• TCU’s Dalton is older, wiser still

    Tue, July 27, 2010 by admin with no comments

    TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, the 2009 Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year, was selected by the media as the 2010 Preseason MWC Offensive Player of the Year.

    To which some Air Force fans might say, “That guy’s still at TCU?”

    Yep. When Air Force plays TCU this fall, the Falcons will face Dalton for the fourth time.

    And he’s a far different player than he was in his first clash with Air Force in 2007 – when he threw a critical interception late. Dalton said all his experience has made him better and more mature.

    “I’ve played in a lot of games – I’ve seen it all, basically,” Dalton said. “I’ve played in big games, I’ve played in front of big crowds.

    Dalton said he’s taken on more of a leadership role as he’s gotten older.

    “It’s hard to come in as a freshman and play early and be in the huddle with guys that have played for three or four years and get their respect,” Dalton said. “I definitely tried at that point, but now that I’ll be a four-year starter, I’m more demanding things than telling them.”

  • 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: TCU

    Thu, June 3, 2010 by admin with no comments

    This is Part 8 of my “First Look” series, in which I take a quick peek at each of the Air Force football team’s 2010 opponents. We move this week to the Falcons’ Week 8 opponent – mighty TCU.

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

    Coach: Gary Patterson (10th season)
    2009 Record: 12-1 (8-0, 1st in Mountain West Conference)
    2009 vs. AF: TCU 20, Air Force 17
    2009 in a Sentence: Living with BCS pressure from the start of the campaign, the Horned Frogs went unbeaten in the regular season, winning a pair of games from Atlantic Coast Conference schools and drilling conference powers BYU and Utah before losing to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, 17-10.
    Off/Def Starters Back: 9/7
    Roster Report: So you’d probably expect a team that rampaged through the 2009 regular season 12-0, claimed the MWC title, advanced to a BCS bowl game and finished the year ranked sixth in the country to be heading into a rebuilding year, right?

    Not so much.

    TCU lost a handful of big-name players to graduation (including two-time MWC Defensive Player of the Year Jerry Hughes). But the Horned Frogs return 19 starters from 2009 (including three specialists). They also will have a 27-player senior class, which is more than twice as big as last year’s, when TCU tied for ninth nationally in having the fewest number of seniors (13). Last season the Horned Frogs had more freshmen on the depth chart (17) than seniors on the roster.

    Yikes.

    The offense that ranked fifth in the country in scoring (38.3 points per game) and seventh in total offense (456.7 yards per game) in 2009 has most of its big guns back, including senior quarterback Andy Dalton.

    Dalton has come a long way since his freshman season (when he threw a late, key interception in the Horned Frogs’ early-season loss to Air Force) and, according to Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, should be given Heisman Trophy consideration in 2010. Last season he won MWC Offensive Player of the Year honors while passing for a school-record 2,756 yards with 23 touchdowns and a 151.8 passer rating that was eighth-best in the nation. He also rushed for 512 yards.

    Dalton will have all but one of his wide receivers from last season back, including seniors Jeremy Kerley and Jimmy Young and junior Antoine Hicks. Kerley, the 2009 MWC Special Teams Player of the Year, had 44 catches in 2009; Young had 33 receptions for 517 yards (including six for 113 against Air Force); and Hicks scored 10 touchdowns (six receiving, four rushing) on just 32 touches.

    All of the Horned Frogs’ tight ends from 2009 are back, as are the second- and third-leading rushers from last season’s squad – sophomores Matthew Tucker (676 yards) and Ed Wesley (5-9, 185). The offensive line also should be stout with four starters back, including first-team All-American (by SI.com) center Jake Kirkpatrick (6-3, 305) and first-team All-MWC tackle Marcus Cannon (6-5, 350).

    The defense lost Hughes, standout linebacker Daryl Washington and four-year starting cornerbacks Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders. But TCU always will be stacked on defense under Patterson.

    The Horned Frogs have three of four starting defensive linemen back (including senior end Wayne Daniels, who had 5.5 sacks in 2009) as well as second-team All-MWC linebacker Tank Carder and a trio of returning starting safeties.

    Special teams shouldn’t be a problem either, with Kerley back and third-year starters at kicker (Ross Evans) and punter (Anson Kelton).

    “I’ve been challenging them from the very beginning – will this team be as hungry as last year’s team was?” Patterson said. “Only time will tell whether that happens or not.”

    Fast Fact: Patterson has had arguably the best program from outside the BCS conferences in the last decade. After going 6-6 in his first full year at the helm, Patterson has guided the Horned Frogs to 10 or more victories in six of eight seasons. Here are TCU’s last five seasons, during which it has compiled the sixth-best record of any program in the nation (53-11, .828 winning percentage – behind only Boise State, Texas, Florida, USC and Ohio  State):

    2005: 11-1
    2006: 11-2
    2007: 8-5
    2008: 11-2
    2009: 12-1

    “For us as a program, it used to be if you could be 8-4, things were OK,” Patterson said. “But that’s not OK anymore.”

    What Caught My Eye: TCU’s nonconference games are against Oregon State (8-5 last season) at Cowboys Stadium; home against Tennessee Tech of the Football Championship Subdivision; home against Baylor (4-8 last season); and at SMU (8-5 last season).

    Those aren’t gimmies (save for Tennessee Tech), but the foursome isn’t necessarily a murderer’s row either.

    The Horned Frogs do have a tough five-week stretch in their MWC schedule in which they’ll face the other four teams from the top five in the league (Wyoming, BYU, Air Force and Utah). But TCU will face all of those squads save for Utah at home.

    So if the Horned Frogs get past Oregon State in their opener, TCU could be headed back to the BCS.

    Jake’s Way Too Early Line vs. Air Force: TCU minus-13.5. Air Force gave the Horned Frogs arguably their toughest test during the 2009 regular season. But the frigid weather probably gets an assist there. And this year TCU gets Air Force at home (where the Falcons never have beaten the Horned Frogs).

    Final Thought: With all those starters back, the memory of the painful loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl on their minds and the experience of going through a season with BCS stress, TCU could be even better in 2010 than it was in 2009.

  • More Football Notes

    Thu, April 22, 2010 by admin with no comments

    The Mountain West Conference’s nine football coaches spoke on a teleconference Wednesday, and I have a monster article with notes from Air Force (specifically concerning the Falcons’ offensive line and linebackers) and other schools (including BYU, Utah, UNLV and Wyoming) that you can find at this link.

    Some additional notes that I didn’t include in the story:

    -Speaking of the Falcons’ offensive, it likely will be even smaller than it appears on paper.

    “They’re not a big group,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “Last year we had four of our five were less than 255 pounds, and I don’t think this group will be bigger.”

    -I wrote earlier this week about Oklahoma, Air Force’s Week Three opponent, in my “First Look” series. You can see the post by scrolling down. I asked Calhoun Wednesday for his initial thoughts on the Sooners.

    “Incredibly talented program,” he said. “And really, if you looked in history of college football over the last, golly, 70 years – national championships, I mean the whole bit. Great, great football program. And yet we know that’s a long ways off. At least for our players.”

    -I thought this comment from Calhoun succinctly captures his philosophy for his program:

    “When you look at it in general, our approach has always been to commit to recruiting, developing and placing very capable guys on defense, while seeking to become a plus-turnover team with a strong running attack and yet at the same time doing a good job in the kicking game too.”

    -Air Force will play host to BYU on Sept. 11 in the second game – and first league contest – for both squads. And BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall isn’t too excited about where the Falcons fall on his team’s schedule.

    “I don’t like it,” Mendenhall said. “Air Force is a very, very good football team, and the way they execute, the way they compete and the nature of their young men, it’s just a formidable challenge. And normally I like to have an idea of who our team is first to try to tailor our schemes and strategies to try to defend probably what is one of the most difficult opponents in college football. And so to have to play Air Force so early and on the road with some of the questions we have remaining at key positions on our team, it will probably the most difficult task we will have had in playing Air Force maybe in the six years now that I’ve been head coach.”

  • Baseball Drops One, Other To Be Continued

    Sun, March 28, 2010 by admin with no comments

    After losing to Air Force for just the second time in 20 all-time games on Friday, No. 5 TCU rebounded with a 20-6 victory over the Falcons at Falcon Field today in the first game of a doubleheader.

    But the Falcons came right back in the second game and went punch-for-punch with the Horned Frogs for six-plus innings.

    Because of TCU’s travel plans, the second game was suspended in the seventh inning with Air Force up, 16-15. The game will resume in Fort Worth when Air Force and TCU meet again on May 14. When the game was halted, there were two outs in the top of the seventh inning with no runners on base.

    In the first game, TCU had 24 hits, including four home runs, and scored in eight of nine innings. Horned Frogs starter Kyle Winkler allowed six runs in seven innings while striking out six.

    In the second game, TCU blasted eight home runs, but Air Force got some timely hits to build a one-run lead.

    Air Force next plays on Tuesday at 3 p.m. against Colorado Christian.

  • Air Force Baseball’s Stunning Upset

    Sat, March 27, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    I got my bi-monthly reminder of why sports are so awesome yesterday afternoon.

    I headed to the academy to watch the Air Force baseball team take on the nation’s fifth-ranked squad, TCU. I went planning to write a feature story about how the Falcons appeared lost in another dreadful season. And I was going to include one or two paragraphs about the beating they took from the Horned Frogs.

    There were plenty of reasons to believe the game would unfold that way. TCU is the defending Mountain West Conference champion and had lost to Air Force just once in 19 all-time meetings. In 1997.

    Air Force, meanwhile, brought a 5-16 record into the game and had just been swept by Hawai’i. Two of the Falcons’ victories came against Division II squads, and they’d given up 10 or more runs in 12 of their 21 games.

    But there are no guarantees in sports (just ask my bookie from my college days) and I had that lesson pounded into my head again yesterday when the Falcons upended the Horned Frogs 14-11.

    Kudos to:

    -Senior pitcher Alex Truesdale, who pitched seven gutty innings against an intimidating lineup. He pitched three innings of hitless baseball as Air Force went up 6-0 and then found the strength to get through a seventh inning when his arm was telling him to give up the ball.

    “Before that inning, coach (Mike) Hutcheon came over to me and was like, ‘Do you want to go one more?’” Truesdale said. “And I was like, ‘You know, I don’t have my best stuff. It’s up to you if you want to go with Evan (Abrecht).’ And I think he originally told Evan he was going in. And then coach (Scott Marchand) – and I’ve been under coach March since I’ve been here – and he said, ‘In three years you’ve never said you’re not going to take another one. We need you now, you can’t do this.’ And I said, ‘You’re right, I’ve got to go get one more quick inning.’”

    And he did.

    -Abrecht, who struck out four in the final two innings to preserve the victory. He got the final out with the tying run at the plate.

    “I looked at the scoreboard, and I realized our team fought hard the whole game and I was going to do everything to make sure we got that win,” he said.

    -An offense that scored in each of the first seven innings and had a hit in each of the eight innings in which the Falcons batted.

    Most noteworthy was the Falcons found a way to battle back after each TCU rally.

    “That shows a lot of heart, a lot of guts on this field,” Truesdale said. “We were not going to lose to this team. It was exciting to see (Air Force’s batters) hit as well as the pitchers know they can after facing them through all of fall. It was exciting to see them hit the ball that well.”

    -Senior first baseman Addison Gentry, who went 4-for-5 with two home runs, a triple and four RBIs.

    -Freshmen Garrett Custons and Travis Lane, each of whom hit home runs.

    Yes, it’s only one game. And yes, a program that has been stuck in last place and eternal rebuilding mode in Hutcheon’s seven seasons still is 6-16 on the season.

    But for a day, at least, there was joy at Falcon Field.

  • Air Force-TCU Series Altered

    Thu, March 25, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force baseball’s three-game series with No. 5 TCU has been altered because of the weekend weather forecast.

    The Falcons and Horned Frogs now will play a doubleheader on Friday, with the first game starting at noon. The teams will not play Saturday but will play Sunday at noon as scheduled.

    TCU is the highest-ranked team Air Force has played since facing then-No. 1 Rice in 1999.

  • Baseball to take on No. 5 TCU

    Wed, March 24, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force’s baseball team is scheduled to open up Mountain West Conference play on Friday against TCU.

    The fifth-ranked Horned Frogs are the highest-ranked opponent the Falcons will have faced since 1999 when they took on top-ranked Rice. The Falcons upset the Owls, 10-5, on May 14, 1999 at Falcon Field before losing the next two games 23-4 and 14-3.

    Air Force (5-16) is coming off a trip to Honolulu where it was swept by Hawai’i in four straight games and has lost 10 of 11 games to Division I opponents. TCU is 16-4.

  • 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)

  • Sunday Morning Links

    Sun, February 7, 2010 by admin with 2 comments

    Happy Super Bowl.

    One of the greatest days of the year. I like the Colts to win by about a touchdown. The BlogDog likes the Saints. I don’t think I have to tell you who is more trustworthy on these kinds of things.

    Gloomy day at the Falcon Athletic Center yesterday. First, the men’s basketball team turns in a horrendous performance against TCU, losing, 65-51. You can find my “Rapid Reaction” in the post below and my notebook, which discusses some ugly numbers, here. Also, Gazette columnist David Ramsey had some quick thoughts on the game in his blog (http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com/). Ramsey also will be writing a column about the basketball program that will appear in Monday’s paper and should hit the internet some time today.

    Meanwhile, at Cadet Ice Arena last night, Air Force lost in overtime to Denver, 2-1, on an unlucky bounce. Still, Ramsey writes that Falcons coach Frank Serratore was pleased by what he saw from his team this weekend.