Monday Morning Report Card: Boise State 42, Air Force 20

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comSeptember 16, 2013 

Brian Murphy hands out the grades for Boise State's 42-20 victory over Air Force:

OFFENSE

The Broncos rolled up 533 yards of total offense. More importantly, Boise State was able to convert those yards into touchdowns. The Broncos scored touchdowns on six of eight full drives. Quarterback Joe Southwick set a school and Mountain West record by completing 27-of-29 passes. His scrambling ability — 53 yards on six carries — also made a difference for the offense. Running back Jay Ajayi set career highs with 125 yards and four touchdowns rushing. Matt Miller caught 10 passes for 112 yards. The offensive line deserves credit, too, for the big numbers the skill position players put up against Air Force.

The only blemishes for the offense were two turnovers — a fumble by Ajayi inside the Air Force 5 and an interception by Southwick in the Air Force end zone. Coach Chris Petersen said after the game that Southwick should have hit an underneath receiver rather than throw it up in the end zone. Against Air Force, the turnovers were not costly. But with Fresno State and its high-powered offense looming, the Broncos may need points every time they get in Bulldogs' territory. Grade: B+

DEFENSE

Air Force scored on all three of its first-half possessions, converting on short third- and fourth-down attempts. The Broncos played much better after halftime, limiting the Falcons to three second-half points. Coaches and players credited the defensive line with getting a better push up front in the second half. Ben Weaver, who is emerging as a real playmaker at linebacker, had nine tackles. Defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe had nine tackles and a pass breakup. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, showing the promise that has many scouts excited about his NFL future, had nine tackles, including two tackles for loss. Lawrence stuffed an Air Force drive with a tackle for loss on third-and-goal. The secondary allowed two big pass plays and is certainly a concern heading into Fresno State, which will test the defensive backfield. Grade: B-

SPECIAL TEAMS

What special teams? The Broncos did not have a punt or a punt return and made six extra-point attempts. Dan Goodale kicked off seven times and had six touchbacks. Air Force averaged 35.7 yards per punt, including a 22-yard punt out of bounds that gave Boise State possession at the Air Force 49. The threat of returner Shane Williams-Rhodes will certainly be a factor for opponents the rest of the season. Grade: B+

COACHING

Boise State won its 14th consecutive conference season opener, the second-longest streak in the country behind Alabama (22). The Broncos' streak stretches across three conferences. The win was key to the Broncos' hopes of winning the Mountain Division and securing a spot in the league's inaugural title game. The offense continues to show more wrinkles, and the defense made adjustments after halftime to slow down Air Force. "We're making improvements. That's our whole mission in life is just to improve. I don't care if it's on offense, kicking game, linebacker play, whatever," Petersen said. "Those guys take it to heart. We better be better this time next week." Grade: B

IN THE POLLS

Boise State received four points in The Associated Press Top 25 and five points in the USA Today Coaches' Poll. Fresno State is No. 25 in the coaches' poll and 27th in AP voting. Petersen is 8-5 against ranked teams at Boise State, but the Broncos have lost three of their past five meetings with ranked teams.

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