Boise State Football

Who has the edge and players to watch as Boise State takes on Air Force in MW opener

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

When the Broncos run the ball

An effective rushing attack is a critical component of the Broncos’ offensive plan — and that’s been missing against Air Force.

In coach Bryan Harsin’s five seasons, the Broncos have rushed for 533 yards and five touchdowns on 148 carries (3.6 per carry) against Air Force. And those numbers are actually inflated by Jeremy McNichols’ 83-yard TD run on the first play of the 2015 loss.

The Broncos were a little better last year with 33 carries for 121 yards (3.7 per carry), but tailbacks Robert Mahone (5.8 per carry this season) and George Holani (5.1) will face a significant challenge. They’re at least well-rested — they combined for just 12 carries last week against Portland State.

Air Force has allowed fewer than 120 rushing yards per game two of the past three seasons despite playing run-heavy Army, Navy and New Mexico every season.

“They’re good at stopping the run,” Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “They have to face a run offense every week (in practice), and through the offseason, and so they’re good at fitting their gaps and they’re very disciplined and physical, they’re tough, they tackle well. ... We know we need to run the football and find ways to do that and we need to be physical right on back.”

Edge: Air Force

When the Broncos pass the ball

Boise State true freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier has improved his efficiency rating every game, from 128.40 vs. Florida State to 156.12 vs. Portland State. He has a talented receiving corps that has six guys with at least six catches this season, topped by sophomore Khalil Shakir with 17 catches for 237 yards.

Air Force’s defense can be difficult for quarterbacks to decipher — Brett Rypien was 68-for-130 in four games — but it’s also susceptible to big pass plays, and Bachmeier has shown a knack for those.

Last year, the Broncos scored on touchdown passes that covered 44, 18, 21, 35 and 61 yards against Air Force.

The concern for the Broncos’ passing attack is the physical pounding Bachmeier is taking. Some of that is on him — he has quick throws available to beat the blitz and needs to improve in the pocket — but his blockers have had some unacceptable breakdowns, too. On the targeting hit that Bachmeier took last week, the defender was blocked briefly and released to a blocker who wasn’t there.

“It’s a whole offense deal,” Hill said.

The Broncos also played last week without injured offensive tackles Ezra Cleveland and John Ojukwu, and it’s unclear whether they’ll return this week.

Edge: Boise State

When the Falcons run the ball

This is the heart of Air Force’s program, of course. They’ll create option football in a variety of ways, attack from unusual angles and probe the defense for weak spots or undisciplined players.

The Falcons have averaged 356 rushing yards per game in their first two contests, with Kadin Remsberg (6.5 yards per carry) and Taven Birdow (7.0) combining for 355 yards already.

Boise State limited Air Force to 3.9 yards per carry last season and finished with the nation’s 20th-ranked rushing defense. The Broncos have had some trouble with the run in the first quarter this season (8.96 yards per carry) but turned into a brick wall after that (1.63).

“If you don’t take care of the run, it’s a really, really long day,” Boise State defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding said.

Edge: Push

When the Falcons pass the ball

Boise State cornerbacks Avery Williams and Jalen Walker have played two solid games in a row, and they’ll need to step up again against Air Force. They’ll be in man-to-man coverage often, will need to provide support on the edges in run defense and can’t let the Falcons receivers sneak behind them as happens so often.

Air Force quarterback Donald Hammond III was 7-for-12 for 155 yards and two touchdowns last week in the upset win at Colorado. His TDs covered 32 and 81 yards.

The Falcons threw for 242 yards against Boise State last year.

“(Hammond) has a good command of the offense,” Schmedding said. “... They’re going to put you in those one-on-one situations. He can deliver the ball.”

Edge: Push

Special teams

Air Force will have to decide whether it wants to mess with Boise State kickoff returner John Hightower, whose 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last week looked easy. Portland State gifted Boise State excellent field position the next two times rather than kick to Hightower.

Last year, punt returner Avery Williams set up a touchdown with a 67-yard punt return against the Falcons.

Air Force kicker Jake Koehnke is 10-for-13 on field goals in his career but already has missed two PATs this season. Punter Charlie Scott averages 39.3 yards.

Boise State kicker Eric Sachse is 6-for-6 on field goals inside 42 yards and 11-for-11 on PATs. Punter Joel Velazquez has been wildly inconsistent with a 37-yard average.

Edge: Boise State

CWeaver
Boise State STUD end Curtis Weaver gets the crowd going during the Mountain West football championship against Fresno State on Dec. 2, 2017 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise. Joe Jaszewski Special to the Idaho Statesman

PLAYERS TO WATCH

BOISE STATE

Riley Whimpey, WLB

Whimpey (6-foot-1, 233 pounds) had a monster game at Air Force last season with 13 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack, and those numbers nearly mirror his 2019 totals through three games. Whimpey, who originally signed with Boise State in 2015 before going on a two-year church mission, is still recovering from a torn ACL and should only get better as the season progresses.

“Nine games in last year I tore my ACL,” Whimpey said. “Just being able to get back on the field and play with the guys, and just being back in that atmosphere with a stadium full of people, it’s been awesome.”

Curtis Weaver, STUD end

Air Force may not pass the ball often, but that doesn’t mean Boise State’s elite pass rusher won’t be a factor. Weaver is tied for first in the nation with Purdue’s George Karlaftis with 21 quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. The 6-3, 265-pound junior from Long Beach, California, also is the FBS’ active career leader for sacks with 26.5. Boise State leads the Mountain West — and ranks No. 5 in FBS — this season with 13 sacks, including six from Weaver.

“I think you always have to be aware of a really very skilled and explosive pass rusher,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “He is fast. He is athletic. He can turn an edge. He uses his hands well, and he’s got a knack for knowing exactly where the quarterback is.”

Robert Mahone, RB

After setting career highs for carries (24), rushing yards (142) and touchdowns (two) in the Broncos’ season-opening win at Florida State, the 5-10, 218-pound junior from Prosper, Texas, has been quieter the past two games. He missed a portion of the Marshall game with a shoulder injury, and then had six carries for 59 yards against Portland State.

“Air Force, they like to fill the box, run a lot of Cover 0,” Mahone said. “We’re still gonna run the ball even though there’s gonna be an extra guy in the box.”

remsberg.JPG
Air Force running back Kadin Remsberg, left, runs the ball as Colorado safety Mikial Onu comes in for the tackle in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Boulder, Colo. Air Force won 30-23 in overtime. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) David Zalubowski AP

AIR FORCE

Jordan Jackson, DE

His sophomore season in which he started all 12 games for the Falcons was good enough for a spot on the All-Mountain West second team and warranted preseason recognition in 2019. The 6-5, 270-pound junior from Jacksonville, Florida, ranked fourth on the team a year ago with 54 total tackles while leading in tackles for loss (12.5) and sacks (4.5). Jackson blocked an extra point against Colorado last week.

Jeremy Fejedelem, FS

He was chosen as the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week following Air Force’s 30-23 overtime win at Colorado. The 5-10, 195-pound senior from Lemont, Illinois, made a career-high 14 tackles in the game with two tackles for loss and one sack. Fejedelem, who was named to the Preseason All-Mountain West Team, led the Air Force defense with 13 tackles against Boise State last season.

“That’s just our mentality,” Fejedelem told The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “That’s what we go through at the academy as well as how we practice. We’ve been through a lot and we’re used to just dogfights every day.”

Kadin Remsberg, TB

In last year’s meeting with Boise State, the 5-9, 185-pound junior from Newton, Kansas, had three carries for 22 yards and two receptions for 10 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown that pulled the Falcons within 41-38 with 5:24 to go. He enters Friday’s game as the Falcons’ leading rusher with 208 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries — an average of 6.5 yards per carry.

“We have so much talent,” Remsberg said in a Reuters.com story. “People, I think, discredit us because we’re an academy, but we have guys that can ball. We’re going to show the Mountain West this year.”

BOISE STATE DEPTH CHART

Quarterback

19 Hank Bachmeier, 6-1, 202 (Fr.)

10 Chase Cord, 6-2, 208 (RSo.)

9 Jaylon Henderson, 6-1, 210 (RSr.)

Running back

34 Robert Mahone, 5-10, 218 (RJr.)

21 Andrew Van Buren, 6-0, 223 (So.)

24 George Holani, 5-11, 192 (Fr.)

Wide receiver

16 John Hightower, 6-2, 172 (Sr.)

1 Octavius Evans, 6-1, 209 (Jr.)

Wide receiver

6 CT Thomas, 5-8, 182 (Jr.) OR

2 Khalil Shakir, 6-0, 186 (So.)

Wide receiver

7 Akilian Butler, 5-10, 182 (RSr.)

82 Stefan Cobbs, 6-0, 178 (RFr.)

18 Billy Bowens, 6-1, 187 (RFr.)

Tight end

85 John Bates, 6-6, 255 (RJr.)

5 Garrett Collingham, 6-4, 242 (RSr.)

47 Matt Pistone, 6-3, 246 (RSr.)

88 Tyneil Hopper, 6-2, 231 (RFr.)

Left tackle

76 Ezra Cleveland, 6-6, 310 (RJr.)

73 Nick Crabtree, 6-7, 295 (RJr.)

Left guard

77 John Molchon, 6-5, 318 (RSr.)

72 Dallas Holliday, 6-3, 306 (RFr.)

Center

67 Garrett Larson, 6-4, 303 (RSr.)

55 Kekaniokoa Holomalia-Gonzalez, 6-2, 293 (RFr.)

Right guard

79 Eric Quevedo, 6-4, 302 (RSr.)

68 Jake Stetz, 6-2, 294 (RSo.)

Right tackle

70 John Ojukwu, 6-6, 300 (RSo.)

69 Garrett Curran, 6-5, 292 (RFr.)

Defensive end

93 Chase Hatada, 6-3, 262 (Sr.)

54 Matt Locher, 6-2, 270 (RSr.) OR

40 Jabari Watson, 6-1, 269 (RJr.)

Nose tackle

98 Sonatane Lui, 6-1, 283 (Sr.)

57 Emmanuel Fesili, 6-2, 312 (Sr.) OR

90 Scale Igiehon, 6-2, 306 (So.)

Defensive tackle

55 David Moa, 6-3, 296 (6YSr.)

62 Scott Matlock, 6-4, 283 (RFr.)

STUD end

99 Curtis Weaver, 6-3, 265 (RJr.)

38 Demetri Washington, 6-3, 254 (RFr.)

Weak-side linebacker

44 Riley Whimpey, 6-1, 233 (Jr.)

48 Bruno DeRose, 5-11, 223 (RJr.) OR

3 Brandon Hawkins, 6-2, 217 (RFr.)

Middle linebacker

7 Ezekiel Noa, 5-11, 242 (RSo.)

25 Benton Wickersham, 6-2, 230 (Jr.)

Nickel/strong-side LB

28 Kekaula Kaniho, 5-10, 182 (Jr.)

20 Roman Kafentzis, 6-1, 212 (RSo.)

Cornerback

26 Avery Williams, 5-9, 198 (RJr.)

8 Markel Reed, 6-0, 176 (Fr.)

Cornerback

15 Jalen Walker, 6-0, 179 (RJr.)

22 Tyric LeBeauf, 6-2, 180 (RFr.)

Boundary Safety

10 Kekoa Nawahine, 6-2, 207 (Sr.)

33 JL Skinner, 6-4, 213 (Fr.)

Field Safety

4 DeAndre Pierce, 5-11, 180 (RJr.)

21 Tyreque Jones, 6-2, 201 (RSo.) OR

5 Evan Tyler, 6-2, 195 (RSr.)

Kicker

36 Eric Sachse, 5-10, 198 (RSr.)

46 Joel Velazquez, 6-0, 225 (RJr.)

Kick returner

16 John Hightower, 6-2, 172 (Sr.)

26 Avery Williams, 5-9, 198 (RJr.)

Punter

46 Joel Velazquez, 6-0, 225 (RJr.)

36 Eric Sachse, 5-10, 198 (RSr.)

Punt returner

26 Avery Williams, 5-9, 198 (RJr.)

2 Khalil Shakir, 6-0, 186 (So.)

AIR FORCE DEPTH CHART

Quarterback

5 Donald Hammond III, 6-2, 210 (Jr.)

4 Isaiah Sanders, 6-2, 210 (Sr.)

Tailback

24 Kadin Remsberg, 5-9, 185 (Jr.)

22 Joshua Stoner, 5-8, 195 (Jr.)

19 Nolan Eriksen, 5-9, 195 (Sr.)

Fullback

33 Taven Birdow, 6-1, 220 (Sr.)

34 Timothy Jackson, 6-3, 190 (So.)

25 Christian Mallard, 5-9, 215 (Sr.)

Wide receiver

20 Benjamin Waters, 6-1, 205 (Sr.)

27 Ben Peterson, 5-8, 175 (Jr.)

Wide receiver

7 Geraud Sanders, 6-2, 210 (Sr.)

80 Daniel Morris, 6-2, 220 (Jr.)

83 Jake Spiewak, 6-4, 200 (So.)

Tight end

87 Kade Waguespack, 6-2, 225 (Sr.)

81 Lesley Dalger, 6-4, 235 (Sr.)

Left tackle

77 Parker Ferguson, 6-5, 280 (Jr.)

76 Adam Jewell, 6-2, 255 (Jr.)

Left guard

66 Nolan Laufenberg, 6-3, 295 (Jr.)

75 Colin Marquez, 6-3, 280 (Sr.)

Center

72 Connor Vikupitz, 6-3, 275 (Sr.) OR

68 Christopher Mitchell, 6-2, 265 (Sr.)

Right guard

64 Kyle Krepsz, 6-1, 280 (Jr.)

75 Colin Marquez, 6-3, 280 (Sr.)

Right tackle

61 Scott Hattok, 6-5, 280 (Jr.)

74 Rhett Myers, 6-4, 255 (Sr.)

Defensive end

94 Jordan Jackson, 6-5, 270 (Jr.)

86 Michael Purcell, 6-4, 235 (Jr.)

Nose guard

99 Mosese Fifita, 6-1, 330 (Sr.)

96 Joey Woodring, 5-11, 275 (Jr.)

Defensive line

97 Kaleb Nunez, 6-1, 270 (Jr.)

48 Jake Ksiazek, 6-2, 230 (Sr.)

Outside linebacker

8 Lakota Wills, 6-3, 235 (Jr.)

30 Grant Donaldson, 6-3, 225 (Jr.)

Inside linebacker

40 Kyle Johnson, 6-0, 220 (Sr.)

41 Price Morgan, 6-3, 220 (Sr.)

Inside linebacker

38 Demonte Meeks, 6-1, 235 (Jr.)

47 Nathan King, 6-1, 220 (Sr.)

Outside linebacker

44 Parker Noren, 6-2, 210 (Jr.) OR

14 Grant Theil, 6-1, 195 (Sr.)

Cornerback

3 Milton Bugg III, 5-9, 165 (Jr.)

4 James Jones IV, 6-2, 195 (Jr.)

Strong safety

22 Garrett Kauppila, 6-3, 215 (Sr.) OR

14 Grant Theil, 6-1, 195 (Sr.)

Free safety

2 Jeremy Fejedelem, 5-10, 195 (Sr.)

22 Garrett Kauppila, 6-3, 215 (Sr.)

Cornerback

6 Zane Lewis, 6-1, 190 (Sr.)

31 Elisha Palm, 5-8, 185 (Jr.)

Kicker

92 Jake Koehnke, 6-0, 180 (Sr.)

15 Charlie Scott, 6-1, 195 (Sr.)

Kick returner

20 Benjamin Waters, 6-1, 205 (Sr.)

24 Kadin Remsberg, 5-9, 185 (Jr.)

19 Nolan Eriksen, 5-9, 195 (Sr.)

Punter

15 Charlie Scott, 6-1, 195 (Sr.)

92 Jake Koehnke, 6-0, 180 (Sr.)

Punt returner

27 Ben Peterson, 5-8, 175 (Jr.)

83 Jake Spiewak, 6-4, 200 (So.)

Related stories from Idaho Statesman

  Comments