BOISE — The Boise State football team finds itself in a rare spot heading into tonight’s game against Air Force at Albertsons Stadium.
For just the second time since 1997, the Broncos will look to end a two-game losing streak on The Blue.
Boise State, which for two decades has had the best home winning percentage in the country, dropped behind Oklahoma to No. 2 with a pair of losses to Oklahoma State and Nevada in its past two home games.
“We know we’ve already lost twice on The Blue and that’s heartbreaking for us,” wide receiver Khalil Shakir said. “That typically rarely happens, so we’re definitely taking that personal and we’ve been preparing and doing things the way it should be done this week so we can go out and perform and it doesn’t happen again.”
The Broncos are 123-12 at home since 2000 — still a remarkable and crazy number. But they were 123-10 heading into a home game against Oklahoma State on Sept. 10. They suffered a 21-20 loss to the Cowboys, and then two weeks later lost 41-31 on The Blue to Nevada.
It’s the first time since 2015 Boise State has lost two home games in a row. One of the teams to beat them at home that year? Air Force, which comes into Boise with an impressive 5-1 record this year.
“We understand that it’s a standard to win on The Blue and we haven’t been able to do that as much as we would like this season,” linebacker Riley Whimpey said. “It’s a great opportunity for us this week to go get a win against Air Force.”
The matchup with Air Force is not just a chance to end the home losing streak. It’s also an opportunity to build momentum from a fairly stunning 26-17 road win at No. 10 BYU last week.
Boise State has alternated losses and wins in each of the first six games of the season. And Saturday would seem like a spot for another potential letdown with the Broncos coming off the big win and knowing a bye week is up next.
“It was a good win and it was fun while it lasted but it’s over,” Shakir said. “It’s done now and we have to move on and make sure we have the same study habits as last week and that all carries over. The celebration has ended. It’s time to move on and that was a huge emphasis early in the week.”
Another rallying cry heading into Saturday? Winning a Mountain West championship. Boise State’s 3-3 record is not what players or coaches would want at this point, but the Broncos still control their own destiny in the Mountain Division. If they win each of their final six games, the Broncos are assured of winning the division and playing in the Mountain West title game.
“We’re well aware that the goals we set as a team before the season started are still in front of us and something we can accomplish,” Whimpey said. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and look at the whole season, though. We’re trying to take it one game at a time and trying to focus on the small details and fix the things we need to do we can win each game each week.
“If we take it one game at a time, I have no doubt in my mind and I have the confidence in our team to be able to win the rest of our games to go to the Mountain West Championship.”
But it won’t be easy against an Air Force team that has had Boise State’s numbers over the years. The Broncos have won four straight in the series, but the Falcons previously won three straight against Boise State from 2014-2016.
The losses to Air Force in both 2015 and 2016 were ultimately what kept the Broncos out of the Mountain West title game both years. The Falcons are one of the leading contenders to win the Mountain Division again this year, so beating the Falcons is almost a must for the Broncos’ division hopes.
“Our goal is still in our hands,” Shakir said. “We still control our destiny. We still have to climb the mountain and get to the top, but we still have that opportunity in front of us. Those losses do stink, but we’re not going to sit and dwell on them. Our goal is still there for us to go get.”
Air Force leads the nation in rushing — surprise, surprise — at 341.33 yards per game. The Falcons are No. 2 in time of possession at 37 minutes, 43 seconds. That puts pressure on both sides of the ball — the Boise State defense needs to stop the run and try to limit the Falcons’ scoring, while the Bronco offense will have to be efficient with less possessions than usual.
It’s a somewhat scary game for the Broncos. It’s one most are expecting them to win, but one they could easily lose if they don’t play well.
Boise State hopes the BYU win is the starting point for a midseason run. A win against Air Force would only reinforce that.
“It’s a steppingstone to get to where we need to go,” running back Andrew Van Buren said. “I think we just need to control what we can control and come out and play our hearts out and things will fall in our favor.”