2020’s Been Full of Ups and Downs
The Falcon’s Top Contributor to Date
We’ve arrived at what constitutes the halfway point of the season for Air Force, and it’s been anything but conventional. Be it Turn-backs, cancelled games, a pandemic, coaching absurdities from both Army and Navy, this year’s had it all. Unfortunately, we probably could have done without all of the aforementioned.
What shouldn’t be lost in all of this, Air Force football games have been played, and with any luck, there will be a handful more before calendar moves onto 2021. That in itself may seem a monumental ask, presently.
Be that as it may, we’re at the halfway mark, and the Falcons sit at 1-2 on the season, winless in Conference play. A complete dismantling of Navy to start the season was met with some harsher realities the ensuing two matchups which were against Mountain West opponents, San Jose State and Boise State.
Granted, the losses look as if they may have been to the two teams that wind up playing for the conference championship, but they revealed some vulnerabilities in the Falcons. Hopefully they find some less turbulent air this week against New Mexico.
With all of that as the backdrop, let’s look at some real reasons for optimism in the second half of the season. I’d like to submit to you my assessment of the Falcon’s Most Valuable Player, to date. But first, lets give a few honorable mentions. As a matter of note, only players who played in all three games were considered.
MID-SEASON HONORABLE MENTIONS
Considering how successful non-option offenses passing games have been against the Falcons, completing 39 out of 49 pass attempts in the last two games, it may seem odd recognizing a defensive back, but I am compelled to.
Elisha Palm is a first time starter on a defense that is littered with new faces. He has accounted for 20% of those incompletions that I just mentioned, one of which being an interception against one of the Conferences top performers, Nick Starkel. On top of that, the cornerback leads the team with 19 total tackles, 15 of which have been solo and 1.5 TFL’s.
Palm and the secondary have really been tested their last two outings, but Palm has battled each and every week against some of the top receivers in the country. He’s certainly made the most of his opportunity to start.
Fall Sport Senior Spotlight: Ben Peterson https://t.co/OgLXhlLszB
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) September 2, 2020
My other honorable mention is a senior as well, and likely even more surprising than Palm. Ben Peterson is probably the most overlooked contributor on this team. He’s the slot-back that doesn’t get the carries or catches, but he’s always in there. If skill-position players were eligible to be on the Outland Award list, which recognizes the nations top offensive lineman, he would be joining teammates Nolan Laufenberg and Parker Ferguson.
Peterson is as effective a lead blocker as you could ask for, period. Not just “good for a receiver”. He’s gotten a few touches as well, but make no mistake, his major impact comes as a blocker in the running game. When you see Remsberg, or Brandon Lewis more recently, break off a big gain on the edge, Ben Peterson is probably culpable.
He is also a steady presence on special teams, even though by following the analytics, Air Force takes the fair catch yards almost every kickoff. The Falcons have one of the best in the business, in their offensive line coach, Steed Lobotzke, and I’m confident he would remark similarly on Peterson’s blocking.
AND THE AWARD FOR (MID SEASON) MVP GOES TO…..
He’s not atop the teams depth chart for his position as the Z receiver, that would be the aforementioned Ben Peterson. But make no mistake, Brandon Lewis can ball. And he has.
In a season filled with injury and COVID related absences, they’ve not really had any individuals stand out by way of statistical output, but Lewis has stepped up big time. People around the program and those who have followed the Falcons closely the past few years aren’t surprised to see this. Brandon Lewis found his way on the field as a freshman, and now with more opportunities before him, he’s cashing in.
Kade Remsberg, who is the big play threat particularly on the edges went down in the second game of the season against San Jose State. From that point on, when Air Force wanted to get to the outside with the run game, they’ve turned to Lewis. He’s also chipped in with a handful of catches as well.
As it sands, Lewis leads all players who’ve played in the three games this season averaging nearly 70 yards of offense per game. In the running game he’s averaging a staggering nine yards per carry. I would expect to continue seeing him as a cornerstone to their offense for the remainder of the season, and certainly in 2021 as he’s presently a junior.
I’ve always believed that Lewis had the playmaking ability that Troy Calhoun and Mike Thiessen typically do a great job of exploiting. We’ve seen it with Ronald Cleveland and Tyler Williams most recently. But with the right supporting cast and opportunities, Lewis’ ceiling may better resemble Falcon great, Chad Hall. I realize that is high praise, and maybe a stretch to most, but only time will tell.