Air Force quarterback Jaleel Awini fakes a handoff to running back Jon Lee during the second half against the Boise State Broncos at Bronco Stadium. Boise State defeated the Air Force 42-20. (Brian Losness/USA Today Sports)
BOISE, IDAHO — For quarterback Jaleel Awini and the rest of the Air Force offense, things were going well in the first half against Boise State Friday night.
The Falcons were rolling on offense, controlling the clock and matching Boise State score for score. In the first half alone, Awini carried the ball 16 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns and left for the locker room only trailing by four points.
The second half didn’t go so well. Boise State got more aggressive on defense and shut down the Falcons’ triple option. Their defense failed to come up with an answer of its own for Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick, who completed 27 of 29 passes in leading the Broncos to a 42-20 victory, Boise State’s second straight over the Falcons.
“I thought Boise State played extremely well. They were very efficient, especially offensively,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “The second half we had trouble blocking the defense and they made a couple of key plays.
“As a squad we need to make strides at every position. We need to be so dead on, on every position. If we’re not then things bury themselves,” he said.
The Falcons have eight days to recover from their second straight loss by 22 points or more and get ready for Wyoming on Sept. 21.
Alwini looked sharp at times and led the offense efficiently in the first half. He led the team with 109 yards rushing on 23 carries and two touchdowns, both from 1 yard out. He was 4 of 9 passing for 99 yards, including a 53-yarder to Sam Gagliano that set up a touchdown that put the Falcons ahead 17-14 late in the second quarter.
But the defense had no answer for Southwick and Jay Ajayi.
Southwick set a new Boise State record for passing efficiency, while throwing for 287 yards and one touchdown. Ajayi rushed for 125 yards and four touchdowns, including runs of 35 and 20 yards as the Broncos pulled away in the second half.
The Boise State defense stiffened in the second half, held the Falcons to a field goal and built up a big enough lead to force the Falcons and Awini to take more chances through the air. He was intercepted by safety Darian Thompson with 8:12 left in the game and Air Force trailing 35-20, ending any hope of a late rally.
“As a defense it’s very frustrating,” Boise State linebacker Ben Weaver said of the first half. “We battled and came back in the second half. At halftime, we said we just can’t rely on our offense as much. For us it was about knowing your job and staying with your job.”
Meanwhile, the Broncos’ offense rolled up 533 total yards and 8 of 10 on third downs and a pair of turnovers scuttled scoring drives. Southwick spread the ball around to six different receivers. His favorite target was Matt Miller, who had 10 catches for 112 yards.
Calhoun said it was frustrating to see his defense struggle and fail to force a single Boise State punt.
“We have to come up with defensive stops and we didn’t,” said Calhoun, who has lost two straight to Boise State since the Broncos joined the Mountain West. “You have to force stops and field position, something you have to do to compete. Especially when you play against an excellent opponent.”