Just finished watching CSTV’s replay of Thursday night’s game.
If Air Force doesn’t make all of about five plays in the second half, the Falcons probably don’t win. Carson Bird’s late interception. Chris Thomas and Drew Fowler making the stuff on fourth-and-inches to set up the Falcons’ first score of the second half. And, of course, Jim Ollis’ 71-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 that tied the game with 5:55 to play.
That was an interesting situation. With about six minutes to go, Air Force could have punted, asked its defense to come through one more time and then gotten the ball back – likely with comparable field position. And, had they not made it, it’s probably ball game.
But there was no hesitation by Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, and none from his players. Quarterback Shaun Carney said he wasn’t surprised at all that the Falcons chose to go for it, and he said he knew Calhoun had the perfect call ready for the situation.
Both Carney and Calhoun noted the Falcons’ tendency on third- and fourth-and-short this season had been to run the ball inside.
“And, again, (TCU is) extraordinarily well-prepared, and they were packed down in there (inside), and so we had a chance to get the ball to the perimeter, and once we did, we were in pretty decent shape,” Calhoun said.
Indeed, Carney held the ball just long enough to draw a defender, and then made a perfect pitch to Ollis. Fullback Ryan Williams got a piece of the Horned Frogs’ play-side cornerback. Chad Hall took out not one but two TCU safeties, the second with a diving cut block was perhaps the key element of the play. And Ollis did the rest.
-Fantastic job by Hall faking out several TCU players on the Horned Frogs’ punt before Air Force’s game-tying drive. Hall saw the ball was going to land at about the Falcons’ 7-yard line, so he stood at the 11-yard line and pretended as if he was about to catch the punt. As TCU players gathered around him, the punt landed behind him and rolled into the end zone. So Air Force starts at the 20-yard line instead of the 5. Coaches have talked so much this season about little things adding up. That was one of those little things.
-Can’t say this enough: WHERE WERE THE TIGHT ENDS IN THE OFFENSE LAST YEAR? Travis Dekker was the only Air Force tight end to catch any passes last year and he had just four for 40 yards. This year, in just three games? Nine catches, 160 yards, one touchdown.
Both he and Keith Madsen (who caught a touchdown pass from Carney) are big, reliable targets. (And watch out for freshman Steve Shaffer.) Cannot believe they weren’t more involved last year.
-Couldn’t see this from the press box, but it stood out on TV: Calhoun’s stoic reactions to huge plays, most notably TCU’s missed field goal in overtime. Loved that. You know he’s jumping up and down inside, but he’s calm and cool on the outside. Reminiscent of Larry Bird when he was coaching the Pacers and Reggie Miller hit a last-second shot to beat the Bulls in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. Absolutely no reaction.
-Ditto on Ryan Harrison’s game-winning field goal. Maybe a quarter fist pump by Harrison, and then he takes out his mouthpiece and unbuckles his chin strap like it was just a walk in the park – no big deal. Then, of course, he was absolutely mobbed by all of his teammates and pretty much the entire cadet wing.
Two basketball-related notes: Saw recently-graduated Jacob Burtschi on the field after Thursday night’s game. He is spending this year serving as an assistant coach for the academy’s prep school basketball team. He still wants to play pro basketball, but he said the only time that could happen is after two years of service.
His former teammate, Dan Nwaelele, however, still is holding out hope that he can play in the pros immediately. Nwaelele’s agent, J.R. Harris, told me today that Nwaelele recently completed a minicamp with the San Antonio Spurs. Harris told me Spurs staffers told him Nwaelele was impressive. Nwaelele should find out if he gets an invite to veteran camp by the end of next week.