FACTS & STATS: Site: Bronco Stadium (30,000) -- Boise, Idaho. Television: ESPN. Home Record: AF 1-1, BSU 1-0. Away Record: AF 0-0, BSU 0-1. Neutral Record: AF 0-0, BSU 0-0. Conference Record: AF 0-1, BSU 0-0. Series Record: Boise State leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Playing under the Friday night lights, the Boise State Broncos welcome the Air Force Falcons to Idaho for a Mountain West Conference showdown.
Boise State opened the campaign ranked 19th in the Associated Press poll, but immediately the squad was knocked out of the Top-25 by Washington in an ugly performance, 38-6. The Broncos did bounce back however, with a 63-14 romp over Tennessee-Martin in the home opener last Saturday, but take that lopsided score with a grain of salt.
At the same time that Boise State was whipping up on the Skyhawks, Air Force was being pummeled in its MWC opener by Utah State, 52-20. The setback came on the heels of the Academy's 38-13 victory over Colgate in the opener back on Aug. 31.
Boise State won the first and only meeting between the squads back in 2011 by a 37-26 final.
The Falcons fell behind by two touchdowns less than four minutes in and were never able to recover as they suffered the 32-point loss at home to Utah State. The Falcons were paced by Jaleel Awini who, in his first career start at quarterback, threw for 61 yards and ran for a team-best 48 and a score before heading to the sidelines in the lopsided outing.
Karson Roberts made an appearance under center, completing 2-of-4 for 47 yards and a score. Air Force generated just 162 yards on the ground, a far cry from their usual routine, finishing with only 270 yards of total offense while giving up a hefty 577 yards to the Aggies, one of the newest additions to the MWC.
While Awini is still finding his way around at quarterback for the Falcons, it is important for the running attack to get back on track and hopefully control the tempo versus Boise State this week. Air Force thrives on the ground, having scored at least one rushing touchdown in 49 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak in the country at the moment.
However, just to keep the BSU defense honest, someone will have to challenge the Broncos vertically or else the hosts will simply stack the box and dare Air Force to make an attempt at going over the top. After two outings, Air Force has only one player with more than two receptions, so the threat is still not there.
Conversely, the Falcons had better be ready for an aerial assault from Boise State and Joe Southwick, particularly since the signal caller threw for 234 yards and five touchdowns in the romp over UT-Martin. Running back Jay Ajayi added a team-best 80 rushing yards and two more scores on the ground for Boise State as the team generated 220 net rushing yards and 472 yards overall during the onslaught.
The BSU defense did permit a hefty 362 yards to the Skyhawks, but the visitors balanced that out by burning themselves with 10 penalties which cost them 102 yards of field position. Shane Williams-Rhodes accounted for 186 all-purpose yards, including 89 yards, leading to two touchdowns on seven receptions for the Broncos.
The Boise State offensive line had some serious problems against a lesser opponent, despite the final score, as UTM's Tony Bell recorded five tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one recovery. For his efforts, Bell was named the FCS National Defensive Player of the Week by The Sports Network, not a good sign for the Broncos whatsoever. Boise State as a whole had just six TFLs in the outing.
Last season BSU averaged 5.7 TFL per contest, a step back for the group for sure, but the Broncos were still 11th in the nation in sacks with almost three per contest. So far this year the team has three sacks total.
Given that Southwick is still far from a dominant quarterback in one of the most exciting offenses of the last decade, keeping him upright is crucial if the Broncos expect to be playing in a significant bowl game. Sure, Southwick has tossed five touchdowns and been picked off only once, but considering his performance against Washington, there is still much work to be done and you can read it on the face of head coach Chris Petersen whenever his quarterback makes a mistake.
Getting Ajayi in gear coming out of the backfield will help the offense, but even with a team-high 173 yards and two of their three rushing touchdowns to this point, he still needs to be more of a contributor who can be counted on for big gains when Southwick needs assistance.
If the Falcons can control the pace and maintain possession for a significant amount of time then this meeting shouldn't become a blowout. But expecting the visitors to stay close with the way Petersen runs his offense is a lot to ask.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Boise State 41, Air Force 17
Boise, ID (Sports Network) - Jay Ajayi rushed for 125 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries to lead the Boise State Broncos to a 42-20 victory over the Air Force Falcons on Friday at Bronco Stadium.
Joe Southwick completed all but two of his 29 passes and threw for 287 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while carrying the ball six times for 53 yards and a score for the Broncos (2-1, 1-0 MWC), who won their 14th- consecutive conference opener.
Air Force quarterback Jaleel Awini rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, but completed just 4-of-9 passes for 99 yards and an interception for the Falcons (1-2, 0-2), who were coming off a 52-20 setback against Utah State.
Air Force marched down the field on its opening touch, with Awini ripping off a 16-yard run and then adding a 20-yard scamper before capping the 9-play, 75- yard march with a 1-yard TD surge to make it 7-0 with 10:42 left in the first.
Boise State responded with a scoring march of its own, as Southwick converted a trio of third downs, including a 3rd-and-6 from the Air Force 9 when he found Kirby Moore along the right sideline of the end zone for a 9-yard score to tie the game under four minutes later.
Will Conant buried a 33-yard field goal on Air Force's ensuing touch before Ajayi capped a quick 6-play, 75-yard trek with a 20-yard TD run to give Boise State a 14-10 lead early in the second.
Awini found Sam Gagliano deep down the middle for a 53-yard gain on the third play of Air Force's next possession and on 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Awini punched it for a 17-14 Air Force lead with 6:20 left in the second.
The Broncos had the final say in the half, as Southwick guided his squad on a lengthy 15-play, 75-yard drive that he capped with a 1-yard TD surge to send Boise State into the break with a 21-17 advantage.
Ajayi fumbled the ball on 1st-and-goal from the Falcons 5 on Boise State's opening touch of the second half, but made up for the gaffe with a 35-yard touchdown run on the Broncos' next touch to make it 28-17.
Conant's 24-yard field goal early in the fourth brought Air Force within eight, but Ajayi answered with a 9-yard surge into the end zone to extend the margin to 35-20.
After Darian Thompson picked off Awini on the first play of Air Force's ensuing touch, Ajayi capped his stellar night with a 2-yard TD run to account for the final margin.