Air Force capped its preseason today with a scrimmage at Falcon Stadium.
Final score (according to my tally – the scoreboard stopped keeping score late in the first half):
First and second teams 57, Scouts 13.
Just like with the NFL preseason, you can’t judge much from a scrimmage that pits starters and backups against scouts – most of whom are freshmen. But there were some things to like.
Air Force’s offense was effective, scoring on its first seven drives (Senior quarterback Shea Smith led the offense to touchdowns in each of his four drives, while junior quarterback Eric Herbort led the Falcons to a touchdown and a pair of field goals).
I liked what the tailbacks did. According to the stats I kept (it had been a while since I charted high school games, but I did OK), sophomore Kyle Lumpkin rushed for 50 yards and a score on seven carries, and sophomore Savier Stephens rushed for 59 yards on eight carries.
I thought the defense looked good, though it gave up one big play – a 74-yard touchdown run by Devon Ford Jr.
“We did give up the one really long run, really on a basic run, on a power play, and we should have had that fitted, because it was one of our base calls,” Calhoun said.
Special teams were mostly good. Ryan Harrison hit all his field goal and extra point attempts and came up with a perfectly placed sky kick on a kickoff. His one low moment was putting a sky kick out of bounce.
Who Stood Out: Reggie Rembert.
I warned readers of this blog earlier that they’d probably have to suffer through some analogies to the Washington Redskins’ teams of the 1980s. (The Skins were the team of my youth, and my father and I went to just about all the home games from 1982 through 1991).
Anyway, here’s another: When Rembert gets the ball in his hands, it just feels like something exciting is going to happen. Kind of like when former Redskins’ corner Darrell Green got the ball.
Now, I’m not saying Rembert is Green, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. (Though Rembert, like Green, is a fast, undersized corner who also returns kicks). But it’s just that feeling when he gets the ball.
On Saturday, in addition to playing cornerback, Rembert played Z receiver and carried the ball twice for 16 yards and a score (it was the third consecutive Saturday he scored while playing offense). He also returned a punt for a touchdown (though a flag brought it back) and recovered a “sky kick” kickoff.
After the scrimmage, Calhoun talked about Rembert.
“We’ve got to keep a close eye on how much he’s involved,” Calhoun said. “I think the kid’s in pretty good shape. He works hard in practice, he’s attentive and he goes hard in all your conditioning stuff. We’ve just got to make sure that we don’t kill him.”
At that point, Jimmy Arthur, the Falcons’ radio play-by-play man, asked where Calhoun defined the “kill threshold.”
“We’re gonna find out,” Calhoun said. “We’re gonna push that edge a little bit.”
-The running game.
Lumpkin and Stephens both looked very good, but I decided to recognize “the running game” as a whole, because I know the offensive line had a lot to do with Lumpkin’s and Stephens’ yards. The offensive line, as I wrote about for today’s edition of The Gazette, really has a chance to be a strength of this team.
That said, I think Lumpkin and Stephens make a nice one-two punch. They took turns with the first- and second-team offenses on Saturday and will split time this fall. Both run well – Stephens kind of glides and deliberately finds his way through a defense, while Lumpkin bursts through holes.
The receiver has been playing tight end in recent weeks because of injuries to Travis Dekker and Steve Shaffer. And he’s adapted almost seamlessly to his new spot. On Saturday he hauled in three passes for 26 yards.
“You’re going to see him line up in both spots (wide receiver and tight end), especially the first month and a half of the season until we get Dekker back,” Calhoun said. “You find if you’re willing to be versatile with different guys and put them in different spots, match-up-wise, now all of sudden you get a chance to work him on a linebacker or a safety. … He’s a tough kid and a great competitor.”
Lasting Image: Strength and conditioning coach Matt McGettigan firing passes at Dekker and Ty Paffett.
At halftime and then in the latter stages of the scrimmage on the sideline, McGettigan stood about five yards away from the players and beamed the ball at them to help them work on their hands.
Dekker (fractured ankle) still is on crutches, and Paffett (back) still looks like he’s a long way from getting back on the field. It’s too bad, as both are seniors. You can’t help but feel for them. Said Dekker of football as he left the stadium: “It’s amazing how much you love it when you don’t have it.”
QB Corner: Both Smith and Herbort moved the team, but Smith was a bit sharper. Calhoun noted that Smith ran all his plays with the first offense, which helps. But he didn’t make any mistakes. And was great on the option. He made on-target pitches, good reads and even ran twice for 25 yards. (He also completed 4 of 6 passes for 58 yards).
Herbort ran three times for 10 yards and completed 2 of 5 passes for 11 yards, including a four-yard touchdown pass to fullback Todd Newell. But he had the offense in the wrong play once and made a bad pitch that Stephens had to recover.
I think we’ll see Smith at the top of the two-deep chart on Monday, and I expect him to get the first couple series next Saturday against Southern Utah.
Freshman Tim Jefferson looked like a freshman Saturday, losing a fumble and throwing a pass that was picked off by safety Chris Thomas.
Quote to Note: “If they’ll be clean with the ball and get us in the right play, we’re going to move the football.” – Calhoun on his quarterbacks. He’s right. The Falcons signal callers don’t have to make tons of highlight-worthy, game-winning plays this season. If they can protect the ball, manage the game and not make mental errors, Air Force should be able to move the ball. Especially on the ground.
Other Stats: Since I kept them, here were some other notable stats:
Jon Warzeka: Four carries, 43 yards, one touchdown.
Asher Clark: Three carries, 24 yards, one touchdown.
Paul Weatheroy: Five carries, 22 yards.
Kyle Halderman: Three carries, 31 yards.
Spencer Armstrong: One catch, 29 yards.