Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What We Know after 3 Games

A mid September bye gives Air Force a chance to take a step back and for Troy Calhoun to look at his football team and plot for the rest of the season. Several Things stand out after their 2-1 start: 1) LB Jordan Pierce is the real deal. He was in Calhoun's doghouse for unspecified reasons, but since starting for the injured Joey Nichol, has been magnificent. He had 10 tackles against Georgia State and has 19 in 3 games along with an interception, 1 sack and 4 tackles for loss. Watching him play, he reminds me of Chris Gizzi. He must stay in the lineup even after Nichol comes back from injury. 2) Air Force is pretty good against the run, but their pass defense needs some work. I do think its better than last year. But the Falcons still must cover better and get some more pressure on the opposing teams quarterback. The linebackers must cover better, and Air Force may have to consider rushing 5 on passing downs consistently, and when you have a running quarterback that 5th rusher should be a linebacker who is a "spy", going wherever the qb goes. 3) I thought against Georgia State the Falcons finally showed the perfect blend of run plays versus pass plays. The Falcons threw it 15 times. That's enough to keep opposing defenses on their toes, and when they are not, look what happened. 2 touchdown passes from Kale Pearson to Garret Brown. Brown is a real weapon, catching the ball and getting handoffs in the backfield. He must touch the ball at least 10 times a game. He had 6 catches for 92 yards and 2 touchdowns...Jalen Robinette-get him the ball as well. He had 4 catches for 118 yards, and he stretched to haul one in to set up an Air Force score. He is a weapon, but only if you use him. A quick bubble screen to him is a 5-7 yard pass play, and if he breaks it, we move the chains. ......RB Jacobi Owens. He already has 431 yards rushing in only 3 games. Work Him-give him 20 carries a game. He turns 2 yard gains into 4 yard efforts....6 yard gains into 8 yard plays..The defense has to focus on him, which means when you want to throw play action, the Falcons have the advantage. 4) I know fans were bummed the Georgia State score was as close as it was, but the Panthers have a good passing attack. Moving forward I would love to see Air Force continue to find their play makers on offense, and try to improve their pass defense. After this weeks bye, its a gauntlet of tough teams...Boise State, Navy, and Utah State. How the rest of the season fares may well be determined over the next 3 weeks. But play to your strengths, and these Falcons could be better than people think.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Passing Fancy

I know. You see the title and you think I'm talking about Air Force throwing 32 times against Wyoming. However I am referring to this Saturdays game against Georgia State in Atlanta, because I think its a true test for the Falcons. Last weeks win by Wyoming was a result of the Cowboys getting out of character and throwing the football a lot. That's how they drove down the field to score the game winning touchdown with 58 seconds remaining. Passing teams simply killed Air Force last year. The Falcons didn't help themselves with a prevent defense mindset a season ago. So Saturday, here come the Panthers, with a quarterback who threw 73 touchdowns, (yes 73) in 2 years of junior college play. His name is Nick Arbuckle. In 2 games this year he is averaging 353 yards passing. How much better is Air Force on defense and specifically against the pass? This matchup will prove to be a good indicator of what we can expect going forward. Both Troy Calhoun and Outside Linebackers Coach Matt Weikert told me this week the Falcons gave a little too much cushion on the last drive to the Wyoming wide receivers. Saturday, Georgia State will toss the ball all over the place, including to their tight end Joel Ruiz who is very good. Can Air Force slow down the Panthers passing attack? Can they get pressure on Arbuckle and force him into some poor throws? Will the Falcons be able to tighten up the coverage, especially without Safety Jamal Byrd who will miss the game because of an injury? With the exception of Navy and Army, the rest of the teams Air Force will play this year throw the football to varying degrees. How well the Falcons play the pass Saturday against Georgia State may go a long way to telling us how this season will turn out. Injury notes: In addition to Byrd, LB Joey Nichol will miss the game because of a groin injury, and FB Shane Davern could miss up to 6 weeks because of a knee injury. The Falcons do hope to have LT Matt Rochell back in the lineup. He went out during the Wyoming game with a concussion. But he has felt better this week, and if he passes the safety protocols, will play Saturday. Listen to the game live at 12p on Colorado's 740 KVOR.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Some Pluses, Some Minuses

The long drive home from Laramie Sunday Morning hurt that much more when thinking back to Saturday nights 17-13 loss by the Air Force Football team to the Wyoming Cowboys. There were so many plays that could have gone the other way for the Falcons. Its a reminder that you never know what 1-2 plays may turn a game. Like Will Conants miss on a 39 yard field goal, or Broam Hart's fumble in the 4th quarter, or a perfect pass from Kale Pearson to Jalen Robinette that Robinette failed to stretch out for, or Troy Calhouns decision to go for it on 4th down, rather than punt, leading to the Hart fumble, and Wyoming eventually tying the game. Or throw in the penalties, one on a Kale Pearson touchdown run, and another on a big 41 yard gain off a pass play to Tight End Garret Griffin. This is what you think about when you lose. At some point you do focus on the outstanding effort by the Air force Defense, holding the Cowboys to 51 yards rushing and allowing Wyoming to convert only 4 of 14 3rd down attempts. You look at the Falcons throwing 32 times in this game, and the success they had, at times, going to Robinette, and to their tight end Griffin. But you add it all up and its the 10th consecutive conference loss by the Falcons. The margin between winning and losing is slim. If its fair to make judgments 2 games into the season the Falcons are much better on defense and still a work in progress on offense. And sometimes you can steal wins with your defense. But that chance flew away into the Wyoming night Saturday. But there is hope. This team is improved from a season ago. But they need to make those 1-2 plays go their way beginning this weekend at Georgia State.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wyoming

Yes, Saturdays Air Force-Wyoming football game in Laramie is big, and not because its the next game on the schedule. It should tell the Falcons if they have improved from a season ago. Yes, its a rival game, especially because of Dave Christensen's tirade two years ago, and last years perceived disrespect by the Wyoming band playing during the 3rd verse. But leave all that aside and just look at Saturday and it should be a great matchup on the field. With new coach Craig Bohl the Cowboys play things closer to the vest. They will run the football a lot with Shawn Wick and DJ May. Air Force will do the same. So the pressure is really on both defenses. The Falcons would love to get the ball on the exterior to Jacobi Owens. I think they can do that but only if they call designed plays for him. If QB Kale Pearson goes into option mode, the Cowboys will force him to either hand it off the Shane Davern the Fullback, or to keep the ball himself. I think the Air Force will have to spread the field with their offensive formations, and try to get Owens, and Garret Brown in space, with a chance to break some plays. Wyoming wants to feed Wick and May the football-alot. They have a red-shirt senior at QB in Colby KirkeGaard. But he has not played a lot of football. Wyoming will ask him to manage the game, not win it. The Falcons have to force the Cowboys into a lot of 3rd and 7's and longer, then put pressure on KirkeGaard. Air Force will have to crowd the line of scrimmage and maybe play bigger than they are. And both teams will throw the occasional play action pass. Would love to see Air Force look for their tight end Garret Griffin over the middle. The Falcons have won 4 in a row in Laramie. What does it mean? Nothing. Wyoming starts 9 seniors on defense. What does that do for the Cowboys? It gives them confidence. But that can be shattered with one missed assignment and a long run by a Falcon back. I think this game comes down to a field goal. It should be fun. Our Air Force coverage beings at 6 Saturday night, with the kickoff at 815 on 740 KVOR.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Nothing

Thoughts following the Falcons 44-16 win over Nicholls St Saturday: Its good to get the first game out of the way-and win it................. And thats it....Don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way, but Air Force started this way last season with a Parents Day win over an FCS team, and we all know what happened after that. Yes, I loved the running of Jacobi Owens, the fact Air Force had 5 sacks and 6 tackles for losses on defense. But until those performances and numbers come against a MWC team, I'm in a wait and see mode. I'm always optimistic and I do like the newly discovered energy I have seen from Air Force. I think Steve Russ will get this defense playing MUCH better than it did a year ago. But one win over Nicholls St answers zero questions about this team. Saturdays game against Wyoming is a HUGE HUGE HUGE game because we'll find out how much true improvement this squad has made against a much better team. Other observations: I noted the other day Kale Pearson would carry the ball 10 times or less. He had 8 carries for 46 yards. He took a couple of good hits on his right leg, but popped up. He seemed to get more comfortable as a runner as the game wore on......That play I couldn't talk about in my last blog was a quick screen pass to wide receiver Jalen Robinette. It went for 0 yards Saturday. But I love the fact the Falcons have it in their playbook. Robinette will break 1 or 2 of those this year....Garrett Brown will surprise some teams. He had 5 rushes for 45 yards and a touchdown, and 1 catch for 6 yards. He is a good player.....On the injury front, Linebacker Joey Nichol was held out for much of the second half. I asked Troy Calhoun about that and he said "We'll see" meaning, at the moment he may, or may not play against Wyoming. Not sure how he got hurt.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Nichols St

What to expect Saturday....It won't be 72-0 like it was in 2009. The Colonels come in with a Senior at Quarterback in Kalen Henderson. He is a transfer from Tulsa who is a threat to throw and run. Good Player. He played early last year, then hurt his leg and was lost for the season. The one true weapon he has is at wide receiver in Keenan Canty, who had a year of eligibility left after graduating from Colorado. Other than that Nichols (which is what they preferred to be called) is very young at the skill positions. The Colonels defense last year was as bad as the Falcons. They too have a new coordinator, so we'll have to see how they play the option. Not sure what to expect. For Air Force I think the Falcons play it close to the vest in terms of formations, plays and defensive schemes. Save that for conference games. But what you will see are some changes on defense. It will look at times like the Falcons are lining up in a 4-2-5. I don't think you will see as much substituting as you did last year. The Cornerbacks will play man to man a majority of the time, and will line up right on the line in the face of the receivers. No more 9 yards off the line of scrimmage. I will also be watching to see how Kale Pearson holds up at quarterback. How many times will he carry the ball? How many times will he get hit? I will be surprised if he has more than 10 carries Saturday. We will see a lot of running backs Jacobi Owens, Devin Rushing, and Shayne Davern, who at 245 pounds is the biggest fullback the Falcons have had in the last 20 years. I don't think Troy Calhoun will showcase much of his offense this weekend. I like 35-14 with good guys on top. Hope to see you at the game. Bring your radio and follow us live beginning with the pregame at 10am on Colorado's 740 KVOR.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Speed Kills

The other day watching the Air Force Football team practice, I saw the Falcons offense run a play that I can't tell you about. One of the agreements allowing the press to attend practice is you don't write or tweet about specific plays or formations. My hope is, Air Force runs more of this kind of play I can't talk about in the 2014 season. As I look at the Air Force roster I see several players on offense who have size and/or speed. And some of them are not running backs. Now, I am not advocating the Falcons throw the ball 50 times a game, or get away from their option offense. What I would like to see is a little more creative play calling, using players who are fast and quick, who can hurt the defense. Air Force has those players, from Wide Receiver Jalen Robinette, who stands 6'3 and weighs 220 pounds, to Z Backs Garret Brown, who had a solid year a season ago, and veteran Jon Lee, who was moved to the Z Back position. When you have talented players, you try to get them the ball, "in space," which essentially means you put them in a position in the open field where their athleticism can take over. Air Force did it 7 years ago with Chad Hall. He was the conference MVP that year. The Falcons have a myriad of formations, designed to confuse the defense. Teams come in each week trying to stop the option attack. If you, every so often, give the opposition something else to think about (The play I can't tell you about) it will make the defense hesitate just a bit. While College and Pro Football can be complicated, there's also times when ALL coaches overthink it. Just use the tools you have in your tool box.