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Boise State football: About that Air Force passing game

The dangers of the Air Force triple-option have been hammered home. In case you’ve forgotten (and Boise State surely hasn’t) there’s another option out there.

BOISE, Idaho — Friday, October 15, 2021.

Caleb Biggers has had a lot to think about this week as he settles in as Boise State’s starting boundary cornerback in place of Markel Reed for the rest of the season. Most of the Broncos defenders have seen Air Force’s triple-option before—Biggers, the transfer from Bowling Green, has not. It’s been hammered home to him that it’ll be all about his eyes Saturday. And if Biggers’ eyes aren’t just right, Falcons quarterback Haaziq Daniels could ambush him with a bomb right over the top. Take last week, for example. Air Force didn’t even attempt a pass in the first half against Wyoming. Then after the intermission, Daniels surprised the Cowboys by going 7-of-10 for 110 yards and a touchdown pass, only the second of the season for the Falcons.

Some really good Boise State corners of the past know how that goes. Air Force’s shocking 2015 win on the blue turf is Exhibit No. 1. The Falcons did it all that night. They rushed for 328 yards, and whenever they saw the Broncos selling out to try to stop the run, they heaved it downfield. Quarterback Karson Roberts completed just nine passes—and they covered 279 yards, including touchdown throws of 67 and 51 yards (with a 56-yard gain thrown in for good measure). Air Force averaged a staggering 31 yards per completion. That was a secondary that featured two of Boise State’s all-time ballhawks, Darian Thompson and Donte Deayon, although Thompson wasn’t 100 percent for that game and didn’t start. The point is, the Broncos have to be aware that there could be sneaker waves out there.

YOU MAY SEE ONE OF THESE GUYS

The Air Force tilt marks the anniversary of Jack Sears’ one complete game as a Bronco. (Actually, it would be on Halloween, but you know what I mean.) Unless something happens to Hank Bachmeier, it’s unlikely we’ll see Sears in the heat of the battle Saturday night. But we can’t forget Sears’ amazing statline last year in Colorado Springs. He hit CT Thomas with a 75-yard touchdown pass on the Broncos’ first play from scrimmage and ended the night going 17-of-20 for 280 yards and three TDs. And he ran for another score. This season, Sears has appeared in just one game, mopping up the rout of UTEP, and he has thrown just one pass. How about a special package for Sears Saturday?

It’s more feasible that we’ll see Tyler Crowe Saturday night. With George Holani expected to be out again, and with the Boise State staff non-commital on the status of Cyrus Habibi-Likio, Crowe could become the No. 2 running back behind Andrew Van Buren. The former Skyview star has a little bit of history with the Falcons, too. I’ll always remember Crowe’s first touch as a Bronco last year at the Academy. Holani was already out with a knee injury, and Van Buren had to leave the game momentarily. So coach Bryan Harsin sent Crowe in during prime time—and didn’t change the play call. Crowe smoothly gathered in a screen pass from Sears and ran 15 yards for a first down. He later added two carries for 14 yards in mop-up. This season, Crowe is averaging 5.8 yards per attempt.

THE NATIONAL DOUBTERS 

I’ve been kind of mum on Saturday’s point spread after it went off the rails last week for the BYU game. So, does Boise State finally have its mojo in order after the way it won in Provo? The Broncos are favored by 3½ points against Air Force. Some national prognosticators aren’t buying it. Handicapper Lee Sterling called it 30-27 for the Falcons Thursday on Idaho SportsTalk. Gene Clemons at The Athletic feels Boise State is “primed for a letdown after a big win.” Clemons says that, thanks to Air Force playing keepaway with its option game and limiting the Broncos’possessions, it “could cause them to press and make mistakes which they have been prone to do this season in their three losses. Discipline and execution will be enough for Air Force to land the upset on the blue turf. Pick: Air Force wins outright 24-21.”

VANDALS TRY TO COOL 'THE INFERNO’

It’s hard to believe this is the 12th season Eastern Washington has played on red turf in Cheney. It’s been called “The Inferno” since its debut in 2010. But Idaho coach Paul Petrino, as you might expect, downplays the effect of the eye-piercing surface in Saturday’s game at EWU. “I worry about their quarterback a lot more than their field,” said Petrino Tuesday on Idaho SportsTalk. That would be Eric Barriere, the senior star and Walter Payton Award favorite. If the Vandals can counter Barriere by running the ball the way they have been, they can stay with the Eagles. Idaho rushed for 257 yards—over six yards per carry—in its win over Portland State last week. The Vandals are averaging 191 yards per game on the ground, third in the Big Sky.

NBA BRONCOS CHECK-IN

A tweet this week from NBL News (Australia’s National Basketball League) said that former Boise State standout Justinian Jessup is headed back to the Illawarra Hawks for the upcoming season. Jessup, part of NBL’s “Next Stars” program last season, has not played in any of the Golden State Warriors’ four preseason games. Derrick Alston Jr. and Chandler Hutchison have played, but not significantly. Alston has appeared in all four Utah Jazz games but has logged just 18 minutes total. He scored his first points on a flying dunk down the home stretch Wednesday night that helped the Jazz past Milwaukee 124-120. Hutchison has played in all four games for the Phoenix Suns, averaging four poinst a game and shooting 50 percent from the field.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…October 15, 2016, five years ago today:

Jeremy McNichols breaks a 40-year-old Boise State record with 40 rushing attempts in a 28-23 victory over Colorado State on a rainy night at Albertsons Stadium. McNichols netted 217 yards on those carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run. It was the third dash of 80-plus yards in his career. That helped the Broncos build a 28-3 lead before the game turned bizarre. The Rams sandwiched three touchdowns around two successful onside kicks in the final five minutes to create some drama.

(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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