Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rest

Troy Calhoun and I have something in common. We both hate byes during the football season. The Falcons have their second of the season this week. We both prefer 12 weeks of non stop football. I guess they are good if you have had a lousy season, but Air Force is 5-2 and I know a lot of Falcons want to keep the momentum going and keep playing. But the off week is here. It might be a good thing, with a chance to get some rest before the final 5 weeks of the season. Injuries do heal faster with time off and winning records. It also gives the coaches a chance to self scout-look back at the first 7 games and see what the Falcons are doing well, and not so well, and adjust from there. Saturdays win over New Mexico showed some grit and resilience by Air Force, traits they will need again before the season is done. And what this season has shown me is the Falcons can win in a variety of ways. Fullbacks had rushed for only 279 yards before the New Mexico game. Saturday they had 136 and 3 touchdowns. Its never pretty, but it doesn't have to be. Run it, Throw it, Stop it, with a great Defense-Air Force has shown its more than capable of finding whatever works and coming out on top. The final 5 games will prove to be an interesting smorgasbord of teams, from struggling Army, to middling Nevada, to surging Colorado State. A win over the Black Knights brings the Commander In Chiefs Trophy back to the Springs and more than likely puts the Falcons in a bowl. After that you play with house money. But for now, time to Rest.

Friday, October 17, 2014

2nd Half

The 2nd half of the College football Season begins for Air Force Saturday at Falcon Stadium as they host New Mexico. There's a lot at stake for the Falcons down the stretch, but maybe the most urgent task is for Air Force to re-discover their dominate running game. The last 3 games the Falcons have had less that Air Force-like rushing numbers. There's several reasons for the drop off. 1) They have played better defenses-No question about that. Boise St and Navy's defense have been good against the run. And Utah State's Vigil Brothers simply dominated last Saturday 2) Injuries-Losing Sevrin Remmo on the right side of the offensive line did not help, and then his back up Allen Caunitz went down with an injury. They moved Andrew Reuchel from right guard to right tackle, so he's playing out of position. 3) The Fullback Game-Air Force fullbacks have only rushed for a combined 279 yards through 6 games. They have not established that part of the offense enough for defenses to have to treat it seriously. That has made it easier to hone in on Kale Pierson and Jacob Owens. Its been fun to watch the Falcons throw the ball but they are more successful throwing when they WANT TO instead of when the HAVE TO. Look at the Utah State game to see how well that worked. They had to throw because their running game was not there. Saturday the Lobos come to Colorado Springs with an option offense, like Air Force. They have used two quarterbacks, Cole Gautche who is 6'4 235 and Lamar Jordon who is shifty and quick. The problems the Lobos have had is stopping the run with their defense. San Diego State torched them for 397 yards rushing last week. Arizona State put 423 on the Lobo Defense and Utep ran for 330. So perhaps its a good time for Air Force to play New Mexico and get their running game back up to speed.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Reset

Who among us thought after 6 football games Air Force would be 4-2? I didn't think so. My best case scenario was 3-3, and that included a win over Wyoming. But here the Falcons stand at the halfway mark at 4-2. And yes, it hurt to lose to Utah State because the Falcons hurt themselves against a good team. But 4-2 should be cause for a quick slap on the back, and a re-focus of what lies ahead. There are winnable games in the final 6, and while it might be tough to get back in the hunt for the Mountain Division title, a shot at the Commander In Chiefs Trophy and a bowl game are certainly within reach. But what does Air Force have to do to get there? The Falcons running game is not quite in sync. They have had average (for them) games the last 3 contests. Some of that may be attributed to injuries on the offensive line. And I believe other teams feel their pass defense is as good or better as the Air Force pass offense, and will load up the box. Plus, and keep this in mind, the Falcons have faced 3 very good rush defenses in the last 3 weeks. The Air Force defense has been the story of the season, but they have been on the field a bit too much and could use more 12-15 play drives from the offense to keep them fresh. Saturday New Mexico comes to Colorado Springs. They run the option, and gave Air Force fits last year in beating the Falcons. A win starts a new winning streak and puts you a game away from bowl eligibility. Then a well deserved week off before the final 5 contests in November. If Air Force can correct some issues and get healthy on the offensive line the second half of the season may hold as many surprises as the first 6 weeks.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

UTAH STATE

I'm trying to remember the last time Air Force played an important game that meant something in the standings. Its been a awhile, which tells you how far the Falcons have come this year. Saturdays game against Utah State carries a lot of meaning. The Aggies are the defending Mountain Division Champions, and despite a so-so 3-2 start they have a team built to repeat and again play in the conference championship game. These are heady days for Air Force, at 4-1, winners of 3 in a row, coming off wins against Boise State and Navy. I continue to marvel how well the defense is playing. They allowed only 135 yards of total offense against Navy in the second half last week. This week in Utah State, the Falcons face a team much more balanced than the Midshipmen. In some ways, they are better, even though they are missing starting QB Chuckie Keeton. He's out for the season again, with an injury. It happened last year as well. Then Freshman Darrell Garretson came in and led the Aggies to the Mountain Division crown. He's a sophomore now, and has been just as effective. This game could turn into a defensive struggle. We know how good the Falcons are defensively. Utah State is 8th in the nation in rush defense, and they have an excellent secondary. The Aggies have already scored 4 non offense touchdowns, on a punt return, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Its been a season where the ball has bounced in the Falcons favor, and I think it happens against Saturday night. It will be close. I like Air Force 24-21. Our live coverage begins at 6 Saturday night, with the kickoff at 815 on 740 KVOR.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Making Up For Lost Time

How fun has it been the last two weeks to be an Air Force Football Fan? Not that it wasn't fun before. But lets be honest, when you win, the sun shines brighter, your food tastes better, the dog pissing on the rug doesn't seem as big of a deal. The buzz in your ears is the noise coming from Falcon Stadium the last couple of weeks after wins over Boise St and Navy. Its fun to win, and whats more impressive is how the Falcons are doing it. Do you realize they beat Navy by scoring 4 touchdowns, ALL THROUGH THE AIR? 4 touchdown passes. That's called doing what you have to do. It wasn't that long ago when the Falcons, be damned, would run the ball because by God that's what we are known for. It wasn't so long ago when Air Force played a bend-but-don't-break-defense because, well maybe they won't score. Good-bye to all that. Now its an Air Force Team that's known for DEFENSE because they play with a motor and an urgency that's breathtaking. They ATTACK and break the will of the opposing team. The offense still runs the ball, but, you want to crowd the line, fine. We'll throw it down the field, then send our placekicker in for the extra point. The Falcons have an attitude. It belies the personality of Troy Calhoun who publicly is the same, win or lose. And there's nothing wrong with that, but only when you're winning. 4 wins 5 games into the season? 2 wins shy of bowl eligibility in early October? YES SIR! With a cherry on top!!! Now, nothing is promised the rest of the way and there's plenty of tough games ahead, starting Saturday in Logan against Utah State. Buts its a lot more fun to play with attitude, verve and moxy, than to just sit back and go through the motions. And, the results have rightly followed. The Falcons are alive. Just listen to the buzz.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Navy

I have had a tough time this week getting a read on the Air Force Navy Football game Saturday at Falcon Stadium. On the surface its easy to say the Falcons have a lot of momentum after beating Boise State, and Navy is hurting after dropping to 2-3 with a loss against lightly regarded Western Kentucky. But rivalry games are so different. These programs do not like each other period. Most of the games have been close but its been Navy that's come out on top 9 of the last 11 times. Sometimes we in the media look beyond the game plans and schemes and try to factor in emotion, rivalry, and other aspects. The game is ultimately decided on the field. Now, there's no question, there's an extra jump in everybody's step leading up to the game, and its more than game #5 to Air Force and #6 for the Midshipmen. But after the first couple of series its really block and tackling. Here's where I think the Falcons have an edge, and again, (no surprise) its on defense. With the Falcons new look on that side of the ball I think Navy will have a tough time getting their option attack going. The Falcon linebackers are much closer to the line of scrimmage, and I think they can limit what Navy does when they run the football. The other aspect I find interesting is will Air Force use a four man defensive front and how will that affect Navy? The key for the Midshipmen is Quarterback Keenan Reynolds. He is a stud. Reynolds set an NCAA record last year with 31 rushing touchdowns. He's had big games against Air Force. Reynolds had an awful game last week against Western Kentucky, and he apologized to his team this week. The Falcons have to hit him on every play and can't let him be a factor. If he is, then Air Force is in trouble. Reynolds is that good. The Navy defense has given up a lot of yards and points this year, but they have also played two Big Ten teams. Air Force has more weapons this year offensively and may have to use all of them Saturday. Bring your radios and listen to the game live at 130pm, with the pregame at 1130am Saturday Morning on 740 KVOR.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Redemption

A game Air Force Football fans have been waiting for since Tim Deruyter left Colorado Springs was played Saturday September 27th 2014. Deruyter was the Falcons defensive coordinator 7 years ago and his gambling, aggressive style forced turnovers and sacks and resulted in wins and bowl games. Since his departure several years ago the Falcons defense has been searching for an identity. They found it Saturday night. Air Force showed flashes of a better defense against sub par opponents the first 3 games this season. But the true test would be against Boise State. The Broncos are balanced, deep, experienced, and used to getting everybody's best game. Last night the Falcons defense played with a snarl, a motor, a passion, an anger, that Springs football fans have not seen in years. 7 Turnovers were forced by Air Force. 7. They only had 9 all of last year. 5 interceptions, 3 by Weston Steelhammer. Another inspired game by Jordan Pierce. A fierce pass rush led by Alex Hansen, and Nick Fitzgerald. 4-4th down stops. A blocked field goal. And, imposing your will on the Bronco offense. And it all led to a 28-14 win over the Broncos. The mastermind behind all this? Steve Russ, who was officially named defensive coordinator after Charlton Warren left for Nebraska. But this story actually started last year. After losing to Navy in 2013 Troy Calhoun replaced Warren with Russ. At the time Russ could not make the wholesale changes I'm sure he felt was needed. After Warren's departure Russ laid out a simple defensive game plan. He reduced the defensive playbook-less thinking on the field, and more reacting, more playing. He realized the defense can't sit back. It must attack. He challenged the secondary and put more man to man coverage in. He moved the cornerbacks and the outside linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage. He identified Weston Steelhammer as a playmaker and has given him freedom to attack from anywhere. He's getting inspired play from Jordan Pierce who has overcome some challenging days just several months ago to become the face of this defense. And it all came together against Boise State. Falcon Stadium has not buzzed like that in a long time. 1 game does not a season make. But 1 game can reverse fortunes and become a benchmark. It was only 1 game. But what a game.