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Boise State football: 'You can only hope to contain it'

Defending Air Force’s triple-option can take a mental toll after four quarters. Boise State can’t stop it, but the Broncos have contained it in recent years.

BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, October 14, 2021.

Air Force is going to get its rushing yards Saturday against Boise State. It’s only natural, considering the way the Falcons are running their triple option this year. They’re currently leading the nation in rushing at 341 yards per game. I’d consider it an accomplishment if the Broncos could just contain the Academy and hold that number under 300. It didn’t happen last season, but it has happened before. On Halloween last year, Air Force rolled up 415 yards on the ground against Boise State, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. The Broncos were able to win in Colorado Springs because they put up 49 points (the final was 49-30).

But in the previous three games of this four-game winning streak, Boise State limited the Falcons to 242, 201 and (are you sitting down?) 181 rushing yards. Does this year’s Broncos defense have something like that in ‘em? The 181 came during a 44-19 Boise State victory in 2017, with Air Force averaging just 3.5 yards per carry after entering the game top five in the nation in rushing. The Broncos were extra inspired that night, as they were coming off their infamous three-game losing streak against the Falcons.

THE TOPSY-TURVY SERIES

Only Air Force and San Diego State have won three conference games against Boise State since the Broncos joined the Mountain West in 2011. The three by the Falcons were all in a row, and they were particularly painful. In 2014, Bryan Harsin’s first year, Boise State committed seven turnovers and lost 28-14. There was a lot of grumbling after that one, but the Broncos would not lose again—all the way through the Fiesta Bowl. In 2015, Air Force stunned Boise State 37-30 on the blue turf. That night, the Falcons masterfully mixed the pass in with the run (more on that tomorrow). And in 2016, Air Force knocked the Broncos out of a Mountain West championship game berth, winning 27-20 in Colorado Springs as Brett Rypien completed only nine passes. They have not lost to the Falcons since.

KANIHO’S LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT RECORD

Okay, math majors. You should be able to recite the exact number of games Kellen Moore played in his Boise State career. Fifty plus three, right? Well, this week’s game against Air Force will be No. 55 for Kekaula Kaniho, setting a new school record. As a super senior, Kaniho took advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to COVID-19, so he got a seven-game bonus last year. It was cool hearing Kaniho say Wednesday that little brother Kaonohi’s game-sealing interception at BYU last week was the proudest moment of his career. The brothers have come a long way since chasing each other wearing makeshift NFL uniforms as little kids in their backyard in Hawaii.

SEPARATION WEEKEND

There are two other Mountain West games this week on a par with the Boise State-Air Force game. San Diego State puts its No. 24 ranking on the line at San Jose State Friday night. This could be low-scoring—the Aztecs continue to be quarterback-challenged, and the Spartans will probably be without their star QB Nick Starkel for the third straight game. Starkel went down with an arm injury in a loss at Western Michigan last month. The other key tilt is Fresno State against Wyoming in Laramie. Both teams have one loss now. We’ll find out which one is really good. Bulldogs quarterback Jake Haener has had a bye week to heal his latest bumps and bruises, although he sat out some practices this week with his right foot in a boot.

BENGALS LOOK TO BUILD ON IT

Can Idaho State be victorious two weeks in a row after its 27-17 upset of UC Davis last week? It hasn’t happened since late in 2018, the last time the Bengals had a winning season. ISU does have a winnable game Saturday at Portland State. If they can corral the Vikings offense the way they did the Aggies attack in Holt Arena, the Bengals will be in good shape. But PSU has quarterback Davis Alexander, who threw for 424 yards in a loss at Idaho last week. Idaho State counters with the reigning Big Sky Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Week. Cornerback Jayden Dawson finished the UC Davis game with eight tackles (one for loss), a forced fumble, two pass breakups and his first career interception. Punter Kevin Ryan helped flip the field, with his boots pinning the Aggies on the eight, three and one-yard line.

MID-LEVEL IN THE MOUNTAIN WEST

The Boise State women’s basketball team fell on hard times last year, finishing sixth in the Mountain West. That sounded about right to conference coaches, who picked the Broncos to finish sixth this season in their preseason poll. It’s bulletin board material for Boise State, but you can see how it happened. The Broncos’ best player last season, Jade Loville, transferred to Arizona State last spring. Loville averaged 17.1 points and notched the program’s first-ever 40-point game. Boise State returns only six players from last year’s squad. Only one of them, guard Mary Kay Naro, started all 23 games. It’s going to be the Year of the Underdog.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…October 14, 2007:

The most exciting game in Bronco Stadium history. Nobody who saw it—in person or on ESPN—will argue. Boise State beat Nevada 69-67 in quadruple overtime, at the time the highest scoring game since Division I-A started keeping official records in 1937. The game was tied at 44 at the end of regulation, and each team continued answering the other into the fourth OT. It was then that Ian Johnson scored a go-ahead touchdown and Taylor Tharp hit Jeremy Avery for the required two-point conversion. The Wolf Pack scored in the bottom half of the period, but Bronco linebacker Tim Brady sacked Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the two-point conversion try to end the game.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.) 

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