Boise State Football

Bronco Blitz: Boise State-Air Force game breakdown

Jeremy McNichols had 26 of Boise State’s 32 carries by running backs last week against New Mexico. Kelsey Young, above, had five against the Lobos. He is second on the team in rushing yards (397) and touchdowns (six), and he and the other reserve tailbacks could get more touches Friday.
Jeremy McNichols had 26 of Boise State’s 32 carries by running backs last week against New Mexico. Kelsey Young, above, had five against the Lobos. He is second on the team in rushing yards (397) and touchdowns (six), and he and the other reserve tailbacks could get more touches Friday. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

When the Broncos have the ball

▪ More of the same: Air Force is expected to blitz Boise State heavily, as many opponents have done since Brett Rypien became the quarterback. Air Force is tied for 11th in the nation with 30 sacks. “They do a good job of challenging everything you try to do,” offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said.

▪ Looking for playmakers: Wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck (281 yards) and tailback Jeremy McNichols (178) combined for 72 percent of the Broncos’ offense last week against New Mexico. They need help, coach Bryan Harsin said. “We need to have more guys contributing and competing at a high level,” he said. “Not just the same guys making plays. We’ve got to have more.” In particular, Harsin hinted that some different backup tailbacks could get a chance to show what they could do.

When the Falcons have the ball

▪ Assignment sound: Air Force, like New Mexico last week, will test the Broncos’ ability to stick to their assignments on every play and not get confused by the motion, misdirection and fakes. Boise State has practiced against the option during the bye week and for two straight game weeks. “That’s three straight weeks of option football,” defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said. “At some point, these guys are going to trust us as a staff.”

▪ Similar but different: Air Force runs its option from under center more than New Mexico, which creates quicker dive plays and forces the defense to make decisions sooner. But the Falcons aren’t strictly an option team anymore — they’ve got conventional plays, too. “That’s what makes them even harder to defend is they are very multiple,” defensive line coach Steve Caldwell said. “... It comes back to our guys recognizing what formations they’re in.”

Special teams

▪ Strange miss: Boise State junior kicker Tyler Rausa missed a 22-yard field goal last week against New Mexico — a stunner from one of the nation’s most productive kickers this season. He bounced back by making a 32-yarder later in the game. But all of a sudden, Rausa has made just two of his past four attempts. He’s 18-for-22 overall.

▪ Look out: Air Force has blocked 11 kicks since 2013, which is the second-most in the nation. Ten of the blocks have come on scoring kicks, including six on PATs.

▪ Returner to watch: Air Force’s Garrett Brown leads the Mountain West in punt returns with a 10.8-yard average, primarily because of a 75-yarder in the season opener.

Air Force at Boise State

▪ When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

▪ Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf), Boise

▪ TV: ESPN2 (Jason Benetti, Mike Bellotti, Allison Williams)

▪ Radio: KBOI (670 AM), KTIK (93.1 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender

▪ Records: Boise State is 7-3 overall, 4-2 Mountain West; Air Force is 7-3, 5-1

▪ Series: Boise State leads 2-1 (Falcons won 28-14 in 2014 in Colorado Springs)

▪ Coaches: Boise State, Bryan Harsin (19-5, second year; 26-10, third year overall); Air Force, Troy Calhoun (66-47, ninth year)

▪ Vegas line: Boise State by 11

▪ Kickoff weather: Low 30s (high 20s wind chill), with no precipitation and 70 percent humidity.

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