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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Blanchette: Brett Rypien can’t escape the ties to Washington State

In this Nov. 27, 2015, file photo, Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien throws against San Jose State during an NCAA college football game in San Jose, Calif. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
In this Nov. 27, 2015, file photo, Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien throws against San Jose State during an NCAA college football game in San Jose, Calif. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Brett Rypien quarterbacked the process to decide his college destination the same way he does an offense headed for the end zone. Campus visits to five schools his junior year – all “unofficial,” as they had to be by rule. A decision by May. And later, enrollment over Christmas of what was supposed to be his senior year.

But back in the spring, every step of the way, every time they returned home to Spokane, there was Dad to take his temperature.

“Where are you?” Tim Rypien would ask.

“Washington State’s the one,” his son would affirm.

Which moves his father to laugh a little this week.

“He didn’t see himself playing for any other school than WSU,” Tim said. “And now this.”

Yes, now this. This, now.

This has been the shadow over his shoulder ever since that April weekend Brett Rypien committed to play at Boise State and it could not be overlooked that the Broncos were booked on Wazzu’s schedule a couple years down the road. Now is Saturday night, the Broncos and Cougars in Boise with – hurray – something other than blue turf as a conversation starter.

Rypien will try to keep the Broncos humming after a season-opening rout of Louisiana-Lafayette which fired its defensive coordinator after the Ragin’ Cajuns gave up 45 points and 584 yards. Wazzu, meanwhile, surrendered 606 yards and exactly as many points in a loss to Eastern Washington.

Maybe the Cougs should hire the guy as a consultant this week.

There’s been plenty of football fun to hold our interest in these parts over these past 12 months, but being able to keep an eye on Rypien’s progress from a distance has been a nice bonus. First-team all-Mountain West, a bowl game MVP, five 300-yard passing games as rookie – all of that after taking over for the injured Ryan Finley, who beat him out in the fall of 2015 and left him wondering if “I’d be sitting for three years.”

Instead, Finley transferred to North Carolina State, likely wondering the same thing.

Rypien’s rise was no great surprise after the crazy numbers he’d crafted at Shadle Park High School – 13,044 yards and 134 touchdowns after becoming a starter as a skinny freshman. The eyebrows-up was the choice of Boise over WSU, where his uncle, Mark, starred before a splendid NFL career.

Naturally, all sorts of armchair assumptions got attached to that, mostly wrong.

For instance, the notion that perhaps the Cougars – who had offered a scholarship way back during his sophomore year – had taken Rypien’s attachment for granted.

“They recruited him the hardest by far,” Tim Rypien reported. “Coach (Mike) Leach and (former assistant) David Yost did an amazing job. I think calling coach Yost was the hardest thing he’s ever had to do.”

And then there was the idea that Rypien wanted – or needed – to distance himself from the inevitable family references, never mind that he’d already bulled through them at Shadle.

“There were always some expectations,” he said, “but one thing my dad and uncle were big on with me growing up was that pressure is just another chance to prove yourself. I’ve kind of lived by that.”

Agreed Tim, “The idea of being a local boy doing well for Cougs was appealing to him.”

If there was a needed change, it may have been a stylistic one.

“We ran a similar system (to WSU’s) at Shadle Park – an Air Raid kind of system,” Rypien noted. “I felt like I wanted to try something different. Boise State runs a multiple, pro-style offense and I felt really good about the atmosphere down here.”

Oh, the atmosphere. At Boise, Rypien has stepped into a culture which in less than two decades has managed to create a level of fan expectation – of demand – that might never be approached in Pullman. Yes, there would have been constant comparisons to his uncle – and the Thompsons and Gessers who came before and after – but Kellen Moore makes for a daunting standard, too.

Likewise, losing back-to-back home games last year – something that hadn’t happened since 1997 – was educational.

“You’ve got to bring it every single week – I figured that out quickly,” Rypien said. “It does get intense, but that only makes you want to work and prepare harder.”

Saturday provides a different shade of intense. Family, friends, home ties intense. His uncle won’t be there – Mark Rypien’s golfing jones has him Bermuda for a tournament. But he’s already weighed in.

“I told him, ‘It’s an alumni thing, buddy,’ “ Mark said. “I hope he throws for 490 and seven touchdowns – and the Cougs beat them 63-49.”

So will this one mean more to Brett Rypien?

“Probably just another game is what he’d tell you, and when it’s kicked off, it’ll be just another team,” Tim said. “But he knows the characters, the coaches, the fans we know. I think it has to mean a little more.”

This week, at least, Washington State is the one again.

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