Fresno State Football

At Boise State, Bulldogs finally confront a passing attack that can actually hurt them

Tedford previews matchup with Boise State

Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford previews a critical Mountain West Conference football matchup against the Boise State Broncos at Albertsons Stadium on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The Bulldogs go in ranked No. 16 and on a seven-game winning streak.
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Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford previews a critical Mountain West Conference football matchup against the Boise State Broncos at Albertsons Stadium on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The Bulldogs go in ranked No. 16 and on a seven-game winning streak.

Fresno State is No. 1 in Mountain West Conference football in scoring defense, passing defense, third-down defense, red zone scoring and red zone touchdown percentage, fewest explosive plays of 20 or more yards allowed and most interceptions.

The Bulldogs also are No. 2 in total defense and turnovers gained.

But that resume was built for the most part against teams with sketchy quarterback play – nine games into the season they have yet to face a quarterback in a second season as a starter. Now, play time is over.

Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien speaks to the media about his big game and the Broncos' offensive showing at Air Force.

The Bulldogs next up have Boise State and Brett Rypien, a senior who has seen the blitzes and the disguise and checked the Broncos out of a bad play into a good play and out of a good play into a better play. He is an accurate passer, capable of stringing together many completions and throwing an opposing defense off balance.

Rypien on Friday against Fresno State will likely become the all-time leader in the Mountain West in completions and passing yards – he has 957 completions and 12,655 career passing yards and is five completions and 36 yards away from passing former San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley at the top of those lists.

He also has 34 career wins as a starter.

The spotlight for the Bulldogs in a matchup with Boise State is perhaps brightest there.

Fresno State is allowing opposing quarterbacks to hit on only 48.3 percent of their passes and 178.2 passing yards per game, but those numbers are thin.

Can the Bulldogs keep it going against a top passing offense? Boise State is leading the Mountain West and 11th in the nation, averaging 318.9 yards per game. It is second in the conference with 40 explosive pass plays of 20 or more yards.

Fresno State linebacker George Helmuth discusses the Bulldogs' defensive effort in a 48-3 victory over the UNLV Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Helmuth had eight tackles in the win, four solo.

Fresno State has not faced an FBS quarterback who at this point in the season has completed even 60 percent of his passes – 60 percent would rank in the top 64 in the nation among qualifying quarterbacks.

The combined rating for the opposing starters: an unflattering 127.82 – which would rank in the top 82.

The opposing quarterbacks with completion percentage and efficiency rating:

  • Cole McDonald (Hawaii) 59.8, 152.40

  • Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA) 57.7, 122.29

  • Mitchell Guadagni (Toledo) 57.5, 161.96

  • Sheriron Jones (New Mexico) 53.7, 130.16

  • Max Gilliam (UNLV) 53.7, 116.62

  • Cristian Solano (Nevada) 52.3, 76.81

  • Zack Annexstad (Minnesota) 52.2, 118.26

  • Tyler Vander Waal (Wyoming) 50.2, 94.39

In the Bulldogs’ victory at UNLV, Gilliam never hit more than three passes in a row. In the win over Wyoming, Vander Waal hit his first four, then never back-to-back after that. With New Mexico and Jones, the longest string was three completions in a row.

Fresno State linebacker James Bailey discusses the Bulldogs' 48-3 victory at UNLV on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. The Bulldogs have allowed only 36 points in their first five conference games, only 7.2 points per game.

The Bulldogs’ defense has a lot to do with that, but so, too, does the opposing quarterback – the talent, the timing, the accuracy.

None of them in 2018 have been capable of consistently wounding the Bulldogs’ defense.

Rypien has the Broncos on a four-game winning streak against Nevada, Colorado State, Air Force and BYU and in those games he has had runs where he has hit 11 of 11, 10 of 10, 12 of 14, 10 of 11, 9 of 10 and 8 of 10 passes.

He has a run game dominated by Alexander Mattison to play off – Mattison has carried the ball 175 times for 726 yards (4.2 ypp) with 10 touchdowns. Boise State does not have another running back with more than 30 carries. Rypien also has a diverse group of receivers led by seniors Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson that runs deep – the Broncos are one of two teams in the FBS that have had eight receivers catch at least one pass in every game this season.

Boise State's Brett Rypien talks about the legacy he would like to leave behind saying, 'Ultimately, it'd be nice to have a storybook end to my senior season, but my legacy is going to be how I treated people in the locker room and the community.'

Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford calls Rypien “a great player.”

“He’s highly competitive. He’s really smart, understands what he’s doing, very accurate passer. He can throw the deep ball, throws the intermediate ball really well, can scramble and extend plays,” Tedford says. “He can pull it down and go, as well, and make positive yards, so you can’t go to sleep on that, either. They’ll have some designed quarterback runs with him. He’s an experienced, great player. He has had a lot of success throughout his career and he has a lot of playmakers around him.

“Anytime you have someone that is that experienced and has had that much success, he knows where he’s going with the football. he’s very smart, doesn’t turn it over He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the country.”

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada