6-1 Falcons Set To Host #22 Aztecs
by Graham Knight
The Air Force Falcons visited Mountain West Conference rivals Boise State in week seven and came away with a 24-17 win to improve to 6-1 in the year and 2-1 in the conference.
This was the 10th time the two teams have met, all in Mountain West contests. Air Force had only won once on the blue turf, and that was in 2015. Fast forward to 2021, and 3-3 Boise State was coming off an upset win over Top-10 opponent BYU, while the Falcons were looking for their first 6-1 start since 2002.
Coach Troy Calhoun said early in the week that he had a hunch it would be a back-and-forth affair, and it didn't disappoint as the Falcons hung on to win 24-17. Their recipe was a repeat of previous wins: part stiff defense and part pounding rushing game. Boise State Quarterback Hank Bachmeier led the Broncos on an 11-play, 75-yard drive to start the game, capped off by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Stefan Cobbs to take the lead 7-0.
The Falcons answered back with a 14-play drive of their own. Junior running back Brad Roberts finished the drive, going in from 4 yards out to tie the game at seven. It was the first of three straight first-half touchdown drives for Air Force.
Junior quarterback Haaziq Daniels scored on a 25-yard option run the next drive, and Roberts scored his second TD on a one-yard plunge, giving Air Force a 21-14 lead at halftime.
The second half was a see-saw affair that saw five punts, a missed field goal and a turnover-on-downs between the two teams in the first seven possessions.
That missed field goal by the Falcons came after a nearly 8.5-minute, 15-play drive. Sophomore kicker Anthony Rodriquez hit the upright from 30 yards out to keep the score knotted at 21-14.
So, late in the 4th, Coach Calhoun turned to Freshman kicker Mathew Dapore, who made a 28-yarder with 2:49 left to give Air Force a 24-14 lead.
"He hit it right down the pipes," Calhoun said. "It went right down the center, and he kicked that way this week in practice too, so it's good to see him out there. He's a good student, conscientious, has a good leg.
Boise State came down the field in two minutes, and with 49 seconds left, hit a 37-yard field goal to cut the Air Force lead back to seven. The Broncos then recovered the ensuing on-sides kick.
That's when the Falcon defense clamped down. Senior cornerback Tre Bug, III picked off a Bachmeier pass along the sideline to seal the victory.
"He was in really, really tight coverage and, just the way he plucked the ball out of the air," Calhoun commented on the interception "I mean, he's seasoned, he's savvy, he's a really, really good worker. Just a sharp, just a tremendous football player."
"Seeing him get that interception made me so happy," added senior defensive lineman Jordan Jackson. "Ah, I'm so proud of these guys!"
Roberts added another 138 yards to his season rushing total of 818 yards, now 5th in the nation. For the game, the Falcons picked up 307 yards on the ground and are still tops in rushing offense in the FBS.
"Letting our offense go out there and ground and pound and our O-linemen pushing the way they did, it definitely makes a defense more confident when we go out there," Bugg, III said of watching his team's offense.
Air Force again dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 37 minutes, and are still 2nd in the nation behind Army.
The Falcons stand at 3-1 in conference play, but might face their toughest conference opponent yet -- San Diego State -- next week at home. The Aztecs are undefeated, ranked #22 in the AP Top 25, and are coming off a double-overtime win against San Jose State.
edited for web by Joe Harman