The Falcons came close to topping a ranked San Diego State team last Saturday, ultimately falling to a 28-24 defeat. It was a strange game – one of the few football games you will ever see without a half time after a big lightning delay in the second quarter – but it is a game that Air Force can use to get better as this season goes on. Next up is a trip to New Mexico on Saturday.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Get back to basics on offense
It was a miserably dreary day last Saturday and the Falcons were forced to change their game plan because of it. The triple-option is the bread and butter of this offense, but the Falcons version of the attack depends on a little more ball movement than the option attacks at rival schools like Army and Navy. The wet and soggy conditions though made this impossible.
The Falcons leading rusher coming into the game was Tim McVey but, because of the weather, he did not get his first carry until the fourth quarter. Fullback Parker Wilson, on the other hand, saw his carries bumped up in a major way. Sitting on just 11 carries before the game, Wilson toted the ball 20 times as the fullback dive became the go to play. It was almost enough to win – and it does mean this offense has a few more wrinkles now – but getting back to what has worked will be important this weekend.
Get two scores ahead
It is much easier said than done, but the Falcons need to find a way to get some breathing room in this game against New Mexico. Last weekend against SDSU, Air Force held the lead on three different occasions yet kept getting run down from behind by the Aztecs. This culminated in Air Force giving up the final go-ahead touchdown with less than six minutes left in the final quarter.
New Mexico, on the other hand, won last Saturday with a long field goal as time expired against Tulsa. It was a low scoring game – they won just 16-13 – but it is the sort of result that shows you cannot let a team hang around and be in with a chance at the end of the contest. Air Force needs to capitalize and build any lead that they get until the home side is well and truly out of the picture.
Win the turnover battle
This has the makings of a close game. Air Force might be the best team below .500 in the country as they were very competitive in two losses against ranked teams. New Mexico has been up and down, but any team that has won both a shootout and a defensive battle in the same season is not one that you can take lightly as they obviously have multiple ways to win.
Last season the Lobos took this one 45-40. If the running games click then it could easily be a similar score in 2017. In close games like this it is one or two plays that make the difference and any extra possessions that the Falcons can get through turning New Mexico over – and not giving up turnovers the other way – will be a key to the game.