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Boise State Overcomes Adversity and the Triple Option in a 49-30 Win Over Air Force

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Jack Sears and the Bronco’s high-powered offense battle illness, injury and a slow start from the defense to remain unbeaten in the 2020 football season

NCAA Football: Boise State at Air Force Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State fans were riding high coming off a drubbing of Utah State in week one of the season. Confidence among Bronco faithful was sky high as everyone settled in to watch an anticipated victory against Air Force. Then, one hour before kickoff, word came down that starting safety JL Skinner and starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier didn’t travel to Colorado Springs. Heading into one of the toughest games on the schedule, Boise State would be starting graduate transfer Jack Sears at quarterback. No longer knowing what to expect, Bronco fans let their anxiousness show all over social media. Fans shouldn’t have worried, Jack Sears and the Boise State Broncos had more than enough offensive firepower to overwhelm the Falcons.

Jack Sears finished the game 17 – 20 with 280 passing yards and 36 rushing yards. The three incompletions were two throwaways to avoid taking a sack and an uncharacteristic drop by Khalil Shakir. In a nearly perfect effort, Sears made his Bronco debut throwing for three scores and adding another on the ground. It didn’t take Sears long to settle the nerves of Bronco fans, either. The USC graduate transfer threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to CT Thomas one the first play of the game.

The rest of the game didn’t go as smoothly as that first play from scrimmage. The Broncos looked lost on defense early, and struggled to defend the quarterback pitch phase of the pesky triple option attack throughout the game. On top of the defensive issues, the injury bug hit Boise State hard in week two. Besides the losses of Bachmeier and Skinner, starting defensive tackle Scale Igiehon, starting defensive end Demitri Washington, and starting running back George Holani all left the game with injury.

Ultimately, the defense made the necessary adjustments and the offense continued its early season onslaught against Mountain West defenses. Once again, Boise State showed the ability to overcome whatever adversity is thrown at them and came away with a relatively dominant 49 – 30 victory to open the season 2 – 0.

Scoring Summary:

NCAA Football: Boise State at Air Force Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State opened the scoring on the first play of the game on with a perfectly schemed play and a beautifully thrown deep ball by Jack Sears.

After Air Force paraded down the field and easily scored a touchdown on their opening drive, Boise State was forced to punt and Air Force proceeded to march down the field again to take a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Boise State really turned it on in the second quarter, scoring three touchdowns including a clutch quick-strike drive at the end of the quarter to secure a two possession lead at halftime. In the quarter, Andrew Van Buren ran for two scores and Jack Sears threw an absolute dime to Octavius Evans.

For as easy as things looked on offense for the Falcons on their first two drives, they had a tough time getting anything going in the second and third quarters. The Bronco defense made some personnel changes and scheme adjustments and held Air Force to just three points during that stretch. Meanwhile, after exploding for 21 points in the second quarter, Boise State added another touchdown in the third quarter when Sears threw his third, and best, touchdown pass of the night to CT Thomas to take a 35-17 lead into the final period.

After the Falcons went on a bruising 12-play 75 yard scoring drive to cut the Bronco lead to 11 points, Boise State wasted no time in responding as Avery Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards to the house.

The Broncos scored their final touchdown of the game on a Jack Sears 1-yard run after freshman quarterback Cade Fennegan’s 5-yard touchdown run was mercilessly overturned ruining a special moment for the young gunslinger. Air Force added a late touchdown against the Broncos third string defense making the final score 49 – 30.

Grades:

Offense: A+

Boise State opened the game with a backup quarterback who hasn’t even been with the team for a year and then they lost their superstar running back early in the game. It didn’t matter. Other than a drive taking a knee to close out the game, the Broncos had the ball nine times. They scored touchdowns on seven of those drives and went three-and-out just once. They didn’t turn the ball over and were able to maintain a balanced attack even with the key starters missing. It was a nearly flawless performance.

Jack Sears averaged 14 yards per pass attempt and over seven yards per carry. He completed 85% of his throws. Even his incompletions were successful. His first incompletion came after he athletically avoided a sure sack, his second was another throwaway evading pressure and he nearly completed that ball anyway. His only other incompletion came off of a dropped pass. He didn’t throw a bad ball the entire game. It was a completely dominant performance.

It wasn’t all Sears on offense, either. Van Buren stepped in for Holani and rushed 12 times for 70 yards. CT Thomas exploded for 101 yards on two deep catches scoring a pair of touchdowns. Shakir continued his fantastic start to the season with 108 total yards, and the tight ends were again utilized with Bates grabbing another five receptions and Riley Smith rushing for 35 yards on three seldom seen tight end fly sweeps. It was a top to bottom dominant performance for the Bronco offense.

Defense: C

At the end of the first quarter it looked like the Boise State defense would receive a flunking grade for their performance. They looked lost and out of sorts. Air Force was gashing the defensive line with the fullback dive and making the Broncos look foolish on the quarterback pitch. Boise State linebacker Brock Miller was caught in no-man’s land on the perimeter repeatedly. It looked dire for the defense. Then, after giving up 17 points on drives of 75, 87, and 61 yards to open the game, the defense rebounded and didn’t surrender a single point for the next 22 minutes of game time. A garbage time touchdown against the backups made the game look closer than it was.

While the Broncos were able to stop the bleeding on the scoreboard, it looked like a massacre on the stat sheet. If you told Air Force Head Coach Troy Calhoun what the stats would look like before the game, he almost certainly would be sure the Falcons won the contest. Air Force did exactly what they like to do in games: dominate time of possession (Air Force held a 37.5-minute to 22-minute advantage), dominate the run game (Air Force ran for a ridiculous 415 yards), and avoid turning the ball over (Air Force had zero turnovers). Even with that production, the Boise State defense made just enough plays to prevent a shootout.

With the loss of Skinner, Washington, and Igiehon several defensive linemen were giving opportunities to put their stamp on the game with extended playing time. Meridian, Idaho’s Keeghan Freeborn and defensive end Shane Irwin rose to the challenge with nine and eight tackles respectively. Riley Whimpey added seven tackles and a pass defense for the Broncos.

Special Teams: A+

Boise State struggled punting the ball in the season opener. They had a “butt-punt” go for -38 yards. It was terrible. The special teams unit made up for it in week two. The Broncos only punted twice. Both punts went over 40 yards and managed to avoid pelting a derriere. Boise State still hasn’t attempted a field goal on the year, but remained perfect on PATs after Jonah Dalmas went 7 – 7 on Saturday.

The Broncos were solid all around on special teams, but the reason they get such high marks is because Avery Williams was at it again against the Falcons. Williams scored his sixth career return touchdown on an 88-yard kickoff return. He had 134 return yards overall and his touchdown helped squash any idea that the Falcons had of making a comeback late in the game.

Up Next:

The Broncos return to Albertsons Stadium to take on the 7 – 0 and 9th ninth ranked Brigham Young Cougars. The game is an odd one as Boise State has played only two games and BYU just played their seventh game of the season. Boise State must get healthy quickly on a short week if they are going to win a game against the highest ranked opponent to ever play on The Blue.