College football: No. 20 Boise State uses big second half to beat Air Force

Boise State's Robert Mahone dives past Air Force's Jeremy Fejedelem on one of his two touchdown runs Sept. 20, 2019.
Boise State’s Robert Mahone dives past Air Force’s Jeremy Fejedelem on one of his two touchdown runs Friday night.
(Steve Conner / Associated Press)

Hank Bachmeier threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns, Robert Mahone rushed for a pair of scores in the fourth quarter, and No. 20 Boise State pulled away in the second half for a 30-19 win over Air Force on Friday night.

Bachmeier’s arm made up for a Broncos running game that was ineffective until the fourth quarter. He hit CT Thomas on a 36-yard touchdown pass in the first half while getting crunched by a defender and added a 28-yard touchdown toss to tight end John Bates late in the third quarter to give the Broncos a 17-13 lead.

Mahone added a pair of 10-yard touchdown runs in the fourth as the Broncos (4-0, 1-0 Mountain West) won their 20th straight conference opener.


USC quarterback Matt Fink stepped in for injured Kedon Slovis to lead the Trojans to a 30-23 win over No. 10 Utah.

Bachmeier completed 19 of 26 passes in another impressive performance by the freshman in just his fourth start.

Air Force quarterback Donald Hammond III had an eight-yard touchdown run in the first half and threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Geraud Sanders late in the fourth quarter. Taven Birdow led Air Force (2-1, 0-1) with 67 yards rushing, but the second-best rushing attack in the nation was held to 242 yards, more than 100 yards under its season average.

Bachmeier also got help from his receivers, who made terrific catches. Thomas, who had a career-high 119 yards receiving, made a diving 29-yard catch to set up Eric Sachse’s 40-yard field goal in the first half. John Hightower made a juggling reception surrounded by two defenders on a key third-down play in the fourth quarter, and Mahone scored on a 10-yard touchdown run on the next play to give the Broncos a 23-13 lead.

With the score 10-10 at halftime, Hammond spent the start of the second half in the injury tent while Isaiah Sanders took over at quarterback. Sanders led the Falcons to a 32-yard field goal by Jake Koehnke midway through the third. It was the first second-half points allowed this season by the Broncos.

Washington State was mired in the depths of the Pac-12 before Mike Leach revived it. UCLA is striving for a similar rejuvenation under Chip Kelly.

Bachmeier responded with his best drive of the night, taking the Broncos 77 yards in 11 plays, capped with the touchdown pass to Bates. The biggest play of the drive was Bachmeier’s 13-yard strike to Akilian Bulter on fourth and 10 at the Air Force 38. Two plays later, Bates was in the end zone and Boise State was ahead for good.

Air Force was stopped on fourth and one at the Boise State 48 on the next possession, and the Broncos answered with the first of Mahone’s touchdown runs.