McNichols. He shared the backfield in the opener with redshirt senior Ryan Wolpin, who ran 17 times for 47 yards.

–QB Brett Rypien is 18-7 as the starter at Boise State, including a 3-1 mark against teams from Power 5 conferences.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

No. 20 Washington State will be trying to elevate itself from “JC softball team” status on Saturday when it attempts to avenge last season’s loss at Boise State.

The Cougars lost 31-28 to the Broncos early in the 2016 season, prompting coach Mike Leach to question his team’s toughness.

“That’s what we are, a JC softball team — it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s, ‘The team that wins is the one that has the most fun,'” he said.

“Crap like that. … All this stuff that has contaminated America where they give every little kid a trophy and don’t keep score in Little League anymore.”

The teams meet at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash., after each won its season opener last week.

Washington State defeated visiting Montana State 31-0 last week at Martin Stadium. Boise State beat Troy 24-13 at home.

Last season’s matchup ended up being a thriller, as the Cougars rallied from 17 points down in the third quarter. Luke Falk, who threw for 480 yards on 55-of-71 passing, attempted a last-second heave that was batted down. Boise State escaped, its 34th consecutive home win against a non-conference opponent at the time.

“We should have won that game,” Leach said Monday in his weekly press conference. “I didn’t think we executed well. I thought we were slow and tentative. Of course, none of that counts for this year.”

At the outset of practice this week, Boise State was mostly concerned about its personnel, with a big topic — outside of the program, at least — being who should start at quarterback.

One of the quarterbacks in question, starter Brett Rypien, is quite familiar with Washington State’s program. From nearby Spokane, Rypien considered attending Washington State before committing to Boise State.

His uncle is former Cougars standout quarterback Mark Rypien, who was a Super Bowl MVP with the Washington Redskins.

Brett Rypien completed 13 of 23 passes for 160 yards last week against Troy. He was sacked four times and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

Backup quarterback Montell Cozart, a graduate transfer from Kansas, led the Broncos to both of their offensive touchdowns.

Putting an end to the quarterback controversy — for now — Boise State coach Bryan Harsin reiterated Monday that Rypien’s status as the starter has not changed.

“I watch the quarterbacks and the only people that matter are the ones in this building that actually watch the film, and I thought Brett played well,” Harsin said. “The one thing is, unless you want to go back and study the film, quarterbacks get way too much credit and way too much blame.

“If you truly understand football and you study it and watch the position and see all the other things that go into it, Brett did some good things. Certainly there’s areas to improve. It’s no different with Montell. He did some good things, but has areas to improve.”

In last year’s win over Washington State, Rypien threw for 299 yards, completing 19 of 35 passes, but he had three interceptions to go with his one touchdown pass.

Falk is the undeniable leader of Washington State’s offense, coming off a game in which he set a school career record for touchdown passes with 92. Falk enters the Boise State game needing 101 passing yards to break Connor Halliday’s school career passing yards record of 11,304.

One element of the Cougars’ loss last year to Boise State was a lack of a running game. Boise State’s defense controlled the line of scrimmage and limited Washington State to only 40 yards rushing on 20 attempts.

“We’re just looking forward to running the ball,” Washington State offensive tackle Cole Madison said. “We didn’t run the ball for crap that game. We’ve just gotta pound it down and make something happen.”

Washington State’s James Williams, who had 13 receptions for 163 yards (both school records for a running back) against Montana State last week, perhaps provided some bulletin-board material by saying, “Last year, we played on their level.”

“We just gotta keep up with our speed and stay on our level,” he added.

Washington State is looking to start a season 2-0 for the first time since 2011.