WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
Stand strong: Boise State will face an aggressive Air Force defense Friday, one that leads the Mountain West with 28 sacks. Quarterback Brett Rypien will no doubt see some Falcons up close and personal, but patience in the pocket could lead to some advantageous one-on-one matchups on the outside.
“They want to put pressure on you, get as many guys to the quarterback as possible,” Boise State co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Zak Hill said. “We know we’ve got to be very efficient with our drives.”
Don’t give it away: The Broncos have turned the ball over once in the past three games, and they’ve scored 139 points. In their visit to Air Force two years ago, the Broncos were done in by seven turnovers.
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Holding on to the ball will go a long way.
“It’s an aggressive defense, and they’ll shorten the game with how they’re able to run it, so you can’t afford to turn it over,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.
WHEN THE FALCONS HAVE THE BALL
Money-down magic: Air Force is one of the nation’s best teams on third down, converting 52.1 percent, good for No. 5 in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Not a pass-centric team by any means, the Falcons will try to pick up big chunks on first and second down.
“They’re one of the best third-down teams in the country, so they’re staying in a manageable third down where they’re able to run it,” Harsin said.
Fly Falcons, fly: In last year’s upset of the Broncos in Boise, the Falcons averaged 31 yards per completion. The recipe for success has been the same this season, as Air Force leads the nation by a wide margin with 25.9 yards per completion.
“You’re sitting there trying to stop the run, stop the run ... then next thing you know, you’ve got guys going out for routes and running right past you off the same run looks,” Boise State State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “You’re trying to account for the numbers in the run game and make sure you’re not getting killed on one play with the explosive pass play.”
Return momentum: Boise State had its longest punt (75 yards) and kickoff returns (44) of the season last Friday, courtesy of junior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson,. Air Force has a strong kick returner in Tim McVey, 15th in the FBS with a 26.5-yard average.
Kick it deep: Air Force is 98th in kickoff-return defense (22.4 per return), but is 18th in punt-return defense (4.3 per return). That being said, playing at 7,200 feet above sea level may negate the return game with solid kicking on both teams.
“Down there with the elevation, I don’t know how many returns you’ll have a chance at getting,” Harsin said.