BOISE, Idaho (AP) — In the aftermath of arguably its biggest victory in at least five years, Air Force quarterback Donald Hammond III was immediately ready for the next challenge.
Beating Power Five team Colorado on the road last week was a major accomplishment for the Falcons. Beating No. 20 Boise State on Friday night in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams would make a bigger statement.
“This is huge. Right now we know we can beat anybody. Even when it’s not a good day,” Hammond said following the upset victory in Colorado. “We had three turnovers and still came out with a win. This is a huge confidence booster.”
Even though it’s a short week and Air Force has a second straight road game against a quality opponent, the Falcons (2-0) will also arrive in Boise with the knowledge that they’ve created all sorts of headaches for the Broncos in the past.
Air Force won three straight in the series between 2014 and 2016, although the Broncos have rebounded to win the past two matchups. The 2016 game started with the Broncos ranked in the top 20 and ended with the Falcons celebrating a win that made them one of three programs — along with Idaho and Nevada — to beat Boise State in three straight seasons.
Yes, the Falcons have been very good at making it difficult for the Broncos (3-0).
“It’s not just triple option,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “They are very creative in their formations, they’re creative in how they attack each team. They try to find a weakness like every offense does and try to attack it and see what they can do. They make adjustments along the way in the game. They know what they do and how to answer the questions the defense provides and then their quarterback is playing really well.”
After a challenging first two weeks of the season, which included wins at Florida State and a 14-7 slog against Marshall, the Broncos had a relatively easy time with Portland State last week. It was a much-needed break given the difficulty of preparing for Air Force.
“We get a chance to face one heck of an opponent this week. Probably the most complete Mountain West team in the last seven years,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said.
Other things to watch as the Broncos and Falcons meet for the eighth time:
THIRD DOWN MASTER
While Boise State freshman QB Hank Bachmeier has played well overall, he’s been especially good on third downs. Bachmeier is 21 of 29 for 356 yards, 17 first downs and three touchdowns when facing third-down situations thus far. He’s also added 33 yards rushing, three first downs and a TD on third downs as well.
“To me everybody has to be on point,” Harsin said. “It’s not just the quarterback. It’s protection, it’s tight ends, it’s wide receivers, it’s running backs. It’s everybody doing their part on third downs to execute.”
AIR IT OUT
Hammond was named the Mountain West offensive player of the week after doing damage with his arm against Colorado. Hammond completed 7 of 12 passes for 155 yards and two TDs. His 81-yard scoring strike to Ben Waters was tied for the fourth-longest in school history.
That big day — relatively — passing against the Buffaloes came after Air Force attempted one pass in the opening win over Colgate. And even though the Falcons had a big day passing, they still rushed for 284 yards against Colorado.
If the Broncos’ Curtis Weaver is getting more sacks, Air Force is throwing more than expected and Boise State is likely to win.
Weaver was already the active national leader in sacks before going out and getting four more last week against Portland State. He has six total through three games and 26 ½ for his career.
“You’ve got to be aware of a very skilled and explosive pass rusher,” Calhoun said. “He’s fast, he’s athletic, he can turn an edge. He uses his hands well. He’s got a knack for knowing exactly where the quarterback is.”
Jordan Jackson blocked a crucial extra point late in the game against the Buffaloes. The Falcons have at least one blocked kick in each of Calhoun’s 13 seasons as head coach.
In all, Air Force has blocked 38 kicks under Calhoun. Want more? Since the program began tracking them in 1990, the Falcons have deflected 40 field goals, 36 extra points and 60 punts.