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  • CSU Wrap

    Sat, October 31, 2009 by admin with 2 comments

    It’s kind of funny to talk about a breakout passing performance when a team completes seven passes and gains just more than 100 yards through the air.

    But a breakout performance it was for Air Force’s aerial attack when quarterback Tim Jefferson completed 7-of-12 passes for 111 yards and two scores in today’s 34-16 victory over Colorado State at Hughes Stadium.

    Because remember this: In the Falcons’ previous four games they completed just 24 of 54 passes and averaged 46.4 yards through the air. That’s not good enough. Even for an option team.

    Air Force never will be Texas Tech, or anything close to it. But the Falcons do need to take advantage of the play-action opportunities their running game provides. And they need to do enough through the air to keep opponents honest. They did both today.

    Jefferson, back in the starting lineup, looked the best he has all year. He played like he had something to prove, considering Connor Dietz had seemed to have taken over the starting QB role with his performance last week (before it was found Dietz had broken a bone in his hand and will miss at least three weeks).

    Did Jefferson have something to prove?

    “I don’t know,” Jefferson said. “I know that we’ve been trading the starts, and it kind of hurt us when (Dietz) went down because he’s a great player. I don’t think I had anything to prove, I just wanted to go out there and play, and I got the chance.”

    Jefferson ran the offense with a good tempo and showed off his great feel for the option. Jefferson’s pitches always lead backs so they are full speed when they catch them. And he has an innate ability to hold the ball until the last possible moment, often influencing defenders to come off the pitch man to stop him.

    Still, Jefferson made the key play of the game not with his feet but with his arm, hitting Kevin Fogler for 34 yards down the right sideline on a third-and-18 early in the second half.

    While the throw and the catch both were impressive, I was particularly impressed that Calhoun made the call. So many times this season, we’ve seen Air Force run up the middle in third-and-long situations – especially when it’s backed up in its own territory. More than anything else, simply calling for a pass showed Calhoun had the confidence in Jefferson to make a play. That spoke volumes.

    “It was in the game plan,” Jefferson said of the pass. “Coaches told us we were going to have a chance to hit some shots because their secondary wasn’t that strong.  I was glad that he made the call and glad that he had confidence in us.”

    Other Thoughts:
    -Air Force made two plays of more than 30 yards on Saturday – as many as they’d made in their previous seven games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.

    While Air Force is a grind-it-out squad, it never hurts to pick up some big chunks of yardage.

    “There are times you’ve got to grind and make three and four yards on carries, but you just don’t only have to wear your mudder or your plodder shoes,” Calhoun said. “You can wear your other shoes too, where you get up on your toes and go a little bit.”

    -As I wrote earlier this week, sophomore kicker Erik Soderberg has not let his season be defined by his overtime miss at Navy.

    This afternoon Soderberg drilled a career-long 50-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, giving the Falcons a 17-10 advantage at the break after the Rams had scored 10 straight points.

    “It was a good hit,” Calhoun said. “It was a big play, to send you into the half when you’re up by seven and you’re receiving the kickoff in the second half.”

    Soderberg also nailed a 30-yarder, giving him seven straight made field goals since his miss at Navy.

    But he did miss an extra point for the first time this season.

    -Part of the reason Air Force looked better and was able to pick up 382 yards was because players were making things happen with the ball in their hands.

    There was Jared Tew, breaking out of arm tackles. There was Asher Clark, making a spin move to avoid a defender. There was Jonathan Warzeka, beating defenders to the edge.

    “I think we probably broke some tackles today, which we haven’t done a lot of,” Calhoun said. “I think by and large, you look here over about the last month or so, we’ve basically gained yards that were there and that’s it. And what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to have guys that gain more than what’s there.”

    Today, they did.

    -How about the Mohawk worn by senior safety Luke Hyder? I asked Calhoun who gave him the haircut.

    “He’s got a little work to do on it,” Calhoun said. “I don’t think it was his girlfriend. Nor his mom.”

  • Tuesday Notes

    Tue, October 27, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Air Force is two victories away from becoming bowl eligible for the third time in Troy Calhoun’s three seasons at the academy.

    But Calhoun said today he isn’t thinking about getting two victories. Just one this Saturday at Colorado State.

    “You’ve got to get one,” he said. “This isn’t like stairs, where you can jump up three steps. You’ve got to get one. And the one’s going to be hard. But it’s doable.”

    Bombs Away: Air Force will see a unique offense on Saturday.

    Colorado State mashes with the running game but also takes lots of deep shots down the field. Probably more than any other team in the conference.

    “They’re really a unique combination that way,” Calhoun said. “What they do is physically, I think with their offensive line and their tailback position and being a two-back team, they’re able to run it downhill. We probably haven’t played a team yet, just in terms of pure commitment to being a downhill squad, like we’re going to see on Saturday. And I’m sure size-wise that’s something they’re going to try and mash on us. And then the other part, what they’re going to do, they’re going to throw the ball down the field.”

    Said Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild: “It’s just our mode of operation on offense is to try and run the ball at you and then throw it over your head. … We’re going to try to throw the ball over the top of the defense a number of times during the game. That’s just our approach to offensive football here.”

    Dietz Update: Calhoun said today he’s talked with sophomore quarterback Connor Dietz since Dietz underwent surgery on his right hand.

    “He’s naturally a little bit disappointed,” Calhoun said. “I think anybody that’s competitive and anybody that’s got that much fire in you, which he does, you want to play.”

    Calhoun said because Dietz’s right hand is his dominant hand, “It’s not just football. He’s taking over 18 semester hours right now. You think about something as simple as taking a note.”

    Asked if he would help Dietz with his school work, Calhoun said, “I don’t think he’d want me to do that. He saw my grades when I was a freshman and sophomore at the academy.”

    Other Personnel Matters: Not much of an update on Reggie Rembert, who left last Saturday’s game at Utah after absorbing a pair of big hits on consecutive kickoffs. The junior cornerback/kick returner did not participate in practice Tuesday. “We’ve just got to wait and see,” Calhoun said.

    Senior safety Luke Hyder missed practice because he is sick, but Calhoun said Hyder will be fine for Saturday’s game at Colorado State.

  • Tuesday Morning Links

    Tue, October 27, 2009 by admin with 4 comments

    I didn’t think there would be a quarterback question this week. But not for the reason there’s not.

    I figured Connor Dietz played well enough last Saturday at Utah to secure the starting spot for this Saturday’s game at Colorado State. But Dietz broke a bone in his right hand against the Utes and had surgery yesterday. He’ll miss at least three weeks. So Tim Jefferson will start against CSU.

    Also, The Fort Collins Coloradoan discusses the Rams’ preparations for the Air Force option.

  • Monday Notes – Dietz Out “At Least” Three Weeks

    Mon, October 26, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    As reported in the post below, Air Force sophomore quarterback Connor Dietz will miss at least three weeks after breaking a bone in his right (throwing) hand.

    Dietz broke the bone on the fourth play of last Saturday’s game at Utah, a 23-16 loss. He underwent surgery this afternoon and had two pins inserted into his hand.

    With Dietz out, sophomore Tim Jefferson regains the starting job.

    Jefferson started the first three games of the season but injured his right ankle in the third game at New Mexico. He sat out the following week’s game against San Diego State, which Dietz started, but returned to the starting lineup the following week at Navy.

    Jefferson re-injured his ankle, and Dietz started the Falcons’ next game against TCU. Jefferson returned for the ensuing game against Wyoming, but Dietz replaced him midway through the third quarter and earned the start for last Saturday’s game at Utah. Dietz seemed to entrench himself as the starter with a strong performance against the Utes, but the broken bone re-opens the door for Jefferson.

    For more on Dietz’s injury and the quarterback situation, check out my article at Gazette.com.

    Moving Forward: Air Force got back to work this afternoon and tried – yet again – to put a hard-to-swallow loss in the rearview mirror.

    Saturday’s 23-16 loss at Utah was the Falcons’ fourth on the season. And the fourth that was decided by a touchdown or less.

    “Every loss is tough, and it hurts all of us,” senior tackle Chris Campbell said. “But we all have to remind each other that we have four games left, and we still have the potential to do some really good things this season.”

    That’s true. While the Falcons are a very disappointing 4-4, a good season is within reach.

    They should be favored to win their next three games – at Colorado State (which has lost five in a row, most recently to San Diego State) and at home against Army and UNLV. They take those three, and they’ve guaranteed themselves a winning season and a bowl berth. And then there’s still the season finale at BYU. The Cougars looked extremely vulnerable in getting pounded at home by TCU on Saturday. And Air Force’s game with them is one week before they play arch rival Utah. So maybe the Falcons can catch BYU looking ahead.

    Other Injuries: Junior cornerback Reggie Rembert did not practice Monday. Rembert left Saturday’s game at Utah after absorbing a pair of big hits on kickoff returns.

    “We’ve got to wait on him,” Calhoun said. “He’s just got to be completely clear-headed for a prolonged period of time. What’s that period of time? That’s a TBD. We’ll see.”

    Calhoun also said freshman outside linebacker Alex Means (mid-foot sprain) will not play.

    Depth Chart: Just one small tweak to the new two-deep chart released today. Junior Braylon Gurnell now is listed as the backup to Wale Lawal Jr. at one outside linebacker spot instead of Means.

    Off to watch the Skins get clobbered by Philly. Don’t care about the score as much as I care about hearing chants of “Sell The Team!” on TV from FedEx Field.

  • Dietz Out Three Weeks

    Mon, October 26, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Air Force sophomore quarterback Connor Dietz will miss at least three weeks with a broken bone in his right (throwing) hand.

    Dietz broke the bone on the fourth play of last Saturday’s game at Utah, a 23-16 loss. He underwent surgery this afternoon and had two pins inserted into his hand.

    More details will be available shortly at Gazette.com.

  • Monday Morning Links

    Mon, October 26, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    Good morning.

    My story in today’s edition of The Gazette deals with Connor Dietz’s injured right hand, which will keep him out of today’s practice.

    Also here’s SI.com writer Stewart Mandel’s College Football Overtime column, which talks in part about TCU.

    Finally, here are ESPN.com’s bowl projections. Both writers have Air Force going back to Fort Worth for the third straight year. Not me. If Air Force finishes 7-5 (with a loss to BYU), it most likely will finish in fourth place in the conference. Even if TCU goes to the BCS, I think the New Mexico and Armed Forces Bowls would decide that the Falcons go to New Mexico and whatever other bowl eligible team in the league goes to Fort Worth. Well, if there is another bowl eligible team.

    If the Falcons run the table and TCU goes to the BCS, however, it looks to me like it would be San Diego.

    But there are still far too many variables to say anything even close to certain.

  • Sunday Notes

    Sun, October 25, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force coach Troy Calhoun gave sophomore quarterback Connor Dietz good marks for his performance in yesterday’s 23-16 overtime loss at Utah.

    But this evening, as expected, Calhoun did not name Dietz the starter for the rest of the season or even this Saturday’s game at Colorado State. That’s at least in part due to Dietz’s injured right hand.

    Dietz hurt his throwing hand on the fourth play of the game but did not miss even a snap. He will not practice tomorrow.

    -Air Force cornerback Reggie Rembert also will not practice tomorrow. Rembert was drilled on two straight kickoff returns and did not return to the game after the second.

    “We’ve just got to make sure that he’s clear, just his vision and everything,” Calhoun said. “And it was today. … We’ve just got to get through 72 hours just to find out where he is. … It’s something we don’t mess around with.”

    -Calhoun said sophomore P.J. Adeji-Paul played well in relief of Rembert. He also praised the play of junior slot receiver Kyle Halderman and senior inside linebacker John Falgout.

    -Calhoun was unhappy with his team’s kickoff coverage. The Utes returned five for 123 yards (24.6 average). Air Force returned three kickoffs 54 yards (18.0).

    “I thought it was a pretty significant part of field position,” Calhoun said.

  • Utah Wrap

    Sat, October 24, 2009 by admin with 2 comments

    A year ago, Utah totally dominated its game against Air Force statistically, but the Falcons hung tough and the Utes did not pull away until scoring a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

    Today, Air Force out-played Utah and had an advantage in just about every statistical category … but still lost.

    It’s been one of those seasons for the Falcons. In each of their four games against top-flight opponents, they’ve lost in heartbreaking fashion. By seven at Minnesota in a game they seemed to be in control of through most of three quarters. By three in overtime at Navy in a game that will sting Falcon fans for a while. By three to a TCU team that today absolutely destroyed BYU in Provo. And, of course, in overtime today to Utah, 23-16.

    “They just keep getting harder and harder. They’re really tough to take,” Air Force quarterback Connor Dietz said. “This one was extremely hard just because everybody gave everything they had and left it on the field. They just keep getting harder and harder to take, so hopefully we won’t have to take any more.”

    The Falcons have three straight games in which they should be favored – at Colorado State a week from today and then at home against Army and woeful UNLV. Then comes a trip to Provo to face the Cougars.

    An upset of one of the Big Three in the Mountain West Conference would be nice. And if today’s game against TCU is any indication, the Cougars are vulnerable.

    More importantly, however, the Falcons can’t slip against the teams they should beat. They’ve done a good job – so far – of not letting heartbreaking losses to good teams keep them down.

    But this is four devastating losses now. And, as Dietz said, they’re “getting harder and harder.”

    The Falcons coaching staff will have a tough task in trying to get the team back off the mat – again – for next weekend in Fort Collins.

    Other Thoughts

    -One of the most athletically impressive plays I’ve seen by an Air Force player since covering the team was made today by Jon Davis.

    Davis, the Falcons’ sophomore free safety, came on a blitz with Utah facing a third-and-10 from its own 24-yard line early in the second quarter. Davis came right up the middle on a full sprint and left his feet to disrupt a potential throw. Cain did not throw, but Davis gathered himself in midair and crashed into Cain for a sack. Wow.

    Davis also looked pretty good returning a punt 35 yards. Davis was in because Reggie Rembert was out.

    -Speaking of Rembert … A bunch of hard hits in today’s game.

    Rembert was on the receiving end of two of them, both on kickoff returns in the second half.

    It looked on a replay as if Rembert might have been unconscious for a moment before he hit the ground on the first one. And he didn’t return to the game after the second.

    -Lot of weird plays too.

    First was the fumble that resulted in Utah’s first touchdown. Quarterback Terrance Cain went right on an option, was tackled and lost the ball. Utah’s Eddie Wide, who had been the pitch man on the play, scooped up the ball and raced 44 yards for a touchdown.

    But was Cain down before the fumble?

    I saw Air Force coach Troy Calhoun looking up at the scoreboard, hoping to see a replay that would let him know if he should challenge the play. But before a replay was shown, the Utes attempted their extra point.

    “I never saw one,” Calhoun said of a replay on the scoreboard. “I kept looking up there at the board, and to their credit, at a good place, that’s the way you do it.”

    It was hard to tell from the angles we got on the television replays, but it looked to me like Cain was down.

    Then there was the tipped punt. Utah was punting from deep in its own territory, and its punter, Sean Sellwood, was clobbered. Air Force avoided a roughing the kicker penalty because refs said the ball was tipped.

    Davis said after the game that he got his right hand on it. I believe him, but how the heck did that ball travel like 60 yards in the air after it was tipped? If Davis hadn’t touched it it might have flown out of Rice-Eccles Stadium.

    -Senior punter Brandon Geyer is putting together an all-conference kind of season. He continued his strong play today, averaging 41.7 yards on seven punts, and pinning three inside the Utah 20-yard line.

    And how about his punt on Air Force’s first possession of the second half? He kicked it from just inside his own 40-yard line, it flew high and deep and appeared as if it would role into the end zone (Utah’s returner thought as much, letting it land and getting out of the way). But the ball landed at about the 4-yard line, bounced pretty much sideways and was downed at the 3.

    It was like watching a Tiger Woods pitching wedge hit a green and check up at the flagstick.

  • Thursday Notes

    Thu, October 22, 2009 by admin with 3 comments

    Air Force hasn’t had the same quarterback start two consecutive games since sophomore Tim Jefferson started the Falcons’ second and third games of the season (at Minnesota and at New Mexico).

    Granted, the flip-flopping mostly has had to do with Jefferson’s right ankle, which he injured against New Mexico and then re-injured against Navy.

    But last Saturday, Jefferson was pulled for sophomore Connor Dietz – who started the games Jefferson did not in recent weeks. And it marked the first time a quarterback change was made for reasons other than health. Coach Troy Calhoun was looking for a spark and thought Dietz could make more plays in the running game.

    Calhoun has said he’s not opposed to using a two-quarterback system but admits it works better when you settle on one.

    I would think one reason it works better with one is because if you’re rotating quarterbacks, they might become afraid to make mistakes that lead to a quick hook. Dietz said a quarterback can’t play with that fear.

    “The worst thing for a quarterback is to play conservative,” he said. “So whether you have that pressure on you or not, you really can’t hold back. If you’re going out there kind of second-minded, you’re far more likely to make a mistake.”

    Calhoun hasn’t named a starter for Saturday’s game at Utah but said last Sunday that Dietz had been “more effective” of late.

    No matter who starts, it will be interesting to see what happens to the quarterbacks’ styles of play if more mid-game changes are made.

    Moore with less: Air Force senior inside linebacker Justin Moore has been an observer at most Air Force practices in recent weeks, standing away from the action with a protective boot on his right foot.

    But it hasn’t hurt his production. He’s had 11, 12 and five tackles, respectively, in the Falcons’ last three games.

    Moore said the fact he’s been in the system for a while has a lot to do with how he’s been able to stay productive without practice.

    “I know what’s going on,” he said. “And then just watching film. Because that’s basically my practice – watching film and then standing behind a play 20, 30 yards (during practice) and watching what’s going on. That’s been helping a lot, because obviously I can’t be in there getting the reps up close.

    MWC Bowl Agreements: The Mountain West Conference today announced a deal with the Independence Bowl and renewed deals with the New Mexico and Armed Forces Bowls in future seasons.

    So here is what the bowl landscape looks like for the MWC. First, this season:

    Las Vegas: MWC #1 vs. Pac-10 #4 or 5
    Poinsettia: MWC #2 vs. Pac-10 #6
    New Mexico: MWC #3 or 4 vs. WAC #1, 2 or 3
    Armed Forces: MWC #3 or 4 vs. C-USA #2, 3, 4, 5 or 6
    Humanitarian: MWC #5 v. WAC #1, 2 or 3

    And here is what it looks like for 2010 through 2013:

    Las Vegas: MWC #1 vs. Pac-10 #5
    Poinsettia: MWC #2 vs. Navy* (2010); WAC #1, 2 or 3 (2011 and 2012); Army* (2013)
    Independence: MWC #3 vs. ACC #7
    New Mexico: MWC #4 or 5 vs. WAC
    Armed Forces: MWC #4 or 5 vs. C-USA

    * – If Army or Navy are not bowl eligible in these years, a WAC opponent will be selected.

    Navy QB Change: GoMids.com is reporting that sophomore Kriss Proctor will start Saturday against Wake Forest in place of Ricky Dobbs, who is considered day-to-day.