A week ago, Boise State senior quarterback Brett Rypien spoke hopefully about a “storybook ending” to the No. 25 Broncos’ season.
With one giant slain, the possibility remains.
Rypien set Mountain West career records for passing yards and pass completions in Boise State’s 24-17 home victory over then-No. 23 Fresno State last Friday, the opener of a three-game stretch critical to the Broncos’ chances of repeating as the Mountain West Mountain division champion.
Next up, New Mexico.
Boise State (8-2, 5-1) will take a five-game winning streak into a meeting against New Mexico (4-7, 1-5) on Friday night, and a victory would assure the Broncos of winner-take-all game for the division title at home against No. 23 Utah State (9-1, 6-0) next week, regardless of the Aggies’ result at Colorado State on Saturday.
“We all know what our goal is,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “We want to play in that championship game.
“It’s time to finish the season. Every year you have to find a way to win your division. A lot of work goes into where we are right now. It’s a chance to finish it (and) finish it right. It starts at New Mexico.”
Boise State has won two of the five championship games since the league went to a two-division format in 2013, and the Broncos had to overcome a 17-3 third-quarter deficit to beat Fresno State in the first do-or-die game last week.
No one played a bigger role than Rypien, who had 269 yards passing with one touchdown and an interception and rushed for 30 yards. His 49-yard touchdown pass to freshman Khalil Shakir with 9:22 remaining in the fourth quarter broke a tie at 17.
“He stepped up and guys are barreling down on him,” Harsin said. “He was able to deliver a perfect ball in that situation. You think about all that going on, and you can deliver a perfect throw like that in a tight ball game, that’s a lot of hard work.”
Rypien passed former San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley’s league record for career passing yards with a 41-yard completion on the first play of the San Diego State game and has 12,924 yards. Rypien, whose father, Mark, was a long-time NFL player, has 981 completions.
Halfback Alex Mattison rushed for a season-high 144 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries last week and has 870 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing this season. He has 369 yards rushing and five touchdowns in the last three games, when he also has caught eight passes for 55 yards.
“The running game, it takes everyone to go out there and do it,” Harsin said. “I thought he elevated his game.”
Wide receivers Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson have been Rypien’s primary targets, combining for 94 receptions, 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Despite the five-game winning streak following early losses to Oklahoma State and San Diego State, Harsin did not want to go there when asked if his team has hit its stride.
“Some teams are doing that right now, the really good teams,” he said. “We just haven’t had that. There are some simple things we can execute better.”
A home loss to New Mexico in 2015 helped derail the Broncos’ chances of winning the division that season, a defeat Harsin said “still stings” and can serve as motivation for this week.
The Lobos have lost five straight since beating UNLV 50-14 in the conference opener and have had trouble with the cream of the conference, losing 38-7 to Fresno State and 61-19 to Utah State. Air Force had 623 yards total offense, 478 rushing, in a 42-24 victory last week.
The Lobos have given up an average of 482 yards a game this season, ranked 119th of the 129 FBS schools, although the defense has been opportunistic the last two weeks while recovering three fumbles and returned one for a touchdown in each.
“At some point, something good has to happen for us,” coach Bob Davie told reporters. “We just have to continue to accept the challenge and fight to get better, and just win a game.”
Boise State has averaged 43.0 points and undefeated in four games at New Mexico, scoring 60 points in 2014 and 49 in 2016.