Just prior to the game the Broncos announced that quarterback Hank Bachmeier had not made the trip due to Covid issues, and he would be replaced by transfer Jack Sears. Any hope by Falcon fans that this would slow the Bronco passing attack were immediately dashed on the first play from scrimmage when Sears hit CT Thomas on a deep pass for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Initially unfazed by the Broncos success, the Falcons immediately responded with their own classic triple option drive, featuring a lot of pitches directed toward Brandon Lewis, the Falcon’s replacement for the injured Kaden Remsberg, to tie the score at 7. The drive was in stark contrast to what the Falcons were able to do against San Jose State last week, no doubt aided by the return of preseason All-American Nolan Laufenberg and his opposite guard, Kyle Krepsz.
A defensive stop by the Falcons, and another drive by the Falcons, featuring a fullback dive that was opened up by the left side of the Falcon offensive line (do we detect a pattern here?) that resulted in a 50 yard gain by the fourth string fullback, Elijah Robinson, making his first appearance in a Falcon uniform, resulted in a second touchdown.
After that, the Broncos turned it up a notch, and began to take over the game. Led by Sears and running back Andrew Van Buren, who came in the game after George Holani was injured, the Broncos got two touchdowns in the final 3 minutes of the half to make the score 28-17 Broncos at halftime.
The second half featured a lot of offense and a touchdown on a kickoff return by Avery Williams for the Broncos, but the end result was never in doubt.
The Falcons were hurt by lapses in the secondary, uncertainty, and careless penalties by the offense, all attributable to first year starters. The Broncos, on the other hand were able to replace missing starters in the lineup and not miss a beat, other than a porous defense against the run. The Falcons finished with 419 yards rushing, the most since 423 yards against FCS Colgate last season.
Let’s look at the factors to watch from my game preview.
Will the Falcon running attack return to form?
This is a resounding yes. Having the ability to dominate the middle of the field with a strong offensive line opens a lot of options, and the Falcons were able to attack the edges because the middle of the defense had to always account for the fullback option. The quarterback position was also a plus this week. Early on Haaziq Daniels had some good runs, and when he got injured Warren Bryan looked even better, displaying a lot of elusiveness. Brandon Lewis proved he can be used as a dangerous pitch option. Interestingly, Troy Calhoun this week said he didn’t consider Lewis as a long term candidate as the tailback in the offense. I think he likes using Lewis more often as a receiving threat out of the backfield, much as he did with Ben Waters and Ronald Cleveland in years past. It would/will be nice to pair up Remsberg and Lewis in the backfield. Ben Peterson is the starter because of his blocking ability on the edges.
Can the Falcon defense put pressure on Bachmeier?
The Falcons were able to put a little more pressure on the quarterback this week, but did not tally any sacks. I thought Sears was excellent at avoiding the rush with good awareness in the pocket. I thought he did a better job of that than what I saw out of Bachmeier last year. But the Falcons need to keep working on this aspect on the game. A stronger push from the D line would help.
Who will be able to take the field for the Falcons?
The good news was that Laufenberg and Krepsz were back and that is of utmost importance. Laufenberg had a performance worthy of his status as an NFL draft prospect. I mentioned the large hole on the 50 yard fullback dive, but later in the game, on Matt Murla’s second touchdown, he powered three tacklers out of the way on the way to the seven yard gain.
It came as a surprise that Timothy Jackson was out for this game, but no reason was given. It ended up not making much of a difference, given the blocking from the O line. Will Trawick remained out of the game, and a couple of freshmen took his place, possibly hurting the pass rush a little.
But, largely, the problem was the defensive secondary had their poorest game yet, more from the athleticism of the Boise wide receivers than anything else. Elisha Palm again looked good, and leads the Falcons with 19 tackles on the season. He did give up a long gain near the end of the game to Khalil Shakir, but he had close coverage and Shakir made a great catch on the throw.
My prediction on the game was a bit better this time, but there was more offense than I expected and I had predicted the under and I had the Broncos winning by 15 points, so I was 1-1 this week, and I’m 4-2 on the year.
Stay tuned for the Falcon-Black Knight preview later this week.