BOISE — If penalties, dropped passes and an inability to slow the Air Force rushing attack weren’t bad enough, the Boise State football team found a new way to lose Saturday night.
On the biggest play of the game the Broncos had just 10 players on the field.
Boise State got stuffed on fourth-and-goal while playing a man short early in the fourth quarter and the Broncos were unable to overcome a number of other issues on both sides of the ball in a surely disappointing 24-17 loss at Albertsons Stadium.
The loss was the third in a row and the for the Broncos on the once vaunted blue turf. It’s the first time since 1996, Boise State’s first year at the FBS level, that the Broncos lost three consecutive home games. They’ve now lost four of six home games dating back to last season.
As bad as it was the Broncos buckled down on defense in the second half and were set to get the ball back trailing just 21-14 with five minutes left – but an Air Force punt bounced off the elbow of Boise State’s Kekaula Kaniho and was recovered by the Falcons inside the 20.
Air Force added a short field goal to go up by 10 but the Broncos somehow kicked a field goal and recovered an onside kick in the final minute to have a shot trailing by just seven.
But Hank Bachmeier's interception ended any chance at a comeback and those still in the stadium headed for the exits.
Boise State was riding high with momentum after an impressive upset win at No. 10 BYU last week. But that all came to a crashing halt as the Broncos failed in yet another attempt at their first two-game winning streak of the season.
Air Force rushed for 307 yards and Boise State couldn’t stay out of its own way as the Broncos dropped to 1-2 in the Mountain West. Air Force essentially now has a two-game lead on the Broncos with five to play.
Boise State was whistled for a whopping eight penalties for 75 yards.
The Broncos won the toss and took the ball first. The move paid off as Bachmeier found Stefan Cobbs for an 8-yard touchdown to put the Broncos up 7-0.
But Air Force responded with a methodical 14-play drive, all of which were runs, and evened the score at 7 on a 4-yard rush from Brad Roberts with 4:29 left in the first quarter.
After a Boise State drive stalled and the Broncos had to punt, the Falcons used another long drive – this one 10 plays for 76 yards – to go up 14-7 on a 25-yard run from the quarterback Daniels early in the second quarter.
The Broncos answered, and a nifty stiff arm from Andrew Van Buren led to an 11-yard touchdown run that evened the score at 14.
There was no slowing Air Force though, at least not yet. The Falcons rolled off a third-straight drive of 75-plus yards and went up 21-14 on a one-yard touchdown run from Roberts with 6:12 left in the half.
Boise State had to punt on its next possession, but the defense finally forced Air Force into a punt in the final minute of the half to avoid falling behind by two scores.
Air Force got the ball to start the second half leading 21-14. Needing a stop in the worst way, Boise State’s defense actually got two of them – the Broncos forced two straight three-and-outs to start the third quarter.
The Boise State offense got down to the two-line and had fourth-and-goal late in the third quarter with a chance to tie the game. But in the most important play of the game, two yards from a game-tying score, the Broncos didn’t even have 11 players on the field.
The offense had just 10 players on the field, nobody realized it, and Bachmeier was knocked out of bounds short of the end zone on a scramble attempt after he couldn’t find an open receiver – one of which was presumably standing on the sidelines by mistake.
Air Force took possession and looked to take command of the game by going up two scores. Boise State’s defense held tough in the red zone but the Falcons still had a 30-yard field goal attempt to take a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
The 30-yard attempt from Anthony Rodriguez somehow sailed right. And the Broncos had life.
But the Broncos lost 18 yards on a backwards fumble from Bachmeier and they were forced to punt again. Air Force took over at its own 23-yard line with 9:33 left, again with a chance to drain the clock and put the game away.
Boise State forced the punt it needed, but Kaniho couldn’t get out of the way and Air Force recovered. The field goal put them up by 10 with 2:49.
The Broncos used a late field goal to cut the deficit to 7 and stunningly recovered an onside kick, but an interception from Bachmeier ended any chance at a miracle comeback.
PLAYERS TO WATCH, KEYS TO THE GAME, MORE
The Boise State football team will look to end a two-game home losing streak Saturday night when it hosts Air Force at 7 p.m. on FOX Sports 1.
The Broncos haven't lost three straight home games since 1996 - their first year at the FBS level. Boise State last lost two in a row at home in 2015 but before that hadn't done it since 1997.
Boise State is 123-12 at home since 2000.
The Broncos have won four straight against Air Force (5-1) after previously losing three straight to the Falcons from 2014-16.
Boise State (3-3) is coming off an impressive 26-17 road win at No. 10 BYU.
This blog will be updated before, during and after Saturday's game with news, notes, scoring info and more, so make sure to check back often. For now, here's everything you need to get ready for kickoff...
BOISE STATE KEYS TO VICTORY
SOLVE THE OPTION: Facing Air Force and the triple option is never a comfortable feeling for anybody. It’s not something you see the rest of the season and there’s not much practice time to prepare for it other than this week. The Broncos lost three straight to Air Force from 2014-2016, but it was the deep passes that caused issues. Boise State needs to just survive and advance. Find a way, however possible, to slow the Air Force offense.
KEEP RUNNING: Boise State finally got the running game going last week against BYU, thanks in large part to huge improvements from the offensive line. Both Cyrus Habibi-Likio and Andrew Van Buren had season-high rushing totals. Possessions are at a premium due to Air Force draining the clock, so it’s important the Broncos again have success running the ball and finish drives with touchdowns. Empty possessions are a killer.
RIDE THE MOMENTUM: Boise State is riding high after picking up a road win at a Top 10 team for the first time since 2001. Bronco Nation is back on board, and the attendance against Air Force will likely be significantly higher than had the Broncos lost to BYU to drop to 2-4. The outlook for the season is now suddenly different, and another strong performance against Air Force would only help the energy and momentum grow.
BOISE STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
21 • ANDREW VAN BUREN • RB
With George Holani and Cyrus Habibi-Likio unlikely to play due to injuries, Van Buren figures to get the bulk of the carries at running back. He leads the team with five rushing touchdowns and is coming off his best game of the season, rushing 18 times for 60 yards and a score.
26 • CALEB BIGGERS • CB
Biggers, a transfer from Bowling Green, had a team-high nine tackles against BYU last week while starting at cornerback due to a season-ending knee injury to Markel Reed. Biggers will be a starter moving forward and will be a huge key to the success of Boise State’s defense.
14 • KAONOHI KANIHO • CB
The redshirt freshman earned his first significant playing time last week at BYU due to a series of injuries at cornerback. He got beat early for a touchdown, but rebounded and had a game-sealing interception in the final minutes. The younger brother of Kekaula Kaniho appears to have a bright future.
AIR FORCE PLAYERS TO WATCH
4 • HAAZIQ DANIELS • QB
The New Jersey native has rushed for 442 yards and eight touchdowns and passed for 491 yards and two touchdowns while piloting the Air Force triple-option offense. The second-year starter is a legit dual-threat weapon and has been solid in 2021.
20 • BRAD ROBERTS • RB
Roberts already has 680 rushing yards and six touchdowns through six games as the lead back in the Falcons’ triple-option offense. He’s rushed for 140-plus yards each of the past two weeks.
26 • VINCE SANFORD • EDGE
Sanford leads Air Force with 31 tackles and has a team-high 6.5 sacks. He also has three forces fumbles, a fumble recovery and two passes defended after not playing last season due to the pandemic.
STATS AND FACTS
• Boise State is playing its seventh game in the first seven weeks. It’s the longest opening stretch without a bye week since 2015.
• The Broncos have just five punt returns this season, but lead the country at 25.0 yards per return.
• There are 38 players nationally with multiple fumble recoveries, and Boise State has three of them: Scott Matlock, JL Skinner and Ezekiel Noa.
• Kekaula Kaniho will play in his 55th career game Saturday, which will set a new program record.
• With two home losses, Boise State (.911) dropped below Oklahoma (.917) for the top home winning percentage since 2000.
Boise State’s season took a huge turn with the win at No. 10 BYU. Fans are energized again, and the players likely are as well. The win has given Boise State momentum and a new outlook on the rest of the year. The Falcons have given the Broncos problems at times — they won on The Blue in 2015 — and come in with an impressive 5-1 record. But Boise State is not losing this one. Not after the BYU win. Not after losses in the past two home games. The Broncos win by double digits.
Boise State 31, Air Force 20