After being subpar at best most of the season, Boise State’s special teams took a step forward last week against UNLV. They reverted to the norm during Friday’s 27-20 loss at Air Force.
Air Force swung the game in its favor when it blocked a Sean Wale punt in the second quarter and ran it back 11 yards for the touchdown and a 17-7 lead. In the third quarter, junior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson reeled off a kick return to near midfield after the Falcons scored what proved to be the winning touchdown for a 24-10 lead, but sophomore tight end Chase Blakley was called for holding.
The prior Friday against the Rebels, the Broncos had their two longest returns of the year.
Air Force had a 28-yard punt return in the fourth quarter by receiver Reggie Cleveland to the Boise State 39-yard line, and the Falcons finished the ensuing drive with a field goal.
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“Tough night,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “You had a punt blocked for a touchdown, penalties, holdings ... it hurts you.”
RECEIVERS MAKE HISTORY
Wilson had the best game of his Boise State career, catching four passes for 193 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien with 8:50 left to play. His receptions went for 22, 57, 75 and 39 yards, the last three in the second half. With Air Force stacking up against the run to stop junior running back Jeremy McNichols, it left opportunities deep for the Broncos.
“We corrected it during halftime, then we came out here and did what we have to do to get back into the game,” Wilson said.
Wilson has 1,041 yards on 50 receptions this season. Senior receiver Thomas Sperbeck, who had five receptions for 123 yards, has 1,193 yards on the year. The duo is the first in school history to each go over 1,000 yards in the same season.
“Thomas did as well tonight, but Ced made some big plays. Running after (the) catch, he had some really big runs there, and he’s been a great addition to this team,” Harsin said. “He’s a Bronco through and through, and he plays extremely hard. He’s a very good player, very productive on the field, and tonight he was as well. He was a huge weapon out there making plays, and he’s going to continue to be that way.”
LITTLE ROOM FOR McNICHOLS
McNichols, who had a 56-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, then scored from 4 yards out on the next play, rushed 20 more times for 28 yards. He scored on an 83-yard run the first play against Air Force last year.
“Better than what we did last year,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “... I thought after that, we played really good defense.”
McNichols passed Brock Forsey (1,611 in 2002) for third on the school’s single-season rushing list. McNichols is 50 yards shy of tying Ian Johnson’s 1,713 in 2006 for second and 160 shy of Jay Ajayi’s record of 1,823 in 2014.
Senior linebacker Darren Lee carried out the Hammer for Boise State for the ninth time in his career. ... Senior safety Chanceller James led the Broncos with a career-high 14 tackles. ... Sophomore safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner, who started the past three games, did not travel because of an injury. ... Though special teams had its issues, senior kicker Tyler Rausa made both of his field goal attempts. ... The attendance was 23,556. ... Boise State wore black helmets for the first time this season, also wearing white jerseys and white pants. Air Force wore blue helmets, blue jerseys and gray pants.