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Sports

September 12, 2013

AFA challenge for Boise State to stop

BOISE, Idaho — It didn’t take long for a sense of calm and confidence to return to the Boise State locker room.

Just days after the Broncos posted 63 points and rolled up 472 yards of offense, smiles returned to the faces of coaches and players alike.

Last week’s thrashing of Tennessee-Martin also helped erase some of the unease that emerged in the wake of a deflating, season-opening loss at Washington, a game in which the Broncos failed to score a touchdown and looked as lackluster on offense as in any game in Chris Petersen’s eight-year tenure.

“It just felt good, really, to just connect with the run game and the passing game,” said receiver Aaron Burks, who had three catches for 69 yards and a touchdown.

“I feel like there really weren’t questions for us about the offense,” he said. “But it was for everyone else. This is still the same Boise State team and we’re going to be an offensive threat. We knew what we could do. But it felt good to connect and actually put all those points on the scoreboard.”

Now, the Broncos (1-1) are hoping to keep the momentum on offense rolling into tonight’s Mountain West Conference opener against Air Force. The game will be on ESPN.

If history is any guide, Petersen knows his team will need all the points it can get against the Falcons (1-1, 0-1).

Two years ago, in Boise State’s first game as a member of the Mountain West, Air Force’s triple option offense dominated, putting up 264 yards on the ground and keeping the ball for more than 36 minutes. Twice in the second half, the Falcons pulled within a touchdown but couldn’t close the deal, ultimately falling to the Broncos 36-27.

For Air Force, the trip to Boise is a chance to atone for the mistakes that proved so costly in last week’s loss against Utah State.

The defense failed to make stops and quarterback Jaleel Awini, making his first career start in place of injured Kale Pearson, fumbled the opening possession and struggled on third downs. The Falcons were also victimized by receivers who dropped a handful of passes at key moments in the game.

“Execution was our biggest problem last week,” said offensive tackle Jerry Henry. “It’s hard to come back from a loss that early, but at the same time you want to come back on the field and prove you’re better than that ... especially by the amount that we lost by.”

Five things to watch for tonight:

GROUNDED FALCONS: Air Force loves to run the ball with an offense that is fast paced and forces defenses to play a variety of options. The Falcons are averaging 285 yards rushing per game, second best in the conference. The featured ball carrier so far this season has been Jonathan Lee, who averages 74.5 yards per game and has two TDs.

CONFERENCE OPENERS: Boise State has won 13 straight conference openers..

BLUE ON BLUE: For the first time since joining the Mountain West, Boise State will don blue shirts and blue pants. That color combination was outlawed two years ago when it was deemed the all-blue uniforms against the blue turf gave the Broncos an edge, especially when opposing coaches reviewed game film. Conference officials revoked the rule when Boise State rejoined the MWC last year.

TAKEAWAYS: The Broncos are again among the nation’s best in the takeaway category. So far, Boise State has recovered two fumbles and picked off five passes, while giving the ball back just twice.

DEFENSE?:  Boise State’s young defense is allowing an average of 477 yards per game, among the most in the conference. Air Force is slightly better, yielding 438.5 yards per game.

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