The Broncos travel to Colorado Springs
Air Force tries to get back on track against Boise State
Game Day Details
Series Record: Air Force 3 wins- Boise State 5 wins (have won 3 consecutive)
When: Saturday, October 31st @ 4 p.m. MT
Where: Falcon Stadium- Colorado Springs, Colorado
How to Watch on TV: CBSSN
Here we are, at week two of the Mountain West Conference’s return to play. While Air Force played an approved game outside of conference vs. Navy earlier this month, they were not able to do anything that resembled that dominant victory.
Instead, we saw a Falcon team that for multitude of reasons, couldn’t get much of anything going on offense, which was unfortunate because once again, the severely undermanned defense played very well. Despite another stout performance from the defense; the Falcons lost the turnover battle, were penalized for more yardage, gained less yards per play and most critically for this team, they possessed the ball less than the Spartans. That last piece is a recipe for disaster most weeks, but will especially be against Boise State.
Opposite the Falcons, Boise State dominated Utah State in every aspect of the game last week. The defense was very stingy, barely surrendering 200 yards to the Aggies, while outgaining them by nearly five yards per-play. After jumping out to a 28 point lead, the Broncos were able to coast in the second half with no legitimate threat posed by Utah State.
The Air Force-Boise State digital game program is available https://t.co/bE130uznw3
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) October 28, 2020
Three Keys to an Air Force Victory
1. Haaziq Goes Next Level
After a nice debut against bitter rivals Navy, things came crashing down for Haaziq Daniels and the Air Force offense last week at San Jose State. Maybe the extra time to prepare for the triple-option helped the Spartans after being gutted by it a year ago, or perhaps it was purely attrition catching up with the Falcons. Either way, the offense has to be better this week. A lot better.
Part of what helped stifle the offense was shear volume near the line of scrimmage. From start to finish, the Spartans made it clear, if they were going to lose, it wasn’t going to be for lack of committed bodies to stop the run. The absence of any passing threat only seemed to have them double down, and it paid off.
If Air Force wants to start another winning streak, against Boise State of all teams, their quarterback play has got to reach another level. The first turnover of last weeks game was the result of an errant pitch on option, which coincidentally resulted in the injury to Kade Remsberg also. You talk about a double whammy.
Haaziq Daniels has got to pose a threat to the Bronco defense running the ball, occasionally passing but especially with an ability to distribute the rock. When Air Force sputtered out in back to back 5-7 records, one of the things that stood out was an inability to get the ball on the edge to the pitch man (third option) of the triple option. Teams dictated play, and the Falcons couldn’t get to the pitch, which significantly inhibits their offense.
It was encouraging to see as the game wore on, Daniels distributed the ball to the pitch man pretty consistently, and most times to Brandon Lewis. Daniels is only a sophomore and has less than 10 quarters of game experience under his belt, he’s going to be fine in the long run. But if he and Air Force want to take down the class of the conference in Boise State, ‘fine’ isn’t going to get it done. The offense is going to have to hum if they are going to earn a dub this week, and that means plays must be made when blocking breaks down, holes are smaller and the box is loaded.
2. Establish an Aerial Threat
With the exception of 2019’s game film versus New Mexico, Air Force is never going to be mistaken for an air raid offense. However, one of the things that made this team so dangerous last year was the impending fear that a vertical shot was coming, week after week. And it did.
There has yet to be a credible threat from the pass game thus far, and that has to change if they are going to compete on Saturday. It’s a completely new passing attack this year, and it isn’t fair to expect Donald Hammond III type performance from any young quarterback, especially with the exodus of three lineman and their two top pass catchers from last year.
The offense is not without capable options though. Brandon Lewis may have been catching the passes that Ben Waters was a year ago, with his NCAA leading average in yards per catch, had he been available. Lewis playmaking ability is what earned him playing time as a true freshman, and then showed his flexibility and athleticism last week when he was plugged in taking pitches after Remsberg exited with injury.
At tight end, Kyle Patterson is as credible a threat as Air Force has had from the position. And in case you aren’t aware, they have a tight end in the NFL in Garrett Griffin. Only a sophomore, you can see Patterson getting more comfortable and confident each week.
None of this matters though if the offense isn’t able to find a way to create splash plays with the talent they have. To further the point, those few times per game which a pass play is called, the ball has to be more accurately delivered. Incomplete passes net zero yards, and in an offense that lives and dies on a steady diet of three yards at a time, incompletions are twice as dooming.
3. Steal Possessions
As much as I’d like to see it, I don’t think the Falcons will be scoring on every possession. The Bronco defense routinely is a step up in weight class, and this young season looks to be no different. Combine that with the inconsistency we’ve seen from Air Force thus far, and that’s asking a lot of their offense.
Boise State features an offense with a lot of weapons and plenty of balance. Keeping Hank Bachmeier and company on the sideline for long stretches would prove wise. Getting their hands on a tipped pass or fumble may be absolutely necessary to winning this game.
Anything Air Force can do to increase their number of possessions over Boise will go a long way to helping them win this game. Even strategic clock management at the end of the half, if they can score with little time and receive the second half kickoff will add up. Because they probably aren’t going to be able to produce points on every possession, and by comparison the Broncos may threaten to, dominating the time of possession battle and limiting, especially stealing possessions are dire. If not necessary even.
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) October 26, 2020
Candidly, I have no idea who is actually going to be available to play in this game for Air Force, and I say that even beyond the litany of turnbacks. The depth chart that the Falcons release is about as useful as a cheatsheet from me for an algebra exam (you don’t want me helping you with algebra). And as we saw last week, players are missing from injury and COVID related reasons at an alarming rate. For perspective, if you consider turnbacks, the Falcons are at their four deep in some positions.
Beyond Boise State’s ability to score on offense with all the weapons they feature, this is a team that is very libel to add six on special teams with Avery Williams or Khalil Shakir. Beating this team is a tall order for anyone, much less one as ravaged by attrition as the Falcons.
The defense has performed so well for Air Force this season, but this is a game where I think they could be very challenged. This would not be an indictment on the defense themselves, we see this scenario play out often in football when a unit is left on the field too long.
Last season, I felt like Hawai’i was similarly just a very bad matchup for Air Force based on their offensive philosophy and personnel matchups. We all saw what happened as the Falcons thumped them on the Mainland. I really hope the same scenario plays out this week, as I see Boise State taking this game, and I would love to be wrong again.
Boise State 35- Air Force 17
If you want to get a feel from the Boise State perspective, take a look at Raj’s outlook and prediction. Raja Prabhala is one of the staff writers who covers Boise State at Mountain West Wire, and he provides some great insight on those who hail from the Blue Turf.