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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) — Safety Weston Steelhammer had three interceptions and Air Force handed Boise State its worst loss since joining the Mountain West Conference in 2011, beating the Broncos 28-14 Saturday night behind seven takeaways.
Quarterback Kale Pearson rushed for a career-best 127 yards and a TD and threw a touchdown pass as the Falcons (3-1, 1-1) beat Boise State for the first time in three tries.
Steelhammer had two of the four interceptions thrown by Grant Hedrick before he was yanked late in the third quarter. Conference scoring leader Jay Ajayi fumbled twice.
The last time Air Force forced seven turnovers was in 1992 against Wyoming.
Boise State (3-2, 1-1) had lost just four league games — by a combined seven points — since joining the MWC. Its biggest loss before this was by three points — 34-31 on an overtime field goal against San Diego State last season.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Finley replaced Hedrick late in the third quarter after linebacker Jordan Pierce's 56-yard interception return set up Will Conant's short field goal that made it 20-0. Pierce also blocked a field goal attempt.
Jacobi Owens' 10-yard TD run and Garrett Brown's conversion catch made it 28-0 with 11:35 remaining. Owens finished with 108 yards on 24 carries, but fumbled it away twice in the fourth quarter.
Finley's 2-yard pass to Alec Dhaenens with just less than 10 minutes left allowed the Broncos to avoid their first shutout since a 58-0 washout against Washington State in 1997.
Then, the Broncos made it interesting.
Tanner Vallejo recovered Owens' fumble at the Air Force 39, and on fourth-and-goal from the 10, Finley found Shane Williams-Rhodes for the score.
Williams-Rhodes dodged a tackle at the 5 and dived into the end zone, pulling Boise State to 28-14 with 6:21 remaining.
Steelhammer intercepted Finley's fourth-down pass at midfield with 1:38 left.
On the Broncos' first drive of the night, Steelhammer sacked Hedrick and one play later intercepted him.
Ajayi fumbled the ball on Boise State's second possession and Troy Timmerman recovered for Air Force. That led to Pearson's 4-yard TD pass to Brown. Pearson's 5-yard keeper made it 14-0 before Conant kicked a 25-yard field goal as the first half expired.
The Broncos' only big play of the first half came on Williams-Rhodes' 37-yard punt return to the 15. But Hedrick rolled right and was picked off by Steelhammer a second time, at the 5.
Gavin McHenry, whose first-half interception was overturned on replay, picked off Hedrick on the opening drive of the second half, and Connor Healey recovered Ajayi's second fumble on Boise State's next drive.
The Broncos finally got something going when Hedrick hooked up with Ajayi for 34-yard gain but Jordan Pierce sliced through the line and blocked Dan Goodale's 46-yard field goal attempt.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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