• Technical Difficulties

    Sun, August 31, 2008 by admin with no comments

    Greetings from Invesco Field at Mile High.

    I’m pinch hitting tonight and covering the CU-CSU game. It should be a good game (it always is), and I’m excited to watch one of Air Force’s future opponents.

    One note I wanted to mention: Because of technical difficulties, my post-game audio recap did not run on the Air Force section of The Gazette Web site. We’re working on it. In addition, only one of four stories that appeared in today’s paper made it to the Air Force section of the site. But all four should be on the main section of The Gazette site.

    You can find the game story here; the Shea Smith sidebar here; the defensive line sidebar here; and the notebook here.

  • Post-Game Report

    Sat, August 30, 2008 by admin with 9 comments

    Air Force 41, Southern Utah 7.

    Look at the score (and most of the accompanying stats), and it seems like an outstanding start for the Falcons.

    But any analysis of Air Force’s opener this afternoon has to be couched with this:

    The opponent was a Division I-AA team. And a bad Division I-AA team at that. One that hasn’t won a game since Sept. 2006.

    That said, there are some things about which Air Force should be pretty happy tonight.

    1) The play of Shea Smith.

    So much for the platoon system at quarterback. At least for now it looks like Smith has entrenched himself as the Falcons’ starter.

    Sure, he’s not flashy. And, yes, he can look downright slow at times. But Smith is just solid. He’s a good leader, he knows the offense inside and out, he’ll get the team in the right formations and he won’t make mistakes. To use a popular phrase, he “manages” the game well. Calhoun loves that about Smith. And it’s why Smith is playing even though junior Eric Herbort has better physical tools.

    Plus, Smith is a coach’s kid, and – ask pretty much anyone on the team – perhaps the team’s hardest worker. He clearly has the respect of his teammates.

    2) The defense.

    Again, it was Southern Utah. But the Falcons – save for one drive – were downright dominant on defense. You’ve got to like how well the defensive line played (as well as advertised), and how it was able to apply pressure on the Thunderbirds’ quarterback without the help of blitzing linebackers. That’s something Calhoun was hoping to do this season.

    3) Ryan Harrison.

    As I wrote for tomorrow’s edition of The Gazette, he was pretty close to perfect today. Nailed all four extra points and all three field goal attempts, sent five of six kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and booted his lone punt 45 yards to pin Southern Utah at its own 6-yard line.

    4) Young guys getting experience.

    Receiver Kevin Fogler, who was on the JV last season, caught three passes for a team-high 38 yards. Sophomore tailback Kyle Lumpkin, another guy on the JV last season, rushed for 77 yards on 19 carries. And sophomore Kyle Halderman, thrust into the starting role at Z, rushed for 87 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown.

    And then there were the freshmen. Anthony Wright played some corner, Jon Warzeka played some Z and quarterback Tim Jefferson played a series at the end of the game with Asher Clark in the backfield.

    5) Multiple weapons.

    In addition to the guys mentioned above, sophomore tailback Savier Stephens picked up 62 yards, senior receiver Spencer Armstrong added 34 on a pair of reverses and junior Sean Quintana had one catch at tight end. There seem like a bunch of potential playmakers on this team.

    So what wasn’t to like?

    1) The ball was on the ground way too much.

    According to the stats, Air Force fumbled four times and lost two of them. But there were several other plays where the ball came out after whistles had been blown or the runner was ruled down. That’s not good ball security – and you better believe Calhoun will be fuming about that after looking at the tape.

    2) Six penalties for 50 yards.

    Too many. And the late personal foul call was particularly bad.

    3) Seemed like Air Force had a little too much trouble moving the ball early in the game. And failing to score with three plays from the 1-yard line is disconcerting.

    But, again, it was Southern Utah, so we can’t read too much into the game. Guys got experience, there were zero injuries and, most importantly for Air Force, it picked up a victory.

    We’ll know a lot more next week at this time.

  • Halftime Update

    Sat, August 30, 2008 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force leads Southern Utah, 21-0, at the half. But it probably should be more against this Division I-AA team that has lost 18 in a row.

    The Falcons’ defense has been a bright spot. It limited the Thunderbirds to just 36 yards and two first downs in the first half, and it contributed four points with a pair of safeties – one on a tackle for loss by senior linebacker Brandon Reeves, the other on a sack by senior defensive end Jake Paulson.

    Senior quarterback Shea Smith took all but one snap in the first half and led the Air Force offense to two touchdowns and a field goal. Smith rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and completed 6 of 8 passes for 54 yards and a scoring strike to tight end Keith Madsen.

    Air Force did make some mistakes, as Reggie Rembert lost a fumble and the offense was stopped on downs after having a first-and-goal from the 3-yard line.

  • 20 Minutes to Kickoff

    Sat, August 30, 2008 by admin with no comments

    Air Force completed its warmup about seven minutes ago and went back to the locker room. The cadets are lined up, ready to march on the field. The stadium has yet to really fill up. There were a couple of accidents that slowed traffic on I-25.

    Official weather report just handed to me: 67 degrees, light clouds, winds from the south-southeast at 13 to 18 miles per hour and 65 percent humidity. It apparently should get to about 72 degrees by 1:45.

    Again, just a beautiful day.

  • One Hour to Kickoff

    Sat, August 30, 2008 by admin with no comments

    To paraphrase Brent Musburger, “I am looking live …” at Falcon Stadium from the press box.

    Just an absolutely gorgeous day. Sunny, about 65-70 degrees, a nice breeze.

    Right now, a little more than an hour before kickoff, the Falcons’ specialists are warming up, kicking some field goals. Southern Utah’s skill guys are on the field. Thunderbirds quarterback Cody Stone looks like he has a pretty good arm.

    Air Force coaches, like last season, are in their all-black Johnny Cash outfits.

  • BlogDog: Season Two Debut

    Fri, August 29, 2008 by admin with 4 comments

    blogdog.JPG

    He’s back.

    Since The Gazette recently changed its policy regarding its writers voting in polls and for all-conference teams, I suppose I could predict the results of each Air Force game this season and send The BlogDog into an early retirement.

    But I’m not going to do that.

    For one, I think predicting the games might make me watch them differently. I’d have a rooting interest, and it might affect my coverage.

    But let’s be honest here. The main reason I’m not going to do it is I’m never going to be as good as the BlogDog. (And, as the BlogWife always points out when giving him half of our bed and me just a small sliver, I’m not as cute as him either).

    If you are new to the blog and haven’t by word-of-mouth heard of the BlogDog (which, in reality, would be like a teenager in the mid-1960s who didn’t know about the Beatles), here’s a refresher course:

    I love reading prediction columns by other writers, and because I couldn’t do predict the games (because of the policy noted above), somebody else had to. I gave that responsibility to my dog, Norm.

    BlogDog was born.

    Here’s how he does it: I set a mini-replica Air Force helmet and a mini-replica helmet of the Falcons’ opponent about 10 yards in front of him. Whichever helmet he picks (best out of five times) is who he thinks is going to win. If he picks one team three times and the other team no times, he’s thinking blowout. If it’s one team three times and the other team once, it’s maybe a touchdown or two game. If he picks one team three times and the other team twice, well, you better believe it’s going to be a close one.

    Last season he went 8-4 in the regular season. Highlights included:

    -Starting the season 3-1 and later nailing five straight predictions (Colorado State through Notre Dame).

    -Picking Air Force to upset Utah in Salt Lake City. BlogDog’s pick was Air Force 20, Utah 17 (actual score Air Force 20, Utah 12).

    -Picking the Falcons to blow out Colorado State. BlogDog’s pick was Air Force 28, CSU 6 (actual score Air Force 45, CSU 21).

    Now, that success didn’t come without some drawbacks. Norm threatened a holdout until his demand of an extra rawhide per pick was included in his contract. And he was somewhat cocky after the aforementioned five-straight correct choices. It’s starting to remind me of the Matthew McConaughey character in the beginning of the sports betting movie “Two for the Money.”

    So, will BlogDog experience a sophomore jinx? We’ll see, starting tomorrow. He had a rough time choosing today because I don’t have a Southern Utah replica helmet (only the Mountain West Conference teams). My buddy Bret suggested using the Utah helmet, but after trying that I decided it would only confuse Norm (and taint his upcoming Air Force-Utah pick).

    Anyway, I went back to what I did last year for non-conference games: One piece of paper that reads “Air Force” and another that reads “Southern Utah.” Norm picked Air Force first, then Southern Utah, then Air Force twice, laying down in front of the “Air Force” paper for his last pick.

    Norm’s Pick: Air Force 30, Southern Utah 13

    Norm’s Season Record: 0-0

    Norm’s Overall Record: 8-5

  • Programming Notes

    Fri, August 29, 2008 by admin with 2 comments

    A couple quick programming notes with game day just a bit more than 24 hours away:

    -I’m planning to do game-day reports on the blog, for those of you who are watching the games on TV. What I’m thinking is at least one pre-game report (thoughts on what’s happening in warm-ups, a weather report etc.), a halftime report and then (hopefully) a post-game wrap.

    -Also, make sure to check out the paper or Gazette.com after each game. There will be a game story, a notebook and (typically) two sidebars – and also a column from David Ramsey from time to time (though not this week, as he’s still making his way back from Beijing). Finally, I’m planning to do an audio report from each game that should be linked to a still photo slideshow.

    -Keep an eye out for the BlogDog’s pick, coming later today.

  • Wednesday Practice Musings

    Wed, August 27, 2008 by admin with 4 comments

    A new weekly feature of The Gazette’s Air Force coverage was launched today.

    Each week, I will do a video preview of the Falcons’ upcoming game. You can find it by visiting the sports section of The Gazette’s web site (here) and then scrolling down to the “Local Videos and Promotions” section.

    You also can find the video here. Sorry about the wind.

    Some notes from today’s practice. …

    -Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said the plan for his quarterbacks remains the same for Saturday’s game against Southern Utah. Senior Shea Smith most likely will start and play early, but junior Eric Herbort also will play. …

    -Justin Moore was back at practice today but did not participate. He missed Tuesday’s session after going to the hospital Monday night because of a stomach issue. “He should be able to practice tomorrow,” Calhoun said. “He was held out today as more of a precaution, but tomorrow he ought to be fine.” …

    -Senior nose guard Jared Marvin did not practice on Wednesday. Marvin, who had surgery after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee during the spring, had returned to practice well ahead of schedule. But Calhoun thinks it’s too soon for the senior.

    “We’re going to just hold off with him for a little bit,” Calhoun said. “He thinks he’s more ready than physically he is. That’s meant in a respectful way toward the kid. We just need to put him on the back burner until he physically can exert. He’s doing everything he possibly can. He’s way, way ahead of schedule, and he’s even further beyond in his own mind of what he really is.” …

    -Freshman tailback Paul Weatheroy’s rookie season is over before it really even started. I wrote about this more extensively in the previous post, so scroll down for more. …

    -If practice today was any indication, these guys are ready to play. Even though the players were in just shoulder pads and helmets, the session was physical. It even included a minor skirmish.

    On the very last play of practice, sophomore outside linebacker Will Keuchler tossed (according to my freshman roster) Jon Escamilla, a scout team player, to the ground. Some words were exchanged and a brief scuffle ensued.

    I loved it, because I thought it showed players are intense, fired up and chomping at the bit to play a game. After practice I asked Calhoun if he almost likes to see that kind of thing.

    “No, I don’t,” he said. “I don’t like to see it, but I love the intensity. I just think you’ve got to have enough poise where you don’t hurt your own team. There’s that line where as soon as it becomes a personal vendetta, then all of a sudden it impacts your squad.”

    Both players were made to run after the incident.

  • Weatheroy Out for Season

    Wed, August 27, 2008 by admin with no comments

    Air Force freshman tailback Paul Weatheroy’s rookie season has ended before it really even got a chance to start.

    Weatheroy, who had been practicing with the Falcons’ varsity, injured his left knee Monday, and Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said today that “it looks like for sure he’ll have to have ACL surgery.”

    Calhoun said the injury would keep Weatheroy out for the rest of the season.

    “Probably looking at six months,” Calhoun said.

    The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Weatheroy, who attended the Air Force prep school last year, was a standout high school player in Oregon at Jesuit. In 2006, his senior season, he rushed for 2,608 yards, scored 38 touchdowns and led Jesuit to the Class 6A championship. He was named The Oregonian newspaper’s Offensive Player of the Year.

  • Tuesday Practice Musings/Press Conference Snipets

    Wed, August 27, 2008 by admin with 3 comments

    Each Tuesday during the season, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun takes part in a press conference. I’ve included some of his responses to questions he got today below my notes from today’s practice.

    -I got a chuckle watching junior strong safety Chris Thomas fling a scout team player to the ground at the end of a play today.

    It showed Thomas’ intensity, toughness and love of contact, which I wrote about in the 2007 preseason (check out the article here). It also showed this team is ready to play a real game.

    “Game week,” Thomas said. “You’ve got to turn up the heat a little, practice a little harder, be a little more intense.”

    -Calhoun has said freshman Asher Clark is a quarterback, first and foremost. But I think it will be hard to keep him off the field at Z receiver. Clark continues to take some snaps lined up as the Z and in the backfield, and he really moves well.

    -Defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter told me earlier in the preseason that freshman strong safety Jon Davis has all the tools to be an impact player, but he’s still learning the schemes.

    During team drills today, DeRuyter gave him plenty of instruction but also told him to “Turn it loose, stop thinking so much and just play football.”

    -No update yet on freshman tailback Paul Weatheroy, who injured his left knee in Monday’s practice. Calhoun said Weatheroy was meeting with team doctors today.

    Press Conference Snipets

    On surprises in fall camp: “You see some young men that really didn’t even practice on the varsity last year – (sophomore tailback) Kyle Lumpkin never took a varsity practice snap. (Sophomore) Jared Tew, at fullback, never really took one. (Junior) Brenton Byrd, at corner, had never played there, (sophomore) Kevin Fogler at wide receiver, (sophomore) Tyler Schonsheck at guard. So those are guys that are maybe new faces to our program, at least in terms of being varsity players, and yet what has to transform is that it carries forth to Saturdays when it’s time to play.”

    On his second season versus his first: “You just don’t have as many guys that have been involved in a college football game. I do think that the guys that we have have been exposed in terms of terminology and checks and things that occur during your system. But this sport, it’s a people-driven sport, and ultimately it’s players that play.”

    On how time keeping rule changes will affect Air Force (now, after a runner goes out of bounds – except during the last two minutes of a half – the clock will start on a signal from the ref, rather than when the ball is snapped): “I don’t think it does us. I think probably logistically we’re putting a bit on whether it’s the clock keeper or the back judge to realize at what point in the game. I understand we want to speed the game up a little bit, which that’s quite within reason. Is there another way in a year or two down the road where perhaps you could do it that makes it where it’s consistent throughout the entire course of the game? There probably is. As far as how it will impact us, I don’t think much at all.”