In front of a nearly sold out and loud crowd of 36,498, the Broncos defeated their rival and Mountain West opponent, the Air Force Falcons, 30-19.
“I’ve been fortunate to be here for a lot of years and be a part of some really big games,” said head coach Bryan Harsin. “That was one of those games, man, it gives you chills when you see the crowd like that, and you have that type of energy for a team that we really knew was going to be a challenge.”
The Broncos went into the second half tied with Air Force 10-10, but time possession was a different story. Air Force controlled the clock; they were on the field for 20:18 minutes while the Broncos’ offense only saw the field for 9:42 minutes.
Similar to Colgate and Colorado, the Broncos struggled to stop Air Force’s triple option. Air Force rushed for 152 total yards in the first half and only passed for eight yards. The Broncos relied on the pass for the second week in a row; they passed for 155 total yards and only had 21 rushing yards at the conclusion of the first half.
Air Force received the ball to start the second half. Quarterback Isaiah Sanders hit receiver Geraud Sanders for a 19-yard pass completion. At this point, Air Force had already more than doubled their passing yards in the first half.
Air Force was the first to score in the second half with a 31-yard field goal. Air Force is the only team to score on the Broncos in the second half all season.
After a Bronco punt and Air Force’s field goal, the Broncos took the lead with 34 seconds left in the third quarter. Hank Bachmeier connected with John Bates for a 28-yard touchdown pass. This put the Broncos ahead 17-13.
When the Broncos’ defense desperately needed to stop the Air Force’s run, they did, and in a big way. The Falcons went for fourth-and-one at the Broncos’ 48. David Moa and Santana Lui stuffed fullback Taven Birdow, and the Broncos took over inside the 50.
“I think the main thing for us is keeping the points off the board, I think we did a good job a couple of times of holding them two field goals, blocking the extra point on the fourth-down stop,” said Kekaula Kaniho. “I think we did a good job of that, but just [need to start]finishing better.”
This play led to a 10-yard touchdown run by running back Robert Mahone and a blocked extra point thanks to Air Force’s Lakota Wills. The Broncos’ defense was quick to get the ball back — Kaniho intercepted the ball and ran it back for a 50-yard return.
Kaniho’s interception aided Mahone’s second 10-yard touchdown of the night, which was also the Broncos’ last score in their victory at home before their bye week.
To top off a sweet victory against a longtime rival, the Broncos were able to block Air Force’s extra point on the
final score of the game.
In a game that started with Air Force completely dominating the clock, things evened out in the second half. The Broncos possessed the ball for 25:48 and Air Force had possession for 34:12. The Broncos finished with 95 rushing yards and 260 passing yards, a huge shift from the first half.
“It’s just been great for us to go out there and play, especially in front of the home crowd, and we just got to keep building on that chemistry,” Mahone said. “We’re going to keep going out there and giving our best for each other.”