Fill-in Sears helps No. 25 Boise State beat Air Force 49-30

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) — Jack Sears’ first throw as a starting quarterback in two years went for a 75-yard touchdown.

That’s not a bad way to make an instant impression with his new teammates.

Sears threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score while filling in for starter Hank Bachmeier, Avery Williams scored on an 88-yard kickoff return and No. 25 Boise State beat Air Force 49-30 on Saturday night.

“Jack’s a cool customer,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “He’s got it. He’s got that energy about him.”

The last time Sears started a game was 2018 — when he was a redshirt freshman at Southern California. He threw for 235 yards and two TDs that day against Arizona State.

In between then and Saturday, he’s had quite a journey: playing backup for the Trojans and sitting out last season to focus on his degree before transferring to Boise State. He played a few snaps in a blowout win last weekend against Utah State — throwing three passes — but nothing like his performance Saturday, with Bachmeier not making the trip for an unspecified reason.

Asked about when he found out he was starting, Sears played coy. He did say the decision wasn’t sprung on him. Sears made the most of his chance by finishing 17 of 20 for 280 yards and no turnovers.

Simply following Harsin’s advice.

“Coach preached to let loose. Have a good time and just trust your training, trust your abilities,” Sears said. “I think that’s why I was able to play so freely tonight.”

CT Thomas hauled in two of Sears’ TD passes, including a tone-setting 75-yarder on the game’s first play. The Broncos (2-0, 2-0 Mountain West) have now captured 11 straight games over league foes. It’s their longest streak since joining the league in 2011.

Backup tailback Andrew Van Buren scored on a pair of short runs as he stepped in for George Holani, who appeared to be banged up in the first quarter and didn’t carry the ball again.

Air Force (1-2, 0-2) saw its nine-game home winning streak snapped. The last team to win at Falcon Stadium? Boise State, in 2018.

Brandon Lewis rushed for 112 yards and a score, while fullback Matthew Murla added two scores for a dinged-up Falcons offense. They entered the game missing leading rusher Timothy Jackson and tailback Kadin Remsberg for undisclosed reasons. Air Force had quarterback Haaziq Daniels leave the game in the first quarter after being shaken up on a hit. He was replaced by Warren Bryan, who rushed for 87 yards on a day when Air Force gained 415 yards on the ground.

“Boise played a great game. Not to take anything away from them, but we’ve just got to execute better,” Lewis said. “Everybody has to hit their assignment as well. I don’t think we did that good enough, especially in the second half. We’ve got a lot to improve on.”

Boise State saw the lead trimmed to 35-24 early in the fourth quarter. The Falcons elected to kick to the electric Williams, who stepped out of a tackle and darted down the sideline. It was his sixth return for a score (four on punts, two on kickoffs).

“I’m a dominant punt returner, but I want to show my versatility in every game and in every way as well,” Williams said. “I didn’t let my coaches down today.”

A handful of Broncos players didn’t make the trip, including starting safety JL Skinner. The Broncos were without one player due to the COVID-19 protocols, but the team couldn’t name the player because of privacy reasons.

“No matter what’s been thrown at us, not even just this year, but throughout the past years, we’ve always seemed to overcome adversity,” Williams said. “That’s just part of our culture here.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Boise State: The Broncos improved to 119-21 all-time when ranked.

Air Force: The Falcons fell to 4-18 against ranked teams under coach Troy Calhoun. Their last win over a ranked squad was at home in 2016 when they beat No. 20 Boise State.

AIR FORCE CADETS

There was a smattering of cadets in the stands as the academy moved into a higher level of COVID-19 restrictions. For this game, cadet attendance was voluntary. It was a mandatory formation when Air Force beat Navy.

UP NEXT

Boise State: A big showdown with a ranked BYU team on Friday.

Air Force: The Falcons can hoist the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy by winning at Army on Saturday. Air Force began the annual round-robin competition between the service academies with a 40-7 win over Navy on Oct. 3. “It would feel great to get out there and win the CIC,” Lewis said. “So we’re looking forward to it so we’re just going to keep moving forward.”

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