Boise State tight end ‘pumped’ about first bowl game; Koetter wants to return next year

·5 min read
Kyle Green/For The Idaho Statesman

Boise State tight end Kurt Rafdal had to wait five years for it to happen, but he’s finally going to a bowl game.

Nebraska never won enough games to qualify for a bowl during the four years that Rafdal spent with the Cornhuskers before transferring to Boise State over the summer. He’ll finally get to experience it this year when the Broncos travel to Tuscon to face Central Michigan in the Arizona Bowl on Dec. 31 (noon MT, Barstool Sports stream).

“I’m pumped. I’ve always wanted to go,” Rafdal told reporters on Wednesday. “I’m excited about everything that goes with it: the traveling, the week leading up (to the game). I didn’t care when the bowl game was. It could have been January. I just wanted to go.”

The 6-foot-7, 240-pound redshirt senior has eight catches for 95 yards this fall. That’s more receptions and receiving yards than he accumulated during his entire career at Nebraska. He redshirted in 2017 and caught six passes for 77 yards from 2018 to 2020.

Rafdal said he likes how tight ends are used in Boise State offensive coordinator Tim Plough’s scheme.

“We have to be able to do everything: stretch the field and run routes like receivers, and block as good as linemen,” Rafdal said. “I like how (Plough) has been putting us in a bunch of motions, and we’re lining up all over field. I think it gets the defense to adjust to us.”

Rafdal hauled in the first touchdown pass of his college career in the Broncos’ regular-season finale at San Diego State. It was set up by a play-action fake to running back George Holani, and the 20-yard score was Rafdal’s only catch of the game.

“I was on cloud nine for a little bit,” Rafdal said. “We had drawn that play up midweek and knew it was going to score. When they called it, I was like, ‘Let’s go.’ It was everything I hoped it would be.”

Rafdal has one more year of eligibility remaining, and he said Wednesday that he wants to return for his final season. But he said those conversations with the coaches haven’t happened yet, and they probably won’t until after the bowl game.

If he does return next season, the Broncos are going to be as deep as they have ever been at tight end. Redshirt juniors Riley Smith and Tyneil Hopper are expected back next season, and both have had breakout moments the past couple of years.

Filling in for former Boise State tight end John Bates last year, Smith caught a career-high five passes in the Broncos’ loss to BYU and ended the season with four catches for a career-high 58 yards in the Mountain West championship game against San Jose State. Smith — who was recruited to Boise State as a quarterback — has eight catches for 86 yards and one touchdown this season.

Hopper’s moment in the spotlight came this season when he hauled in a 51-yard touchdown pass in the Broncos’ win at Colorado State. He caught at least one pass in five straight games, totaling seven for the season, and leads Boise State’s tight ends with 132 yards and two touchdowns.

That much experience at one position means snaps could be limited for Boise State’s top three tight ends on game days. But Rafdal said the coaches’ willingness to get a lot of players involved in the offensive game plan will keep that from becoming a problem.

“I think we have a good rotation going,” Rafdal said. “Coach (Kent Riddle) puts us all in position to be part of the game. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we do a good job of dealing with all that.”

Rafdal said he will worry about next year when the time comes. For now, he’s focused on getting the most out of practice in the weeks leading up to the Arizona Bowl. He’s also excited about having a couple of days off for Christmas so he can head home to see his family in Carmel, Indiana.

“It will be a lot of travel, but it’s great (the coaches) worked that out,” Rafdal said of the decision to give players three days off for Christmas. “That was big for everyone.”

Koetter wants to return

Boise State wide receiver Davis Koetter said Wednesday that he’ll be back next season if it’s up to him.

Koetter — the son of former Boise State head coach Dirk Koetter — hasn’t been shy about sharing that his ultimate goal is to become a coach, but he’s in no hurry.

“I’m going to put off coaching as long as I can,” Davis Koetter said. “I want to play as long as possible.”

Koetter joined the Broncos in the spring after he spent three seasons at Portland State and watched what was supposed to be his redshirt junior year with the Vikings get canceled because of COVID-19.

The redshirt senior has one year of eligibility remaining after catching 14 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown this season.

BOISE STATE VS. CENTRAL MICHIGAN

What: Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl

When: Noon Mountain time, Dec. 31

Where: Arizona Stadium, Tuscon, Arizona

TV: The game will be streamed for free on all Barstool Sports platforms.

Records: Boise State 7-5, 5-3 MW; Central Michigan 8-4, 6-2 MAC

Series: Boise State is 2-3 against Central Michigan, but the teams haven’t played since 2001. The Broncos won games in 2000 and 2001.

Vegas line: Boise State by 9

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