• Wednesday Morning Links

    Wed, January 27, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Some links before leaving Las Vegas:

    Air Force played well and led at halftime but still lost at UNLV last night, 60-50.

    The Falcons are getting healthier, but sophomore center Sammy Schafer might not make it back this season.

    Here’s the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s take on the game and a column on the game and Air Force.

  • 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.

  • Monday Morning Links

    Mon, January 25, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    The Air Force men’s basketball team went straight from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas yesterday. The Falcons face UNLV on Tuesday.

    My notebook in today’s edition of The Gazette deals with those travel plans and senior forward/center Grant Parker’s return to the lineup.

    Also, here’s a look at UNLV’s 79-70 victory over TCU on Saturday from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

  • Where Does this Year’s Armed Forces Bowl Rank Among the 34 Bowls?

    Tue, December 8, 2009 by admin with 4 comments

    ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach ranked the college football bowl games from 1 to 34, and SI.com’s Stewart Mandel did the same. They have differing opinions on the Armed Forces Bowl.

  • Wednesday Morning Links

    Wed, November 18, 2009 by admin with no comments

    I wrote a bit about BYU for today’s edition of The Gazette. Air Force’s game with the Cougars seemed to fall on a good date – a week before they faced arch rival Utah. But BYU won’t be looking past the Falcons.

    My Around The Mountain West Conference notes are available on-line only. They touch on the No. 4 TCU Horned Frogs – and whether they could/should play for a national title – and UNLV coach Mike Sanford talking about how a lack of commitment to football by the university is to blame for the Rebels going 15-43 under his watch.

    Also, some stories from Utah:

    -The Salt Lake Tribune looks at whether BYU simply has Air Force’s number.

    -The Salt Lake Tribune also reports that BYU running back Harvey Unga sat out of practice yesterday but will play Saturday.

    -The Deseret Morning News writes that BYU hasn’t been so invincible at home this season.

    Finally, the Air Force women’s basketball team won its home opener last night.

  • Tuesday Morning Links

    Tue, November 17, 2009 by admin with 2 comments

    In today’s edition of The Gazette I wrote about some comments (soon-to-be-former) UNLV coach Mike Sanford had about Air Force.

    According to the Las Vegas Sun, Sanford said the following on a post-game radio show:

    “They are a team that does a lot of things – I won’t get into it right now – but a lot of things that are dangerous and unsafe. And they are not within the rules of football, and what ends up happening is you get so many guys hurt that it’s hard to replace them and get the right guys in the game to defend it. That’s what I saw happening.”

    Sanford wouldn’t elaborate, but he almost certainly was referring to Air Force’s use of cut blocks, which often are controversial (his remarks came a week after Notre Dame associate head coach Corwin Brown vented about Navy’s use of the technique) but are legal. Cut blocks (blocks below the waist) become illegal “chop blocks” if the player who is getting cut already is engaged up high with another player.

    Air Force makes no secret it utilizes cut blocks, but it emphasizes it does not teach or use chop blocks.

    Anyhow, I was more interested in Sanford’s post-game remarks about Chris Thomas’ interception just before halftime. (Thomas’ pick stopped a UNLV drive deep into Air Force territory when the Rebels were trailing 17-3. Air Force then drove for a touchdown with less than a minute left in the half to go up 24-3.)

    Sanford referred to the play several times, saying the game “would’ve been different” if UNLV had scored.

    He’s exactly right. It would have been different. Air Force probably would have won by three touchdowns instead of four.

    But if that comment wasn’t delusional enough for you, Sanford met with the media in Las Vegas on Monday and essentially took no responsibility for UNLV’s 15-43 record in his nearly five-season tenure. “This is not a coach issue,” he said.

    He did, however, note that UNLV has the worst locker room in the country.

    Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ed Graney’s take on that can be found here.

  • Sunday Morning Links

    Sun, November 15, 2009 by admin with 2 comments

    Air Force woke up to snow and plenty of bowl scenarios today. The way I see it, the Las Vegas, Poinsettia, Armed Forces and New Mexico Bowls all are in play.

    The reps from bowls with Mountain West Conference ties meet with representatives from each bowl-eligible program this week in Vegas. But there are plenty of dominoes that still need to fall – starting with whether TCU gets a BCS bid (looks like the Frogs will). The next biggest domino is how the Falcons finish next weekend at BYU. Like I wrote last night, that game is monstrous for Air Force.

    Some links:

    My game story on Saturday night’s 45-17 victory over UNLV; my sidebar on sophomore tailback Asher Clark’s breakout game and my notebook, which touches on the offensive line, kicker Erik Soderberg and more, both can be found at this link; David Ramsey’s sidebar on quarterback Tim Jefferson; Ramsey’s column about how it’s time for the Falcons to beat a winner; and my 3 Headlines video.

    Also, here’s the take on the game from the Vegas side, where speculation about Mike Sanford’s future increases.

    Finally, Air Force hockey tied Holy Cross Saturday night, 2-2.

  • UNLV Wrap

    Sat, November 14, 2009 by admin with 2 comments

    There was plenty for Air Force to celebrate tonight.

    The offense looked arguably the best it has all season, rolling up 557 yards. The Falcons were balanced (for them) with quarterback Tim Jefferson completing 8-of-13 passes for 126 yards. And the ground game was dominant, with the Falcons picking up 6.1 yards per carry.

    The defense was not quite as impenetrable as it has been at times this season, but it still limited a dangerous UNLV passing attack to just 135 yards.

    Kicker Erik Soderberg continued his outstanding season by nailing a 35-yarder, giving him 20 field goals this season.

    And Air Force’s 15 seniors walked out of Falcon Stadium for the last time as players triumphant, with a 45-17 victory.

    And yet … not to snow on the Falcons’ celebration … but that was a pretty inept UNLV squad.

    I’m not saying that to diminish a standout performance but to highlight the following: Air Force has held serve against the teams it finished above last season and was picked to finish above this season. But it has yet to beat a team it wasn’t “supposed to” beat.

    The Falcons have one more chance next Saturday at Provo. And they’re looking forward to it.

    “Next week’s a huge game,” senior strong safety Chris Thomas said of the clash with BYU. “Been looking forward to that game all year.”

    And there’s plenty at stake. With a victory, the Falcons all of a sudden would seem to have a shot at the Poinsettia Bowl and maybe even the Las Vegas Bowl (if BYU went on to beat Utah the following week and TCU ends up in the BCS).

    More importantly, Air Force would finish no worse than third in the Mountain West Conference. Instead of thinking about the Falcons as “the best of the rest,” we’d have to re-define “The Big Three.”

    “This next week is huge for us as a program,” Thomas said. “If we can play well and get a ‘W,’ I think it would show that this program has definitely taken some strides forward.”

    Other Thoughts:
    Jefferson showed up at the post-game press conference wearing flip-flops.

    He had socks on, but it still was surprising for a kid from Georgia.

    “I’ve gotten used to Colorado,” he said.

    The Falcons were at home in the cold and snow on Saturday night, much more so than UNLV. Don’t know if it was a big factor, but I think it played a part in Air Force’s dominance. Troy Calhoun loves practicing in inclement weather to get his guys ready for days like today. That definitely has helped.

    -I think we safely can say Air Force has a big-time receiving threat.

    Kevin Fogler made three catches for 73 yards, and – as usual – they were significant grabs. All of them gave the Falcons first downs.

    -Rebels coach Mike Sanford thought it would have been “a different game,” had UNLV scored late in the first half to make it 17-10 (instead, Thomas picked off a pass in the end zone and the Falcons then drove 80 yards to go up 24-3 just before the half).

    I’m not going to say that’s delusional, but come on, Mike. It was a momentum-changer, sure. But there was no way Air Force was going to win that game by less than 10 points, let alone lose it.

    -Last thing: Troy Calhoun is the first Air Force coach in program history to lead his first three teams to seven or more victories. Pretty good accomplishment.

  • FINAL: Air Force 45, UNLV 17

    Sat, November 14, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Air Force guaranteed itself a winning record for the third time in Troy Calhoun’s three seasons with a dominating performance against the Rebels.

    The Falcons gained 557 yards and limited the Rebels to 282 to win for the third week in a row and improve to 7-4 and 5-2 in the Mountain West Conference. UNLV fell to 4-7 and 2-5.

    Air Force sophomore tailback Asher Clark rushed for a career-high 180 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, and sophomore Tim Jefferson completed 8-of-13 passes for 126 yards.

    After getting stuffed on a fourth-and-1 near midfield on the game’s first possession, the Falcons scored the next four times they had the ball – three times driving 80 or more yards for touchdowns – and went to halftime with a 24-3 advantage. UNLV scored mid-way through the third quarter to pull within to touchdowns, but Air Force responded with a nine-play, 72-yard drive capped by Nathan Walker’s 2-yard run.

  • Halftime: Air Force 24, UNLV 3

    Sat, November 14, 2009 by admin with no comments

    If you’re watching tonight’s Air Force-UNLV game, you’re probably witnessing the last gasps of the Mike Sanford Era.

    The Rebels’ fifth-year coach carried a record of 15-42 into the game, including a 4-6 mark this season. Most believe Sanford’s squad needs to finish 6-6 and become bowl eligible for him to save his job.

    Doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

    Air Force dominated the Rebels in the first half, piling up 232 yards on 38 plays while limiting UNLV to 69 yards on 17 plays.

    The Falcons failed on a fourth-and-1 near midfield on their first possession but scored the next four times they had the ball, three times driving 80 or more yards for touchdowns.