Broncos looking to end three-game losing streak to Air Force

Boise State will welcome the Air Force Falcons to Albertsons Stadium Saturday for an 8:15 p.m. kickoff on ESPN2. The Broncos will honor 14 seniors before the game on Senior Night. (Press-Tribune)

It’s only fitting that Boise State will look to clinch a spot in the Mountain West title game Saturday night against a team they’ve lost to in three straight seasons.

Boise State will welcome the Air Force Falcons to Albertsons Stadium Saturday for an 8:15 p.m. kickoff on ESPN2. The Broncos will honor 14 seniors before the game on Senior Night.

But the big storyline surrounds the Broncos needing just one win in their final two games to lock up the Mountain Division and a trip to the Mountain West championship game. A win tonight against Air Force or next week at Fresno State will do it, and winning both would assure the title game would be in Boise on Dec. 2.

The Broncos would love to do it tonight against Air Force, a team they haven’t beaten since 2013. Boise State has lost to Air Force in three straight years, including on Senior Night two years ago at Albertsons Stadium in 2015.

Losses to the Falcons the past two years ultimately kept the Broncos out of the title game.

“Air Force is one of the teams that’s been talked about around here a lot,” Boise State quarterback Montell Cozart said. “We had this one circled on our calendar. We’re looking forward to it.”

Boise State has committed eight turnovers on offense and is just 14 of 51 on third-down conversions (27 percent) in losses to Air Force the past three years. The Broncos averaged just 20.67 points per game against Air Force compared to 38.1 points per game against everybody else from 2014-2016.

The Broncos will get less possessions and time with the ball due to Air Force chewing up the clock – the Falcons had the ball for more than 41 minutes last year – which means more importance on the offense to put points on the board. They haven’t done that enough the past three years.

“In order for us to win this game, we need to get ahead of them early and that kind of gets their offense off track,” Boise State senior center Mason Hampton said. “You have to be efficient. You have limited opportunities so you have to make them count.”

The most frustrating of the three losses might be last year, when Boise State overcame a slow start to get within a touchdown in the final minutes – only to be stopped on four straight plays from inside the 5 yard line.

Quarterback Brett Rypien threw eight consecutive incomplete passes to start the game and was just 3 of 16 in the first half. He finished with just 9 completions on 26 pass attempts. Running back Jeremy McNichols had 60 yards and a touchdown on his first two carries, but totaled just 28 more yards the rest of the game.

Boise State was also 1 for 12 on third down and lost a fumble.

Special teams have also been an issue the past three years in losses to Air Force. Boise State had field goals blocked in 2014 and 2015 and had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown in 2016.

“It’s a meaningful game, we definitely want some revenge,” senior defensive lineman Austin Silsby said. “We want to get after them and finish our season out right.”

Added motivation for the Broncos tonight is the fact that two wins to finish out the season assure the Broncos of playing another home game at Albertsons Stadium. For the Seniors, it would mean one extra game on The Blue.

“I think that’s definitely the goal, I don’t want to have this one be the last one,” Silsby said. “I want that Mountain West championship game and I want it to be here so hopefully it’s not the last one.”

Senior Night festivities will start around 7:55 p.m. tonight inside Albertsons Stadium.

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