Air Force coach Troy Calhoun called Boise State wide receivers Thomas Sperbeck and Cedrick Wilson “two big-time playmakers.” The Falcons have a few among the group who will try to slow them down.
Senior safety Weston Steelhammer is the nation’s active leader with 17 interceptions, while senior cornerback Roland Ladipo has 24 pass breakups, four interceptions and three forced fumbles in 22 games the past two seasons. Senior safety Brodie Hicks has four interceptions alongside Steelhammer.
“I see a physical, very gifted back end,” Boise State senior receiver Chaz Anderson said. “We can’t look at them any different from how we look at any other secondary.”
Though the Falcons have talent on the back end, they are often put into risk-reward situations. Air Force’s 28 sacks are most in the Mountain West and a product of a pressure-heavy system. That puts the defensive backs on an island, often in one-on-one positions. Air Force is No. 83 nationally in pass defense (245.3 yards per game) and No. 84 in pass-defense efficiency (135.93).
“They wouldn’t put that much pressure on (the defensive backs) if they didn’t feel good about them,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Those guys, Steelhammer is one of the best we’ve seen. Their corners play well; they play physical. You have to attack.”
With junior running back Jeremy McNichols running roughshod over the Mountain West, the Broncos have thrown less the past three weeks, but quarterback Brett Rypien has posted an efficiency of 195.31.
“To me, it’s something for an offense, that’s a big challenge,” Harsin said. “... When we do throw the ball, when there are one-on-one matchups, I think it’ll be a great battle between our receivers and their DBs.”