USU vs Air Force: Where Did It All Go Wrong?
A by-the-numbers look at a peculiar, ugly, humbling outing for the Aggies
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USU’s recent loss exposed a flawed run defense, and also a flawed rushing offense, and also many other flaws
Losing a football game to Air Force in 2019 isn’t exactly an anomaly. Most conference foes unfortunate enough to line up against the upstart Falcons’ unique triple option system are getting systematically obliterated to the tune of 3+ scores per game. Navy and Boise State survived — most others won’t.
It’s clear Air Force is among the best the Mountain West has to offer this year, and that means taking some other programs’ lofty goals down a peg. Utah State entered the season with unclear expectations that probably ran hot due to a shiny Love for Heisman campaign push and an ongoing love affair with Gary Andersen’s return to Logan.
Andersen and Love have both been fine (4-3 with a win over SDSU looking better every week), but Air Force marks the first real failed test of a season that could’ve flirted with greatness.
The recipe for a good season still remains within the Aggies’ reach with a course correction this Saturday against BYU. Let’s take a by-the-numbers look at what flaws Utah State will have to mend before its key in-state rivalry matchup.
First downs allowed by Utah State’s defense Saturday. Most traditional stats have to be taken with a grain of salt when Air Force is concerned, as the Falcons run such a unique brand of offense. That said, it’s clear the Aggies’ inability to get their own defense off the field led to every other horrible aspect of this forgettable outing. What’s worse, the warp-speed playcalling on offense once again worked to Utah State’s own detriment, blazing through 3-and-outs in a matter of seconds and resulting in just seven first downs in four quarters of football.
That’s what the final time of possession split looked like for Utah State, including a grand total of 5:17 in the first half. This continues a trend dating back several years between these two squads forcing Utah State into the unenviable position of needing points on basically every available possession just to keep pace on the scoreboard. Even if you’re resistant to the football analytics revolution, it’s fairly intuitive to see a team needs the ball in its hands in order to score. Unfortunately, even when the Aggies did manage to hold possession they struggled to do much with it.
Total Aggie rushing yards. Yikes. Against now No. 1 ranked LSU, this stat wasn’t pretty but perhaps forgivable. Against a conference opponent? Utah State’s offensive line and talent at the running back position has no reason to ever be this ineffective, even against a superior opponent. This more than any other statistic should concern the Aggie faithful with several strong defensive fronts remaining on the schedule.
Net yards rushing allowed by the Aggie front seven. In case you were wondering where all the time went in this game.
The total number of carries Air Force tallied.
Utah State won’t control its own destiny in the MW picture unless some extreme silliness strikes, but a big in-state matchup against BYU provides a timely opportunity to charm fans back into the convincing light of a generally good season. Fixes to the Aggie rush defense and an offensive overhaul are big demands in a week’s time, but if ever there was a game for Jordan Love and Gary Andersen to showcase their respective ceilings, it’s this one.