Posted September 14, 2013

Three and Out: Boise State shows holes in rout of Air Force

Air Force Falcons, Boise State Broncos, Three and Out
Otto Kitsinger/AP

Southwick failed to complete just two of his 29 attempts Friday night against Air Force. (Otto Kitsinger/AP)

The jury was still out on what to make of Boise State entering Friday night’s matchup with Air Force. The Broncos were expected by many to return to their BCS-busting form after a 2012 season in which they put up their lowest scoring output (30.2 points per game) of the Chris Petersen era. But Boise hardly even looked like they best team in the Mountain West when it was embarrassed by Washington, 38-6, in its opener. Still, the offense returned to form in Week 2 in a rout of Tennessee-Martin, where senior quarterback Joe Southwick threw five touchdown passes.

But after two games representing opposite ends of the spectrum for Boise State, a home date with Air Force looked to be a more meaningful measuring stick against a conference opponent. The Broncos passed the test with a deceivingly disproportionate 42-20 win, but not without showing a few glaring holes in its game plan.

Here are three takeaways from Boise State’s victory over Air Force:

Taking advantage: When opportunity knocked for Boise State to put the game away against Air Force, the Broncos stumbled with untimely miscues in the third quarter. Running back Jay Ajayi spoiled a Boise State scoring chance with a fumble on the 8-yard line at 10:38 of the third quarter, and the Falcons recovered. Two series later, quarterback Joe Southwick launched a 30-yard pass to the end zone only to be picked off by Air Force’s Christian Spear. The passer’s mistake halted a chance for the Broncos to build on an 11-point lead and kept the Falcons in the game.

This will be one of the areas Boise State needs to tweak as it goes forward: The inability to capitalize on breaks in the game. Against a team like Air Force, whose defense was giving up 438.5 yards per game and had forced only two turnovers prior to Friday night, the Broncos were fortunate to get plenty of shots at the end zone. But those opportunities might not come as often against Utah State or Fresno State, two more talented Mountain West foes that could challenge Boise State for the conference crown.

Jay Ajayi: Quarterback Joe Southwick (and his excellent mustache) put up a stellar performance:  He finished with a program-record 27-of-29 passing for 287 yards. But the game ball goes to Ajayi, who had himself his own career day against the Falcons. Ajayi punched in four rushing touchdowns, a career-high for the sophomore, and reeled off 125 yards with a 7.4 yards-per-carry average.

Ajayi already has 298 rushing yards on the season, so he’s well on his way to eclipsing the 548 yards he put up in backup duty last season. Moreover, he’s recorded six touchdowns on the ground and is looking like a legit red-zone threat in the Boise offense. That’s good news for Southwick, who could use a complement in the passing game.

Jaleel Awini: Despite the final score, not all was lost for Air Force in this game. The quarterback position looked dynamic with Jaleel Awini at the helm.

When Kale Pearson, whom coach Troy Clahoun tabbed as Air Force’s starter in Week 1, went down with a knee injury in the team’s opener against Colgate, the reins were passed to Awini. And if the sophomore’s performance against Boise State on Friday was any indication, the Falcons could be in for a talented future with Awini under center.

Awini rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns in Air Force’s option attack while also completing 4-of-9 passes for 99 yards. The Falcons didn’t even really need to attack through the air; the team rushed 52 times while attempting only 10 total passes. Air Force entered Friday night with the country’s 18th best rushing attack, so seeing this kind of ground production from Awini can only be a good sign for Calhoun’s offense to come. A potent offense might be Air Force’s best shot at success with an uncertain defense.

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