Stony Brook vs. Air Force: Three Keys to a Falcons Win
The Falcons host FCS Stony Brook at home in their season opener. Here’s how they can kick off their season with a win.
Air Force wants to start 2018 like it ended 2017.
WEEK 1: Stony Brook Seawolves vs. Air Force Falcons
WHEN: Saturday, September 1 — 12:00 PM MT/11:00 AM PT
WHERE: Falcon Stadium; Colorado Springs, Colorado (46,692)
TV: The game will be available through Facebook.
RADIO: The Air Force broadcast can can be found in and around Colorado Springs on KVOR 740 AM. It can also be found in Denver on 104.3 FM and on Sirius satellite radio’s channel 78.
SERIES RECORD: This will be the first meeting between Stony Brook and Air Force.
Last year didn’t go quite as planned for the Air Force Falcons. After posting ten wins for the second time in three years, Troy Calhoun’s team saw their wins halved in 2017, though they remained as dangerous as ever on any given Saturday, upending Colorado State, outlasting both UNLV and Nevada, and sending fans into the offseason with a wild back-and-forth victory against Utah State.
Now, with a clean slate, the Falcons are back in action against an FCS squad that can’t be taken lightly. Stony Brook won ten games in 2017, but Air Force has won every season opener under Calhoun’s watch.
Here’s what Air Force can do to hold serve at home and come away with a victory over Stony Brook.
Three Keys for Air Force
Prove that you can take care of the football on offense.
One of the biggest letdowns for Air Force last year was in the turnover column, where the Falcons finished 9th in the Mountain West with 20 giveaways and 10th in overall turnover margin. Presumed starting quarterback Arion Worthman was the worst offender, fumbling 15 times, but departed starters Nate Romine and Tim McVey each had three fumbles apiece, too, which often put the defense in a bad position: Opponents, on average, began their drives at the 31.7-yard line, 116th nationally.
There’s a whole new host of runners in the Air Force backfield now, of course, most notably junior tailback Joseph Saucier, who drew plenty of praise in fall camp and finds himself atop the depth chart. The biggest boost they could provide themselves, though, is to simply avoid putting the ball on the ground. If they can relieve Worthman of the burden of keeping the ball so often (his 205 rushes were the most by an Air Force QB in at least a decade), all the better.
Rediscover big plays on the ground.
Air Force has always thrived on the running game’s efficiency, but the Falcons have been at their best when the runners can find big chunks of yardage on the ground, too. That didn’t happen often enough in 2017, where the Falcons had just 23 plays of 20-plus yards, which was about 3% of their carries.
Compare that figure to the division winners from 2015, who had 38 such runs on 817 attempts, 4.6% of carries. It may not seem like much of a difference, but showing you have that element once more will put Mountain West opponents on notice.
Avoid coughing up big plays on defense.
From 2015 to 2017, the Falcons ranked 128th, 124th and 130th in defensive IsoPPP, the metric at Football Study Hall which measures the explosiveness of plays allowed. Put another way, since 2013 they’ve ranked no better than 9th in the Mountain West by 40-plus-yard plays allowed. However you slice it, they haven’t been good, and Weston Steelhammer isn’t walking through that door.
Thankfully, Stony Brook’s explosive threats may not exist. The Seawolves’ leading returning receiver, Donavin Washington, averaged just 8.9 yards per catch in 2017, while running Donald Liotine earned just 4.7 yards per carry. Stony Brook’s offense is more good than great, but it’ll be incumbent upon every Falcons defender (and whomever the defensive coordinator happens to be) to reverse the recent historical trend.