No. 25 Boise St. routs Air Force for seventh straight win
BOISE, Idaho — Boise State ended three years of frustration against Air Force and celebrated its Mountain West Mountain Division title Saturday night at Albertsons Stadium with a lopsided victory over the Falcons.
Boise State won 44-19 — its first victory against Air Force since 2013 and its seventh straight victory this season.
The No. 25 Broncos (9-2, 7-0 MWC) clinched the Mountain Division title earlier in the day when Fresno State beat Wyoming but coach Bryan Harsin didn’t want his players even thinking about that.
“Any time you’ve been beaten by a team numerous times, yeah, it feels good,” said Harsin, who took over the program in 2014. “... We’ve never done this before, and we were able to do it. Our players and coaches, they had great focus and great energy (in preparation). It showed up tonight.”
Boise State plays Saturday at Fresno State in the regular-season finale and the teams will meet again Dec. 2 for the title.
The Falcons (4-7, 3-4) absorbed their third straight loss. They had beaten the Broncos in each of the past three seasons.
Air Force senior quarterback Nate Romine, a surprise starter over the injured Arion Worthman, rushed for 54 yards and passed for 115. He absorbed 38 yards in rushing losses, was sacked three times and lost three fumbles.
“We ended up 3-0 on turnovers against a really good team,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “They don’t need assistance with as good as they are.”
Boise State led 27-10 at halftime and removed any doubt about the outcome with 10 more points in the third quarter, keyed by freshman wide receiver Octavius Evans’ 7-yard touchdown catch on the opening drive of the half.
Quarterback Brett Rypien was 16 of 22 for 300 yards and three touchdowns while wide receivers A.J. Richardson (123) and Cedrick Wilson (107) contributed 100-yard receiving games.
“(Rypien) is a heck of a player, and they are as complete of a team as you’ll face,” Calhoun said.
Boise State, which found out well before warmups that it had clinched the Mountain Division and saluted its seniors about 20 minutes before kickoff, started fast.
Nose tackle Sonatone Lui recovered a fumbled snap on the second play from scrimmage. The Broncos settled for a field goal but found the end zone moments later after a punt. Rypien hit Richardson in stride streaking down the right sideline for an 87-yard touchdown.
It was the first TD of the season for Richardson, whose previous long reception was 32 yards (out of 24 catches).
The reception tied for the fourth-longest in school history and was the longest by a Bronco since Lawrence Bady’s 98-yarder in 2003.
“There was no way he was not going to score on that play,” Rypien said. “We’ve been giving him grief all year.”
Boise State defensive end Gabe Perez recovered a bad pitch by Romine shortly after the touchdown.
The Broncos settled for a field goal initially, but an offside penalty gave them a second chance. Rypien fired a slant to wide receiver Sean Modster for a 17-0 lead, still in the first quarter.
Air Force got some offense going — thanks to its passing attack — on the ensuing drive. Romine completed three passes for 66 yards to set up his 1-yard TD plunge.
Boise State added a field goal early in the second quarter for a 20-7 lead, then capitalized on another Romine mistake.
Defensive end Jabril Frazier sacked Romine and the ball came out as the quarterback was on top of the defender. Cornerback Tyler Horton scooped the loose ball and ran 21 yards for a 27-7 lead.
The Broncos have a fumble recovery drill called “country and city.” If there’s space to scoop and score, it’s “country.” If it’s time to jump on the ball, it’s “city.”
“Seeing that ball rumbling ... the only thing I could think about was country and city,” Horton said.
NOTES: The attendance of 33,030 left Boise State with its lowest average attendance (32,228) in a season since 2007. ... Boise State Octavius Evans became the team’s first true freshman wide receiver with multiple TD catches in a season since Kirby Moore in 2009 (two). ... Junior WR A.J. Richardson topped 100 receiving yards for the first time in his career. ... Nate Romine became the first Air Force quarterback to start a game in five seasons. He was injured during the game and won’t play again this season, coach Troy Calhoun said. ... Air Force starting QB Arion Worthman didn’t play. “He didn’t practice until Wednesday. He just wasn’t as functional as we needed him,” Calhoun said. ... Sophomore QB Isaiah Sanders rushed for 11 yards and was 0-for-3 passing after starter Kevin Romine was injured.