- Associated Press - Friday, November 25, 2016

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) - Jeremy McNichols, one of the nation’s leading rushers, was stuffed, stymied and stood up on three cracks from inside the 5. A quarterback sneak didn’t work, either.

Wyoming certainly appreciated it.

Air Force had a late goal-line stand, Tyler Weaver returned a blocked punt 11 yards for a first-half touchdown and the Falcons beat No. 20 Boise State 27-20 on Friday, ending the Broncos’ bid for the Mountain West title.

Wyoming will face San Diego State in the conference championship game Dec. 3.

Haji Dunn Jr. recovered quarterback Brett Rypien’s fumble on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with just under 2 minutes remaining to help the Falcons (9-3, 5-3 Mountain West) knock off Boise State for a third straight season. They join Idaho (1982-93) and Nevada (1996-98) as the only teams to beat the Broncos in at least three straight years.

“Thank goodness they didn’t run wide,” said senior safety Brodie Hicks, who forced the fumble. “We put all our marbles inside.”

The Broncos (10-2, 6-2, No. 19 CFP) needed a win at Air Force and for New Mexico to upset Mountain Division-leading Wyoming on Saturday to earn a spot in the conference’s title game.

No reason to watch now.

“”It’s like an empty feeling,” Boise State receiver Cedrick Wilson said. “We wish we could have pulled through like we practiced but sometimes you fall short.”

McNichols rushed for 60 yards - and a score - on his opening two carries, but was held to 28 yards the rest of the way. He had three carries at the goal line on Boise State’s last possession, but couldn’t get in.

On fourth down, Rypien tried to sneak it in only to have the ball knocked free by Hicks. Dunn was there to recover it.

“It’s a game I thought we prepared well for and our guys were looking forward to coming in here and playing our best football,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “We didn’t do that tonight, so a lot of disappointment in the locker room.”

Off target most of the day, Rypien found his touch in the fourth quarter and led a spirited Broncos rally. He hit Wilson for a 75-yard TD pass to pull Boise State to 27-20 with 8:50 remaining. He wound up a yard shy of possibly tying the game.

Brett Baldwin gave the Falcons a big boost when he broke through and blocked a punt by Sean Wale just before halftime. Weaver caught the ball out of the air and ran it in to give the Falcons a 17-7 lead.

Air Force took advantage of a Boise State defense that was missing several starters by running it up the middle. Falcon fullbacks D.J. Johnson and Shayne Davern combined for 25 carries and 111 yards up the middle. Johnson scored on a 1-yard plunge in the first quarter and Davern on an 8-yard run in the third.

“You don’t know how much it meant to go out and win this way,” Hicks said. “We as seniors had to leave behind something to be remembered for.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Boise State: An offense that scored more than 40 points in each of the last games struggled to find its rhythm until the fourth quarter. Rypien overthrew receivers and McNichols never could find a lane.

Air Force: A lot to like about an offense led by elusive quarterback Arion Worthman, who rushed for 80 yards. He has the Falcons heading to their ninth bowl game since coach Troy Calhoun took over in 2007.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Boise State: This figures to drop the Broncos out of the poll.

NAME GAME

Air Force senior wide receiver Jalen Robinette wore “Rowell ” on the back of his jersey. Just his way of honoring his mom, Trine Rowell, who was on hand as the Falcons recognized 32 seniors playing in their final game at Falcon Stadium. This is the biggest senior class in Academy history.

Robinette had three catches for 45 yards against Boise State. His 118 career catches are second all-time in school history. Ernie Jennings (1968-70) has the record at 148.

“We wanted to go out with a win and what better than to do in against a ranked team,” Robinette said.

RANKED TEAMS

This was Air Force’s first win over a ranked team since defeating No. 21 Colorado State 27-24 on Nov. 29, 2014, at Falcon Stadium.

“We like being the underdog,” Johnson said.

UP NEXT

Both teams will wait to find out their bowl pairings.

___

More AP college football at www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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