Air Force vs. Utah State: Three Keys to a Falcons Win
What can the Air Force Falcons do to open their Mountain West football schedule with a win over the Utah State Aggies?
Can Air Force pull off another upset?
WEEK 4: Air Force Falcons (1-1) vs. Utah State Aggies (2-1)
WHEN: Saturday, September 22 — 6:15 PM MT/5:15 PM PT
WHERE: Maverik Stadium; Logan, Utah (25,100)
RADIO: The Air Force broadcast 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 satellite radio at Sirius channel 121.
SERIES RECORD: The Falcons lead the series 4-2. In the last meeting on November 25, 2017, Air Force defeated the Aggies 38-35 in Colorado Springs.
The Air Force Falcons had to wait quite a while for their game against Florida Atlantic to begin, so it must have compounded the disappointment when the Owls emerged victorious from the weather delay.
Utah State, on the other hand, has strung together three convincing performances in a row and surely has revenge on their minds after Air Force’s stunning upset in last year’s season finale. It would seem, on the surface, that the Aggies’ strengths align uncomfortably with the Falcons’ biggest questions, but Air Force has strung together three one-score wins in the last three years.
With an extra week to prepare for the red-hot Aggies, can they do it again? Here’s what Air Force can do to stun Utah State on its home turf.
Three Keys to an Air Force Win
Make plays when you cross the Utah State 40.
One positive from Air Force’s first two games is that they have scored seven touchdowns on eight red zone possessions. The bad news: They rank just 81st in points per scoring opportunity at 4.33 per possession, suggesting that they’re getting bogged down on the opponents’ side of the field more often than head coach Troy Calhoun like.
The fact that the rushing offense is averaging just 4.12 yards per carry between the opponents’ 40 and 20-yard lines bears this out, as that figure is down from 4.85 YPC a year ago (and down from a high of 6.05 YPC in 2015). Granted, it’s a small sample size of 25 carries, but finding someone who can solve that issue could be key to any upset bid.
Get pressure on Jordan Love.
This is a big key, but it’s also an open question as to whether that’ll actually happen. The Falcons have just three sacks on the year and let Chris Robison pick them apart two weeks ago in Boca Raton. Meanwhile, Love dismantled Tennessee Tech precisely because they couldn’t get past the Aggies’ senior-laden offensive line.
Make sure the special teams are on point.
Utah State has looked much improved in all three phases of the game so far this season, and Air Force won’t want to play from behind if the Aggies can break another long return. This could be a big game, then, for punter Charlie Scott and kicker Matthew Philichi.
So far, Scott is averaging a modest 41.6 yards per punt with a net of 34.8 YPP and four fair catches. Philichi has five touchbacks on nine kickoff attempts. Air Force did win the field position battle in last year’s upset win, and doing so again could be a huge deal.