• Jake’s Preseason MWC Ballots

    Tue, July 20, 2010 by admin with 9 comments

    I’ve got only a couple more weeks left on the Air Force beat (more on that in a later post), but I plan to sprint hard toward the finish line.

    So I’ll be with Frank in Vegas next week to play blackja – I mean, provide you with all the information that comes out of the Mountain West Conference media days.

    Along with the commissioner’s State of the Conference address, one of the most anticipated aspects of the media days is the release of the preseason MWC poll and preseason All-MWC squad.

    I submitted my ballots today, which you can find below. As I’ve said in the past, preseason squads are kinda tricky. They’re part reward for past performance and part anticipation of future performance. Some value one more than the other. I try to go 50-50.

    Anyhow, without further ado, here’s what I submitted:

    Preseason MWC Poll
    1. TCU
    2. Utah
    3. Air Force
    4. BYU
    5. Wyoming
    6. San Diego State
    7. Colorado State
    8. UNLV
    9. New Mexico

    Preseason All-MWC
    Offense

    WR – Vincent Brown (San Diego State, Sr.)
    WR – Phillip Payne (UNLV, Jr.)
    OL – Matt Reynolds (BYU, Jr.)
    OL – Marcus Cannon (TCU, Sr.)
    OL – Jake Kirkpatrick (TCU, Sr.)
    OL – Caleb Schlauderaff (Utah, Sr.)
    OL – Zane Taylor (Utah, Sr.)
    TE – Alston Umuolo (San Diego State, Sr.)
    QB – Andy Dalton (TCU, Sr.)
    RB – Eddie Wide (Utah, Sr.)
    RB – Jared Tew (Air Force, Sr.)

    Defense
    DL – Wayne Daniels (TCU, Sr.)
    DL – Dave Kruger (Utah, So.)
    DL – Johnathan Rainey (New Mexico, Jr.)
    LB – Tank Carder (TCU, Jr.)
    LB – Mychal Sisson (Colorado State, Jr.)
    LB – Carmen Messina (New Mexico, Jr.)
    LB – Brian Hendricks (Wyoming, Jr.)
    DB – Anthony Wright Jr. (Air Force, Jr.)
    DB – Reggie Rembert (Air Force, Sr.)
    DB – Tejay Johnson (TCU, Sr.)
    DB – Andrew Rich (BYU, Sr.)

    Specialists
    P – Brian Stahovich (San Diego State, Jr.)
    K – Ross Evans (TCU, Jr.)
    KR – Jeremy Kerley (TCU, Sr.)

    Offensive Player of the Year: QB Andy Dalton (TCU, Sr.)
    Defensive Player of the Year: LB Tank Carder (TCU, Jr.)
    Special Teams Player of the Year: KR Jeremy Kerley (TCU, Sr.)

    As you can see, I went with three Air Force players on the first team.

    Rembert was a first-team all-conference selection last season, but it could be argued that Wright – who led the Falcons with seven picks – had the better season. I went with both of them, which might be a stretch, but it’s hard to pick one over the other. And I think they’ll form the MWC’s best corner tandem.

    I went with Tew because of how he ended the 2009 season, his potential (I think he can be both a workhorse and a big-play threat) and the fact there aren’t so many obvious standout tailbacks in the league that I thought I needed to select two of them.

    Here are some other Air Force players who could make a push for all-conference honors by the end of the season.

    Strong Contenders:
    -FS Jon Davis. Coaches have always raved about Davis’ potential, and he started to show what he could do last year. Look no further than his ridiculous pick-six against New Mexico (where he weaved through Lobos, absorbed a huge hit at the goal line and still managed to get into the end zone). He might be the best athlete on the team (he played a few basketball games for the prep school a few years ago), he has great instincts and he loves to hit. I predict a breakout year for him in 2010.

    -TB Asher Clark. After struggling in the middle of last season (he gained just 142 yards on 46 carries – 3.1 yards per carry – in games four through eightt), he finished strong (he had 481 on 67 carries – 7.2 yards per carry – and all seven of his touchdowns in the final five games of the campaign. With a healthy knee and the fact he’s not starting the year with thoughts of playing quarterback, he should get off to a better start in 2010.

    K Erik Soderberg. In 2009, his first year as a starter, Soderberg made 38-of-40 extra points and 22-of-30 field goals, including a long of 50 yards, en route to second-team all-league honors. He should be even better this season.

    Other Contenders:
    -G A.J. Wallerstein. If the Falcons’ brand new offensive line comes together and Air Force’s ground game continues to be strong, it likely will have a lot to do with Wallerstein. He got his feet wet in 2008 and last season played considerable snaps as part of a rotation at guard. Big, athletic and very, very smart, he could be a good one for the Falcons.

    -DE Rick Ricketts. He’ll be the leader up front as the Falcons’ lone returning starter on the defensive line. He’s undersized, but he plays with a relentless intensity and has a bit of crazy in him on the field (in a good way). He also always seems to be around the ball and has shown an ability to make plays. Working against him – there are a bunch of quality defensive linemen in the league and Ricketts isn’t a big name in the league heading into the season.

    -OLB Andre Morris Jr. Morris has talent, size and experience. This could be the year he puts it all together and goes from good to great.

    Keep an Eye on:
    -TE Chaz Demerath. Made just five catches for 25 yards last season, and Air Force tight ends had just 11 catches total. But I feel like the tight end will become a bigger part of the offense. It has to, right? And having a more experienced quarterback delivering the ball should help. Demerath’s an athletic kid and there aren’t a whole lot of touted tight ends in the MWC.

    -WR-Z/Ret Jonathan Warzeka. Showed his ability as a returner with the kickoff return for a touchdown in the Armed Forces Bowl. Always has had potential. Now that he’s a junior, he should make a substantial leap.

    -WR-Z Kyle Halderman. Missed more than half of last season with a broken collarbone. But he showed big-play potential as a sophomore.

    -All the LBs coming off injury. Among them are senior inside linebacker Ken Lamendola, senior outside linebacker Pat Hennessey and sophomore outside linebacker Alex Means. All could have big seasons … if they’re healthy.

    Long Shots:
    -WR-X Kevin Fogler. A long shot because Fogler won’t get the opportunity to catch nearly as many passes as the talented receivers at San Diego State, BYU and UNLV. But he’s become a bona fide big-play receiver. Last season he grabbed 25 passes for 567 yards and five touchdowns.

    -QB Tim Jefferson. So many good QBs in the league this year. And Jefferson probably won’t have the stats. But if he runs like he did as a freshman and passes like he did in the Armed Forces Bowl, he could force his way into contention.

    -NG Ryan Gardner. Coaches gave him high marks for his work during spring practices attempting to fill the shoes of Ben Garland.

    With that, I want to hear what readers think. Who should have been on the first team that I left off my ballot? Which Air Force players do you think will make their way onto all-conference? What do you think of the preseason poll? Is Air Force too high, too low or just about right?

  • First Look: Colorado State

    Fri, May 14, 2010 by admin with no comments

    This is Part 6 of my “First Look” series, in which I take a quick peek at each of the Air Force football team’s 2010 opponents. We’re going in order, one per week, with Colorado State up this week.

    Here are links to the First Looks at the Falcons’ first five opponents: Northwestern State, BYU, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Navy.

    Colorado State
    Coach:
    Steve Fairchild (3rd year)
    2009 Record: 3-9
    2009 vs. AF: Air Force 34, Colorado State 16
    2009 in a Sentence: After a 3-0 start that included a season-opening victory at rival Colorado, the Rams fell apart, dropping nine straight, including a 29-27 loss to otherwise winless New Mexico.
    Off/Def Starters Back: 4/10
    Roster Report: In each of his first two seasons at Colorado State, Fairchild has used fifth-year seniors as his starting quarterbacks – and each was in his first year starting.

    In 2010, Colorado State likely will have a youngster under center. The frontrunners for the quarterback spot appear to be Pete Thomas, a true freshman from El Cajon, Calif., who enrolled early at Colorado State and went through the Rams’ spring practices, and Nico Ranieri, a redshirt freshman from Orlando, Fla.

    “We’re going to be young at quarterback, obviously, and we’ve still got a long way to go,” Fairchild said. “But we’ve flashed at times.”

    According to the Fort Collins Coloradoan, the 6-foot-2, 204-pound Ranieri completed 7-of-10 passes for 73 yards for the Gold team in the Rams’ spring practice-ending Green vs. Gold game. Thomas completed 2-of-5 passes for 46 yards for the Green team, including a 34-yard touchdown, and one of his passes was dropped in the end zone.

    Whoever wins the quarterback battle will play behind an inexperienced line, as the Rams lost four starters from last season’s group that was the nation’s most experienced. Among the players likely to contribute are tackles Mark Starr and Paul Madsen, who started five and seven games, respectively, at one tackle slot last season, and Jake Gdowski, who started four at guard.

    Fairchild told the Coloradoan that running back is probably the Rams’ strongest position. Back are seniors-to-be Leonard Mason, who rushed for a team-high 766 yards and two scores in 2009, and John Mosure, who picked up 650 yards and seven touchdowns on 124 carries. The Rams also have Raymond Carter, a transfer from UCLA, and redshirt freshman Chris Nwoke.

    “We’ve got a little more explosiveness there,” Fairchild told the Coloradoan. “More big-play capability than we did last year. … We’ve obviously got a number of guys, so we’ve got to kind of filter through who does what and what their role’s going to be.”

    Sophomore Lou Greenwood, who had 147 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on 42 carries in 2009, got some looks at wide receiver in spring practices, as did T.J. Borcky, who was the Rams’ starting quarterback when spring began. Colorado State will be inexperienced at wide receiver. Tyson Liggett, a 5-foot-9 walk-on, is the Rams’ most experienced returner with 20 career catches and five career starts.

    The Rams should be strong on defense. They return 10 starters, including linebacker Mychal Sisson, who led Colorado State in tackles (91), tackles for losses (15.5) and sacks (6) in 2009 en route to second-team All-MWC honors. Also back is standout linebacker Ricky Brewer. An All-MWC selection as a sophomore in 2008, he had to sit out the 2009 season for a team rules violation.

    Colorado State also has several starters back in the secondary – free safety Elijah-Blu Smith (three interceptions in 2009), strong safety Ivory Herd and cornerback Momo Thomas.

    The Rams also have a pair of experienced specialists in returning starting punter Pete Kontodiakos (40.9 average last season) and returning starting kicker Ben DeLine (12-for-16 on field goals last season).

    Fast Fact: Colorado State won 10 of its 14 games against Air Force from 1992 through 2005, but Air Force has won four straight since, including all three contests under head coach Troy Calhoun – by 24, 17 and 18 points, respectively.

    What Caught My Eye: Colorado State lost four games by a touchdown or less in 2009, including two by two points and one by one point.

    Jake’s Way Too Early Line vs. Air Force: Air Force minus-8.5. The Falcons have owned the Rams of late and there’s no reason to think they shouldn’t be significant favorites in this game.

    Final Thought: When Colorado State hired Fairchild to replace Sonny Lubick prior to the 2008 season, I thought it was a great move and saw plenty of parallels to what Air Force did in hiring Troy Calhoun (i.e. former quarterback returns to his alma mater to replace a legend whose teams had slipped a bit in his final few years).

    After the Rams went 7-6 and won the New Mexico Bowl in 2008, Fairchild’s first season, I thought Colorado State was well on its way to returning to its glory days when it sat at the top of the MWC. So I was borderline stunned by the Rams’ 2009 collapse.

    But even with that collapse, I feel like Fairchild will get Colorado State going in the right direction – and sooner rather than later.

  • Air Force Mostly Absent from All-MWC

    Mon, March 8, 2010 by admin with no comments

    For the second season in a row, Air Force was the only program in the nine-team Mountain West Conference not to have a player make first-, second- or third-team All-MWC.

    Evan Washington was the only Falcon to earn any recognition. The junior guard, who ranked second in the league in minutes per game (33.9) and averaged 10.4 points and a team-high 4.7 rebounds this season, was an honorable mention selection.

    The league’s coaches and selected members of the media vote for the teams and submit ballots with 15 players (five on each team).

    Prior to last season, Air Force had placed at least one player on the first, second or third teams for seven consecutive seasons.

    First Team
    G Jimmer Fredette (BYU, Jr.)
    G Tre’Von Willis (UNLV, Jr.)
    G Dairese Gary (New Mexico, Jr.)
    G/F Darington Hobson (New Mexico, Jr.)
    F Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State, Fr.)

    Second Team
    G Ronnie Moss (TCU, Soph.)
    G Jackson Emery (BYU, Jr.)
    F Andy Ogide (Colorado State, Jr.)
    F Roman Martinez (New Mexico, Sr.)
    F Malcolm Thomas (San Diego State, Jr.)

    Third Team
    G Tyler Haws (BYU, Fr.)
    G Desmar Jackson (Wyoming, Fr.)
    G Carlon Brown (Utah, Jr.)
    G/F Chace Stanback (UNLV, So.)
    G/F Jonathan Tavernari (BYU, Sr.)

    Honorable Mention
    Jr. G Evan Washington (Air Force), So. G Phillip McDonald (New Mexico), Jr. G D.J. Gay (San Diego State), Jr. F Billy White (San Diego State), Sr. F/C Zvonko Buljan (TCU), So. G Oscar Bellfield (UNLV), Sr. G Luka Drca (Utah), Fr. G Marshall Henderson (Utah).

    All-Defensive Team
    G Jackson Emery (BYU, Jr.)
    G Dairese Gary (New Mexico, Jr.)
    G Tre’Von Willis (UNLV, Jr.)
    G/F Chace Stanback (UNLV, Soph.)
    C David Foster (Utah, Soph.)

    Player of the Year
    G Darington Hobson (New Mexico, Jr.)

    Defensive Player of the Year
    C David Foster (Utah, Soph.)

    Freshman of the Year
    F Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State, Fr.)

    Newcomer of the Year
    G Darington Hobson (New Mexico, Jr.)

    Sixth Man of the Year
    F Jonathan Tavernari (BYU, Sr.)

    Coach of the Year
    Steve Alford (New Mexico)

  • Friday Morning Links

    Fri, March 5, 2010 by admin with no comments

    I wrote for today’s edition of The Gazette about cornerback Reggie Rembert and how he’s having a much more free and easy spring than he did a year ago. And Gazette columnist David Ramsey wrote about quarterback Connor Dietz, and the improvements he’s made, in his blog: http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com.

    Coming in the next couple days: A look at the secondary in general. Who will replace Chris Thomas? And how good could this group be?

    Moving to hoops, it’s a pretty good year for freshmen in the Mountain West Conference. Five are among the top 15 scorers in the league: San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard (eighth with 12.4 points per game), Colorado State’s Dorian Green (11th, 12.0), Utah’s Marshall Henderson (13th, 11.8), BYU’s Tyler Haws (14th, 11.7) and Wyoming’s Desmar Jackson (15th, 11.3). Here’s an article about Green from The Denver Post.

  • Wednesday Morning Links

    Wed, February 10, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force scored one basket in the final 13 minutes, blew an eight-point halftime lead and lost to Colorado State last night, 51-47. My “Rapid Reaction” is in the post below.

    The Falcons were hoping to build some momentum by starting the second half of the Mountain West Conference season with a two-game home stand. But they went 0-2 in those games and now play two of the league’s best teams at two of the league’s toughest venues.

    Here’s the game story from the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

  • Colorado State 51, Air Force 47 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, February 10, 2010 by admin with 7 comments

    “Tonight we learned how to find a way to win.”
    -Colorado State coach Tim Miles

    “The difference in the game was we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket the second half. We had open shots.”
    -Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds

    Those were brief excerpts from tonight’s post-game interviews. And I think – in tandem – they help explain tonight’s result.

    We’ll start with Reynolds’ quote. Yes, Air Force couldn’t put the ball in the basket in the second half. After making 10-of-23 shots (43.5 percent) from the floor before halftime, the Falcons made just 4-of-22 shots (18.2 percent) after halftime.

    But part of that, I think, has to do with the fact that Air Force has not yet – to use Miles’ quote – learned how to find a way to win. If they knew how to find a way to win, maybe they knock down one of the open looks they had down the stretch. Maybe they get to the free throw line one more time. Maybe they avoid a careless turnover. Maybe they get one extra stop.

    The Falcons have dropped 26 of 28 games against MWC foes the last two seasons (including the tournament). And during that time they’ve found numerous ways to lose. But they haven’t learned how to win.

    And, unfortunately, there’s no crash course, no Cliff’s Notes for this. There’s no way to learn how to win except by winning.

    Other notes/thoughts:
    -It was really brutal to watch Air Force unravel.

    Seems like most times a team comes from behind to win a game, it makes a decisive run. Colorado State, however, just chipped away and chipped away as the Falcons became unable to score.

    -A quick note on the Falcons’ last possession with a chance to tie:

    Down 50-47, Air Force forces a missed shot by Colorado State (and a subsequent 35-second violation) and then calls timeout with 27.3 seconds left.

    Reynolds said he wanted to try to get a quick 2-point bucket. But that’s not what happened. The Falcons moved the ball around the perimeter and eventually settled for a contested 3-point shot by Evan Washington that missed.

    “Three freshmen, I think, were on the floor that last play, and we really wanted to drive the ball there because we had [27] seconds,” Reynolds said. “We knew they wouldn’t foul us, and we went a little brain dead.”

    -A potential rivalry in the making: Air Force’s Todd Fletcher vs. Colorado State’s Dorian Green.

    Both freshman point guards already are running their respective teams. Both have plenty of upside and moxie. And both should be playing in the MWC for the next three years. It will be fun to watch them go head-to-head the next few seasons.

    -Reynolds praised freshmen Michael Lyons (seven points and four rebounds but four turnovers) and Taylor Broekhuis (seven points, three rebounds), who played 28 and 23 minutes, respectively, though “they’ve been really sick.”

    -Kudos also to senior forward/center Grant Parker, who scored a game-high 13 points despite playing with a sore left shoulder. Parker’s left arm popped out of and back into its socket during Monday’s practice.

    -Washington matched a career-high with eight rebounds but missed 10-of-13 shots from the floor, including all four of his 3-point attempts.

  • Tuesday Morning Links

    Tue, February 9, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force men’s basketball plays host to Colorado State tonight at 8 at Clune Arena.

    But, as I wrote in today’s edition of  The Gazette, it’s not the same CSU team the Falcons have seen the past two seasons. These Rams have weapons.

    Also, here are my 3 Things to Watch in the game and an article on much-improved CSU forward Andy Ogide from The Fort Collins Coloradoan.

    Finally, as a follow-up to his column that appeared in Monday’s paper about the Air Force offense (or lack thereof), columnist David Ramsey has a couple Air Force hoops-related posts on his blog: http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com/.

  • San Diego State 70, Air Force 48 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, February 3, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    This was going to be a tough one for Air Force to get.

    San Diego State, with its off-the-charts athleticism, always seems to pose a difficult matchup for the Falcons. And the Aztecs always play so much better at Viejas Arena (formerly Cox Arena) than they do on the road. (Even the 2006-07 Air Force team that won an academy-record 26 games was clobbered here, by 21 points).

    Then Air Force dug itself a 12-0 hole by missing its first nine shots and not scoring until nearly 10 minutes had passed. Combine that with the Falcons’ 15 turnovers and the 15 offensive rebounds they allowed San Diego State to grab and the result was pretty much fait accompli.

    But now, as Air Force begins the second half of Mountain West Conference play, there are some winnable games in front of the Falcons. And fewer excuses.

    For one, the schedule is a bit more manageable. Air Force played five of its first eight MWC games on the road (including three of its last four). That means five of the last eight (and four of the next six) are at home. And the first two (against bottom-half-of-the-MWC squads TCU and Colorado State) are extremely winnable.

    Second, the Falcons’ key freshmen have played enough now to get a feel for the game. Even after the contest, freshman guard Michael Lyons said that at this point in the season “I don’t consider my self a freshman anymore.”

    Third, the team is just about as healthy as it’s going to get, as Grant Parker clearly is getting his legs back. Yes, Taylor Stewart will return in 10-12 days, and that will give the Falcons’ coaches another piece to fit into a rotation that injuries have jumbled all season. But it’s hard to feel bad about them having too many healthy players.

    So now we get to hold Air Force to a little higher standard.

    “We’re definitely going to regroup starting tonight,” Lyons said last night. “We’re staring the conference back over and the home court advantage should help us the first two games. We’ve just got to come out and play better.”

  • Air Force 70, Wyoming 63 – Rapid Reaction

    Sat, January 30, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds caught part of the Gonzaga-Santa Clara game on Thursday night when he got home from the academy.

    A young Santa Clara team, playing at home, led by 11 mid-way through the second half. Its lead was down to five, 64-59, with just less than six minutes to play. And Santa Clara would not score again. Gonzaga ended up winning, 71-64.

    Reynolds could relate.

    “I could see the whole coaching staff knowing it was slipping away because their players seemed to not know how to win,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something you do over night. I think that’s something you have to mature with.”

    Maybe the Falcons finally are learning how to win.

    Last season Air Force lost at home to TCU by three. It lost at home to Colorado State by five. It lost at home to Wyoming by three. It let potential upsets slip away at UNLV, losing 46-43, and BYU, losing 54-49.

    This season the Falcons squandered a second-half lead and lost at TCU. And last week they led UNLV at halftime but could not pull out a victory.

    Today, finally, they found a way to win.

    And while ending the ugly 22-game losing streak in Mountain West Conference regular season games was big, it might have been how they won that was so important. Air Force had a lead in the first half and lost it. And then, after scoring on five straight possessions to go up 49-42, Wyoming went on an 8-0 run to re-take the lead.

    So many times since Air Force’s last regular season Mountain West Conference victory on March 8, 2008, the Falcons had been in similar situations. And wilted. This time, thanks in large part to Evan Washington, they handled adversity and came through when it counted. Washington hit a jumper and then a 3. Freshman Michael Lyons drained a 3 with a good bounce. And then Washington hit six straight free throws (the first four being the front- and back-ends of one-and-ones).

    Yes, it was just one game. It’s not time to break open the champagne. But simply getting a victory, knowing they can find ways to win, could mean the world to this team.

    “I think it will build confidence a lot,” Washington said. “This year I think we have a tougher team than we did last year. Last year we kind of let losing become a part of our mentality. We’ve finally figured out that we have to go into each and every game playing to win. That’s what we did today.”

    Other Thoughts:
    -Reynolds gave an assist to the announced crowd of 3,414 at Clune Arena.

    It was the biggest crowd to watch the Falcons at home during conference play this season. And by far the loudest.

    “Clune got loud today,” Reynolds said. “It got loud today. I don’t know what the attendance was, but I thought about the fans and thanking them for coming out today.”

    -It’s all about the 3.

    When Air Force is hitting from the perimeter, it has a chance to win.

    Today, the Falcons tied a season high by hitting 11 from beyond the 3-point arc. Six players hit 3s, with Michael Lyons nailing 3-of-5, and Evan Washington, Mike Fitzgerald and Todd Fletcher all hitting two apiece.

    Air Force went 11-of-25 from 3-point range in the game (44.0 percent) including 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) in the second half.

    -Already without leading scorer Afam Muojeke (knee), Wyoming did not have starting center Adam Waddell (ankle), who had scored 13 points with 22 rebounds in the Cowboys’ previous game.

    But complaining to Air Force about injuries is like complaining to an Alaskan about the cold. Seven key Falcons have missed a combined 45 games this season, and starting center Sammy Schafer (post-concussion symptoms) and guard/forward Taylor Stewart (wrist) both still are out.

    -Memories from Air Force’s distant past and recent glory days came flooding back at halftime when about 15 former players were introduced to the crowd as part of the program’s homecoming weekend.

    Among those in attendance were 1959 grad Robert Blake, former great big man Randy Gricius, a 1979 grad, and Jacob Burtschi, John Frye and Tim Anderson – key cogs in the Falcons’ great run from 2003 through 2007.

    Tough to say who got the biggest cheer. Either Anderson or Burtschi.

    -Much of the game story I wrote today was about the Falcons wanting to win.

    Don’t doubt their desire.

    It’s 7:56 p.m. as I write this from courtside at Clune. I had thought I was the last person here.

    I’m not.

    Mike McLain came back on the court at about 7:30. He spent some time working on free throws and 3-pointers, some time sprinting up and down the floor and making layups, and some time working on post moves around and through some folding chairs he set up on the floor. Now he’s running sprints from sideline to sideline.

    That’s dedication.

  • UNLV 60, Air Force 50 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, January 27, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said it best after the game:

    “We competed,” he said. “But that’s still not satisfaction.”

    Indeed, after the Falcons lost four straight by an average of 20 points, it had to be encouraging for them to take a team like UNLV down to the wire – on the Rebels’ home court no less.

    But there won’t be complete satisfaction until competing turns into winning.

    And if it’s going to happen, it’s got to happen in the next two weeks. For two intertwined reasons:

    Reason one: The Falcons finally are relatively healthy. Grant Parker, their top player, is back and now has two games under his belt. That leaves Air Force without just two key players (sophomore center Sammy Schafer and sophomore guard/forward Taylor Stewart). But getting Parker back was key. It changes everything about how Air Force plays offense and, more importantly, how opponents play defense against Air Force.

    Reason two: Look at the schedule.

    Starting Saturday, when the Falcons play a Wyoming team that is without its best player (leading scorer Afam Muojeke is out for the year with a knee injury), Air Force gets the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-place teams in the conference, all at home, in a four-game stretch. After playing Wyoming, the Falcons have a tough road trip to San Diego. But after that are winnable games at home against TCU and Colorado State.

    Air Force needs to cash in on at least one of those games. Or 0-16 becomes a real possibility for the second season in a row.

    Notes:
    -While the key stretch in the game was early in the second half when UNLV scored on eight of 10 possessions (with five 3s in the stretch), another important moment came just before halftime.

    Air Force was up 24-15 with 2:24 left in the first half. But UNLV closed the half on a 6-0 run. So instead of taking a substantial lead to halftime, the Falcons, for as well as they played, were up by one 3-pointer. And some of their momentum was gone.

    Asked if the Falcons need to close halves better, Parker said, “Yeah, we do.

    “And part of that was shot selection. … When they started getting going there, we came down and started taking quick shots, and we can’t do that if we want to beat athletic teams like this. We’ve got to slow down the game and be smart in our shot selection. I took some bad shots too, and I know some other guys did too, and we can’t do that if we’re going to finish a half strong.”

    -Freshman forward/center Taylor Broekhuis entered the game 0-for-15 on the season from 3-point range, and after he missed his first two 3s in the first half on Tuesday night, he passed up a wide open shot from behind the arc late in the half.

    Not only was the shot wide open, it was within the framework of the offense, and Air Force didn’t get a better shot after he passed on it.

    During the next timeout, Reynolds told Broekhuis that he had to shoot the ball in that situation, using a word that I can’t include in the blog to drive home the point.

    The message was received. Five minutes into the second half, Broekhuis took a pass from Todd Fletcher and, without hesitation, squared his shoulders and drained a 3 from the top of the key.

    “I took him out and didn’t start him in the second half because he wouldn’t shoot it,” Reynolds said. “And he’s a good shooter. And hopefully that will help his confidence.”

    -Air Force used its ninth different starting five tonight, and its fourth in six conference games: Fletcher and Evan Washington at the guard spots, Michael Lyons and Mike McLain at the forward spots and Broekhuis at center.