Boise State football: Winners make plays

The game was on the line Friday night, as Air Force was leading 13-10 near the end of the third quarter. Playmaking had already been a boon for Boise State, but this is where it really kicked in. The Broncos faced a fourth-and-10 at the Falcons’ 38-yard line, and they went for it. Akilian Butler ran a perfect route. Hank Bachmeier delivered a perfect strike for 13 yards. And on the next play, Bachmeier threw his best pass of the night, a 28-yarder down the seam to John Bates for the go-ahead touchdown. The next Air Force drive ended in a monster fourth-down stop, followed by a how-did-he-do-it first down catch by John Hightower on a third-and-11. Robert Mahone’s 10-yard TD run on the next snap was the ultimate game-winner in the 30-19 victory. Winners make plays.

PREVENTING THE CHUNK PLAYS

There’s one thing that really stood out in Boise State’s defensive performance Friday night. And it was the difference between this year and last year versus Air Force. You watch the Falcons hit for four yards here, five yards there. Drip, drip, drip. But they never hit the big one on the blue turf. Last year in Colorado Springs, the Broncos allowed six plays of 20 more more yards in their 48-38 win, three of them exceeding 30, and one over 50. Friday night, there were only two 20-yard plays from Air Force: one rush for exactly 20, and one pass play of 31 yards on the touchdown after the game was decided. The Falcons had an 81-yard TD through the air at Colorado, but they were unable to go over the top on Boise State.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES DON’T DO THAT

Seven tackles with a couple of them for loss and maybe a sack make for a solid night from a defensive tackle. But Sonatane Lui had an out-of-this-world night against Air Force, registering 16 tackles after posting 26 all of last year as a starter. Lui was in on the crucial fourth down stuff with 12 minutes left in the game. He altered the mojo of the Falcons’ triple-option. And did anyone around here know that The Citadel was an option team before Friday night’s postgame revelations? In a brilliant game plan ploy, the Bronco staff inserted graduate transfer Khafari Buffalo into the starting lineup against Air Force. Buffalo spent three seasons (plus a redshirt year) in The Citadel program, and he helped immensely in preparation. The net result? Buffalo logged 11 tackles against the Falcons.

GROUP OF 5 EYES ON THE BRONCOS NOW

Boise State got as much of a bump in the polls Sunday as you could possibly expect. The Broncos jumped five teams that lost Saturday—Utah, Michigan, UCF, Texas A&M and Washington State—and are No. 16 in AP and No. 15 in the Coaches Poll. Cal leapfrogged the Broncos in the AP Poll. Totally understandable, as the Bears already have road wins at Washington and Ole Miss. As for UCF, the Knights took a major hit after losing to Pitt on an incredible final-minute trick play by the Panthers. The Knights are No. 22 in AP and No. 23 in the Coaches Poll, leaving Boise State as the top-ranked Group of 5 team, with the acknowledgement that there’s a lot of football left to be played.

SPARTANS SHOCK THE SEC

Perhaps the most ignored game on the Mountain West slate over the weekend was San Jose State at Arkansas, the conference’s only matchup against a Power 5 team. And why wouldn’t it be? The Spartans were 19½-point underdogs in Fayetteville. But the perennial Mountain West also-ran roared out to a 24-7 lead and won 31-24, picking off the Razorbacks five times. It was coach Brent Brennan’s fifth win in 26 games at SJSU. The other conference opener beyond Boise State-Air Force in the Mountain West saw Utah State race out to a 23-3 advantage at San Diego State before holding on for a 23-17 win. The usually-lethal Aggies offense scored only one touchdown. USU won it on three field goals and a pick-six.

PEACEFUL EASY FEELING ON THE PALOUSE

It was Idaho’s most significant—and most satisfying—win since the 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Vandals have been looking up at Eastern Washington since returning to the Big Sky, but Saturday they stared the Eagles down in a 35-27 upset in the Kibbie Dome. The Vandals, who rushed for 223 yards and passed for 240, blasted out to a 28-0 halftime lead on the 11th-ranked team in the FCS before recovering two onside kicks in the final four minutes to secure the victory. Junior linebacker Charles Akanno was named the FCS Defensive Player of the Week Sunday by College Sports Madness after making nine tackles with three pass breakups and three quarterback hurries, one on a key fourth-down stop.

MATTISON FOR SIX

He had come close, but yesterday he got it. Former Boise State standout Alexander Mattison scored his first NFL touchdown, a 10-yarder with a signature hurdle in Minnesota’s 34-14 thumping of Oakland. Mattison had a solid day backing up Dalvin Cook, rushing for 58 yards on 12 carries. And, of course, we have to check in on the Cowboys. Dallas started sluggishly against woeful Miami, but in the end Kellen Moore’s offense racked up another 476 yards in the 31-6 victory over the Dolphins. DeMarcus Lawrence recovered a fumble and added a sack of Josh Rosen. Leighton Vander Esch recorded six tackles. And Cedrick Wilson was targeted once by Dak Prescott and didn’t have a catch. Wilson did, however, have one punt return for 13 yards.

CAMPUS CRUISE

The weekend began with Boise State men’s basketball news. The Broncos missed out a week and a half ago on prized recruit Che Evans, but Friday they picked up their first commitment of the 2021 class from Tyson Degenhart of Spokane. The 6-7 Degenhart is currently a top 230 national prospect, according to MaxPreps. He’s currently a junior at Mount Spokane High. Boise State women’s soccer finished its non-conference schedule 8-1, the best start in school history, with a 4-0 shutout of Southern Utah Sunday. McKenna Kynett scored twice, and Raimee Sherle tallied her seventh goal of the season. And the Bronco women’s volleyball team swept UC Irvine Saturday to win the Boise State Invitational. Mountain West play begins Tuesday night at Utah State.

JARRED ROME PASSES AWAY

Word circulated Sunday night that Boise State Athletic Hall of Famer Jarred Rome died Saturday at the age of 42 in Tulalip, WA. Rome passed away in his sleep just hours after being inducted into the Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame. As a Bronco, he finished second in the discus at the 1997 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and was a three-time Big West discus champion. Rome was popular with teammates and coaches. He went on to represent the U.S. at two Summer Olympics, in 2004 in Athens and in 2012 in London.

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September 23, 1978: Cedric Minter sets Boise State’s single-game rushing record with a 261-yard performance in the Broncos’ 31-21 win over Northern Michigan, including a then-record 77-yard touchdown run. Forty-one years later, Minter’s mark still stands, and he remains Boise State’s career rushing leader with 4,475 yards. It was Northern Michigan’s second visit to Boise—three years earlier they had come in to open the Division II playoffs and beat the Broncos, 24-21. That game ended with quarterback Steve Mariucci leading a victory lap down the field, infuriating Boise State coach Tony Knap.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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