Boise State vs. Air Force: Game breakdown

ccripe@idahostatesman.comSeptember 13, 2013 

BRONCOS WITH THE BALL

So which is it? Boise State failed to score a touchdown against Washington. It scored nine of them — eight on offense — against UT Martin. The difference? The Broncos hit the explosive plays and third- and fourth-down conversions that were missing in Seattle. “Hopefully we can use the momentum from last game and just roll it over to this game,” sophomore wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes said.

Falcons on the move: Air Force plays with a three-man defensive front. The group is undersized but it compensates in part with lateral movement at the snap, which can make it difficult for the offensive line to identify its targets. With their old run scheme, this created problems for the Broncos’ offense. It will be interesting to see how the new scheme fares.

FALCONS WITH THE BALL

An offense with options: Air Force finds many ways to run the ball, often with an option element but rarely in the traditional triple option. The Falcons hurt the Broncos two years ago with a wide toss play and they’re adept at power-run schemes. “The O-line is very feisty,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “This will be a huge challenge.”

Youth vs. youth: The Air Force offense and Boise State defense are inexperienced units trying to produce consistent results. Both have made too many mistakes. “We just struggled (last week),” Air Force wide receiver Ty MacArthur said. “I think everyone on offense saw some mistakes. I know I messed up a few times. There were too many drops, and a lot of those could’ve gone for big plays and made a difference.”

SPECIAL TEAMS

Watch the fake: Air Force is known for its willingness to fake punts, so don’t leave early for that bathroom trip. The Falcons also boast strong-legged kickers who have hit a 52-yard field goal and produced eight touchbacks in 12 tries. Punter David Baska has not allowed any return yards yet.

The punting competition continues: Boise State senior Trevor Harman and redshirt freshman Sean Wale have split time at punter — and that’s the plan for the forseeable future. So far, the results are promising. The Broncos average 41.9 net yards per punt, which ranks 17th in the nation. They were 108th at 34.1 yards last year.

Eleven straight: Boise State kicker Dan Goodale has made two field goals and nine PATs in a row.

KEY MATCHUP:

BOISE STATE’S TACKLING VS. AIR FORCE’S RUSHING ATTACK

The Broncos missed more than 30 tackles in the Washington game. They missed fewer against UT Martin, but the ones they missed were costly.

“A lot of (the Skyhawks’) big plays were based off missed tackles — multiple missed tackles,” defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. “A lot of it has to do with inexperience. We just haven’t played a lot of live football.”

Coach Chris Petersen said the Broncos are practicing tackling more than ever. They have seven new starters on defense and are using eight freshmen and three junior college transfers in the rotation.

“Really good defenses, you don’t have a lot of huge tackling issues,” he said. “When you have young guys, they’re thinking about a lot of things. … It comes with experience. Good players who have been out there a long time are going to tackle better than new and young guys.”

Air Force will put stress on the tackling with its varied rushing attack, which often gets players the ball in open space. Plus, the defenders will be fending off cut blocks.

“If we get cut, we can't make tackles,” sophomore defensive tackle Armand Nance said. “If we don't make tackles, they get big gains and probably a 'W’.”

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