clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Air Force Football: Keys to Victory over Boise State

The Mountain division of the Mountain West Conference could be decided Friday night in Boise, Idaho if the Air Force Falcons can defeat the Boise State Broncos. What will it take for the Falcons to secure the win and knock off the highly regarded Broncos?

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

It seems only fitting that the Mountain West Conference game of the week, and maybe the season, will be played under Friday night lights in Boise, Idaho. The Mountain division leading Air Force Falcons will head north to take on most everyone's preseason favorite, the Boise State Broncos, in a game that could go a long way in determining the outcome of the Mountain division. And while everyone thought that Boise State would be in a game like this, few experts or casual fans thought that the Falcons would be in such a situation.

Air Force has put themselves in this position thanks to a scrappy defense that has statistically been one of the best in the nation. The Falcons are 12th in the nation in total defense only allowing 305.6 yards per game. They are 11th in the nation in sacks with 30 and they are tops in the Mountain West in first downs allowed. They get the opponent off the field, focusing on stopping the running game and putting you in third and long situations. Defensive coordinator Steve Russ has done a masterful job with the defense, one that just two years ago was giving up 40 points a game and couldn't stop a cold. As it stands right now, they are only giving up 19.8 points per game and have been the biggest surprise of the season to this point after having to replace seven starters off of last year's 10-3 team.

This defense will be facing its biggest test of the year however in the Boise State offense. The Broncos are averaging 498.8 yards per game on offense, with 321.8 of those per game coming through the air. The Falcons have struggled against the pass this season, and the Broncos have two dynamic receivers in Shane Williams-Rhodes and Thomas Sperbeck. Add in tight end Jake Roh and running back Jeremy McNichols and Boise State can attack you from anywhere and at anytime on the field. What the Falcons are going to have to do is try to do to starting quarterback Brett Rypien what they did to the Boise State quarterback last year and force him into bad turnovers. If ballhawking safety Weston Steelhammer can somehow repeat his three interception game and Alex Hansen and the Falcons front seven can harass and get some hits on Rypien, the young quarterback could see his confidence shaken and the Broncos could struggle offensively like they did last year in their loss to Air Force.

The Falcons defense biggest ally, like it has been a lot this season, will be the Air Force rushing attack. The Falcons are third in the nation in rushing with 332.8 yards per game. The Falcons are the only team in the nation to have six different players run for over 100 yards in the game, which screams of their incredible balance. The offense this season has gone over the 500 yard mark in a game four times, and last week they unleashed a potent passing attack against Utah State with Jalen Robinette catching seven passes for 210 yards and a touchdown. The offense is producing at a high mark, and with the return of fullback D.J. Johnson to go along with Jacobi Owens, the Falcons seem to be hitting their offensive peak at the right time.

They will need to be at their best offensively as they face a stiff Boise State defense. The Falcons high octane rushing attack will face a Broncos defense that is only allowing 94.6 yards per game, and this is after they were gashed by New Mexico and their 195 yards rushing last week in the surprising Lobos victory. The Falcons have successfully run against good defenses this year, but the key will be how they protect the ball. When the Falcons turn the ball over, like most teams, they cannot win the game. Unfortunately, the Falcons have had their biggest turnover games against their best competition. Their losses to Michigan State and Navy are directly related to turnovers. And while Michigan State and Navy are 9th and 16th respectively in the current college football playoff poll, the Falcons played them tough only to watch turnovers spoil any chances to win. If the Falcons do the same in Boise Friday night, the Broncos will easily capture the victory.

The raw numbers for the game give a distinct advantage to Boise State. They are 14-0 in Friday night games at home, they have not lost back to back games since 2007 and they are 2-1 all time versus Air Force. It's senior night, which always gives an emotional boost to a team, and Air Force has been less than stellar on the road this year with a 1-3 record. All that being said, this Air Force team has a chance to claim their first ever division title and have overcome great odds this year. The rushing game has been spectacular and the Falcons have played clean football in their current four game winning streak. The Falcons will go into Boise and claim a hard fought 31-24 victory over the Broncos to set up a huge final week contest with the hard charging Lobos next week.