Off to Aggie Territory (in Utah)
Are the Falcons Looking ahead to Army?
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WEEK 13: Air Force Falcons 2-2 (1-2) vs. Utah State Aggies (1-4)
WHEN: Thursday, December 3rd —7:30 P.M. MT
WHERE: Maverik Stadium- Logan, Utah
SERIES RECORD: Air Force leads the series 5-3.
GAME NOTES (PDF): Utah State | Air Force
As we have learned time and again this season nothing is a given. Not a single game is guaranteed to even be played, much less can you pen in a W when looking ahead. While that harsh reality doesn’t just apply to the Aggies and Falcons, both are keenly aware.
If you were to look back through the Mountain West Wire’s power rankings and staff picks, week after week, a fair consensus is that neither of these teams have been pegged for greatness this season. Utah State in particular though has spent a majority of the season in the Conferences basement, while Air Force’s schedule has been on life support, week to week.
These are also two squads that have a bit in common this year. Both have seen an exodus of players depart their lineup (each for very different reasons), their schedules were wiped of games against Wyoming, suffering less than competitive losses to Boise State and most recently they’ve also counted on a New Mexico Lobos tonic to stop their seasons from backsliding.
The Aggies earned their first victory of the season courtesy of the lowly Lobos, which came in their fifth game of the season. Air Force on the other hand, stopped a two game stumble that was sandwiched with two cancelled matchups (Army now rescheduled) by shutting out New Mexico back on November 20th.
All that to make a circular reference back to my first notion, nothing is a given this year. That includes for the Falcons, an assumed game played and won in Logan. Provided the two play on Thursday, and it seems they will, here are a few things to consider if Air Force wants to notch their third win.
Three Keys to an Air Force Victory
1. Test Their Commitment
Whether your running or passing, the Aggie defense has been vulnerable to either. The Falcons happen to feature the countries top rushing attack, while Utah State’s run defense is surrendering just over 200 yards per game, placing them outside of the top 100 in that team statistic.
This is not a strength on strength matchup by any stretch. However, as porous as the run defense has been, their pass defense has performed even worse statistically, despite having Shaq Bond in the secondary. Air Force shouldn’t have to rely on the pass game much, but it is certainly an area where Haaziq Daniels and the offense are improving. Maybe we will see an opportunistic pass game complement the ground attack?
Either way, the Aggies commitment and willingness to stay completely assignment focused will be tested. You hear it all the time when facing the triple option, as a defense you have got to stay discipline and committed to assignment. Lets see how committed the Aggies remain after getting relentless doses of Brad Roberts and crew behind the big Diesels.
Offensive firepower has been on display against the Aggies in recent years 💥💥💥
The Falcons have put up over 𝟰𝟬𝟬 yards and 3⃣0⃣ points in each of the last three matchups! #LetsFly pic.twitter.com/jdGEVWggOg
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) November 30, 2020
2. Let Them Giveth
The last time we saw Air Force in action, their offense put the ball on the ground in four straight possessions, losing three of those fumbles. It’s easy to forget this considering how they still somehow managed to shutout the Lobos and surrender zero points off of turnovers.
Despite that sloppy spell of play, the Falcons are even for the year on turnover margin. Compare that to Utah State who has been generous turning it over, relative to their ability to create takeaways.
With the type of clock-misering offense that Air Force runs, losing the turnover battle if your Utah State could prove deadly. Beyond their offenses inability to show it can generate drives resulting in points consistently, the Aggie defense is very unlikely to bottle up, if even slow down the Falcons.
Giving Air Force extra possessions, especially if you aren’t stealing them in your own right is not going to bare good fruit if you are Utah State. The Falcons need to hone in on their ball security and in doing so, may make the Aggies cough up an extra possession or two.
3. Don’t Kick to Scarver. Ever. I mean it.
Since 2017, Air Force has only allowed for Savon Scarver to return a kickoff against them just five times. Probably five too many, but I digress. For perspective, in that time Scarver has returned six for touchdowns, which includes one against Fresno State earlier this season.
It would serve the Falcons well to avoid allowing Scarver to get his hands on a kick return. If they don’t heed this warning, its very possible the consequence will be the same as they experienced against Boise State, when Avery Williams returned a kick to the house.
Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Don’t kick to Scarver.
Even though Air Force seems to have a few new question marks each week, they have found ways to cobble good performances despite absences. I’m not saying that 2-2 is the ideal record, but to consider what you thought this teams roster would look like, especially on defense, they have acquitted themselves well overall in the face of adversity.
On the other sideline, it appears to be a team with no identity that seems to have a new player exit their program at minimum weekly. You have to give the Aggies credit, they battled out a win last week, and they did it in throes of what seems like mass rush for the life rafts.
When I look at what this Utah State team has, or has not done, I just don’t see their path to victory. A year ago they had a (foolishly drafted) first round pick at quarterback, dynamic players at linebacker and an overall abundance more talent than this seasons team. And that much more talented team got run out of the building by Air Force.
I get that its a different year and a different Air Force team in many regards as well, but we are not talking about comparable regressions. So yes, it is a different year, but the result is going to be the same. A lot of Air Force rushing yards, without a lot of Aggie answers.