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The fullback dive is the key to any option offense since it can become a boring game for the defense, and after multiple dives the secondary and linebackers bite on a fake and then it is too late for them to recover because it could be a pass play or an option to the outside.
BYU's defense did lose some good players on that side of the ball from last year and highly touted freshman linebacker Zac Stout saw his first significant time against Air Force and seemed lost. The key to managing an offense like Air Force is to play disciplined football.
Here are the game highlights in Air Force's win over BYU.
USAFA, CO (Sports Network) - Mikel Hunter registered a pair of touchdowns as the Air Force Falcons surprised the BYU Cougars, 35-14, in Mountain West Conference action at Falcon Stadium.
Hunter finished the day with 53 yards rushing on just two carries for the Falcons (2-0, 1-0 MWC) as they snapped a six-game slide in the series with the Cougars (1-1, 0-1). Asher Clark accounted for a game-high 121 yards rushing for an Air Force team that logged 409 yards on 65 attempts. Quarterback Tim Jefferson converted 5-of-13 passing for 68 yards and a score, to go along with one interception and a sack.
The Cougars were paced by Riley Nelson who converted 8-of-19 passing for 73 yards and also gained 95 yards and scored once on the ground in the losing effort.
Getting the Cougars off on the right foot early in the first quarter was JJ DiLuigi who hit the end zone on a one-yard run, capping a 12-play, 74-yard drive and giving the visitors a 7-0 lead.
Countering for the Falcons, Jefferson combined with Hunter on a 37-yard TD pass play to lock the score at 7-7 barely a minute later.
Nelson put the Cougars back on top with a four-yard TD run with 2:29 to play in the first frame, but that would be the end of the offense for BYU.
In the second quarter a five-yard TD run by Jefferson and a 33-yard scramble by Hunter put the Falcons ahead by a score of 21-14 at the break.
Jon Warzeka contributed with a 46-yard TD run in the third and Nathan Walker accounted for a five-yard scoring burst in the fourth to cap off a 28-point scoring spree for the Falcons as they cruised to the 21-point victory.
BYU finished the outing with 309 yards of total offense, but the squad ran 19 fewer offensive plays than the Falcons.
The key stat of the first half comes in the turnover department as BYU has two fumbles and an interception thrown by Jake Heaps where Air Force has zero turnovers. Of the three turnovers Air Force was able to convert one into the go ahead touchdown late in the first half. There is no surprise that Air Force is out rushing BYU, but the Falcons are also have more passing yards then the two BYU quarterbacks combined; 68 to 47.
The BYU offense is running much better when Riley Nelson is in the game because his ability to run allows him to extend the play, where Jake Heaps is not the elusive type. In the first half Nelson leads all with 69 yards and with J.J. Di Luigi has 66 yards.
The best player in the game looks to be Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson who has 68 passing yards -- one that includes a 38 yard touchdown pass -- while running for only four yards. The ability of Jefferson to throw the ball is keeping the Air Force offense that is traditionally heavy on the run is now able to be more balanced which opens up both their running and passing. The only real concern for Air Force is the amount of penalties they accumulated in the first half. They racked up eight penalties for 95 yards with four of those being the big 15 yard penalties.
Air Force gets the ball to start the second half, and one thing to look for is if BYU will stick to Riley Nelson at quarterback over Jake Heaps since he has been the better of the two today.
So much for defense in this game as both squads march down the field in their first possession and score touchdowns. In the first series BYU's quarterback Riley Nelson drove down the field at ease and lead the Cougars to an early 7-0. BYU used their running game to attack the Falcon defense and ran the ball on nine of their twelve plays for 53 yards, with Riley Nelson rushing for 47 of those yards as well completing a key 16 yard pass which put BYU on the one yard line. Then on the proceeding play J.J. DiLuigi punched the ball in from the one to put BYU up 7-0.
Air Force proceeded to take the ball and score in five plays with Air Force's Tim Jefferson throwing a 37 yard strike to Mikel Hunter. Passing is a bit of a novelty at Air Force, but the touchdown was set up by running back Asher Clark rushing twice for 35 yards on the drive.
In today's Air Force game in addition to the pregame ceremony the team will be wearing special decals on their helmet in remembrance of 9/11. The traditional blue lightning bold will be replaced by the one below with an American flag theme, plus other decals honoring the police and fire fighters who helped out on that tragic day.
Today's game against BYU and Air Force is the last scheduled game between the two since BYU is now going independent, so it is as good a time as any to revisit the 1985 game that halted Air Force's bid for a national title in 1985. 1984 was the last time that a team not from a current BCS league won a national title, and that team was BYU.
What a lot of people do not know is how close the 1985 Air Force team was to also winning a national championship. Twenty-five years ago Air Force was set to play BYU and the Falcons were fourth in the country and were on pace to play Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl and with a Falcon win they would have been national champions. Air Force had just two games left on the schedule before a potential national title chance; this BYU game and then a game against Hawaii. It is not that Air Force lost the game, but it was how they lost since they started out with a bug 21-7 half time lead:
Part of the lingering pain is how the BYU game started. Just 20 seconds after Falcons running back Randy Jones caught a 22-yard touchdown pass, Tom Rotello returned a Robbie Bosco interception 25 yards for a touchdown. Less than three minutes into the game Air Force led 14-0. Weiss said he thought the team was shocked to start that well. Another interception return helped Air Force to a 21-7 halftime lead.
Air Force had the game in hand and only needed to beat Hawaii for their shot at a national title. The quarterback of that team, Col. Bartholomew W. Weiss, thought about that time quite often once he left the Academy:
"Oh sure, especially the first 10 years I thought about it," said Weiss, the quarterback of the 1985 team. "I don't think there was a day or week, especially in fall, when I didn't. To a man, the guys on that team think about what would've, could've happened."
That season was still a great success as the Falcons ended the season 12-1 by beating Texas in the Bluebonnet bowl and ended up eighth in the polls.
Today's game does not have that same meaning for the Falcons, but this team on paper looks to be one of the best teams in a long time at Air Force. Plus, a win over BYU would put them on track to be in the top three of the Mountain West once the season ends.
Saturday marks the ninth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, and the Air Force Falcons will be having a special ceremony prior to Saturday's game:
Air Force decided to have a remembrance ceremony before Saturday's football game on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and it went all out. Detective Steve Hayden, a New York police officer, and FDNY firefighter Ken Haskell will be honorary game captains.
There will not be another event in this country, other than New York City, in a stadium that will compare to it," said Mike Simler, son of George Simler, who lauded Air Force for its efforts in putting the event together.
The stories behind the flags show how every detail was considered. The flag from Afghanistan will be carried out by a Falcons player as he leads the team out of the tunnel. Air Force will not reveal who will get that honor.
The other flag -- which will be parachuted in-- is one that has actually flown over the World Trade Center site on September 2nd prior to this game.
The September 11, 2001 attacks made an impact on current Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson who decided to pursue military service because of those events:
"I decided to join the military in part because of 9/11," Jefferson said. "I thought it was a special place, that somebody needs to step up to it. I felt like I owed something to my country. I get to live here and be protected by servicemen who are fighting for our country and giving their lives overseas. I felt it was a way I could give back."
Jefferson said he didn't have a sudden revelation to go to Air Force on Sept. 11, 2001, but he kept coming back to the possibility over the next few years. He proudly speaks about representing Air Force on Saturday. Before and during the game, men and women who have served the country will be recognized.
"After the fact, when you look back in the coming years, realizing that this game meant so much more than the game of football, I don't know how to describe it," Jefferson said. "In a couple years, I'll have the words then."
This pregame ceremony will be a special one for all of those in attendance but possibly even more for the current football players on the Air Force roster, because once they are done playing football they will be doing their part to serve our country.
So, enjoy the game and if you get the chance tune into Versus and hopefully the will show something from this ceremony.
Air Force is gearing up for a much anticipated against BYU and they may be without defensive back Reggie Rembert who is part of a secondary that is one of the best in the Mountain West. In the season opening game against Northwestern State Rembert was carted of the field after suffering a neck injury in the first half. On Sunday he was considered doubtful but Rembert participated in today's practice wearing a red no-contact jersey:
Calhoun said Rembert didn't hit anyone, so he didn't want to put too much stock into him returning to practice. Calhoun would not speculate on Rembert's chances of playing, and didn't display much optimism in his comments. Then again, Calhoun also wasn't publicly optimistic Rembert would practice this week.
"He's got a ways to go," Calhoun said after practice. "We'll see."
This is great news for Air Force that Rembert was able to be on the field for Saturday's game, as was it a good sign to see his counterpart Anthony Wright, Jr practicing at full speed after suffering a minor rib injury on Saturday.
These two players are key to Air Force winning this game since BYU plans on using their two quarterback system -- which they used to defeat Washington -- with Riley Nelson and heralded true freshman Jake Heaps. With the way Air Force head coach is pumping up Jake Heaps these two defensive backs better play:
"I think [Jake Heaps] is a slam-dunk (NFL) first round pick. He's as slam dunk as it gets. I think he's more talented than any QB they've ever had there."
That is a bit of a stretch, but Heaps was the number one rated quarterback per Rivals in last years recruiting class.
(Sports Network) A couple of Mountain West Conference programs kick off the league portion of their schedules this weekend as the Air Force Falcons and the BYU Cougars tangle in Colorado on Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars enter this week having won six straight outings, one of the longest win streaks in the nation, thanks to a 23-17 victory over Washington at home last weekend. The triumph was also the 50th in the career of head coach Bronco Mendenhall, with all of them coming at BYU. Mendenhall is just the second Cougars coach to come up with as many victories in his career, the other being LaVell Edwards after whom BYU's home stadium is now named.
As for the Falcons, they too came up with a win in their first game of 2010 thanks to a substantial 65-21 decision over Northwestern State at home. Add that to last year's season-opening win over Nicholls State and Air Force has defeated its first opponents the last two years by a combined score of 137-21. Since losing to Wyoming by a score of 10-7 in the MWC opener back in 1999, the academy has won 10 straight conference openers, thanks in part to a 37-13 romp over New Mexico in Albuquerque last year.
The Cougars lead the all-time series between the teams by a count of 24-6 and that includes 14 wins in 17 chances on the road at the academy. BYU has taken six in a row over the Falcons, with the last Air Force win being a 24-10 decision in Provo back in 2003. Last season, the Cougars logged a 38-21 win at home.
Utilizing a two-quarterback attack, coach Mendenhall got the best out of Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson as they combined to hit 24-of-40 passes for 262 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both of those being tossed by Nelson. Adding 45 yards on eight carries, Nelson also showed that he could handle the pressure in the pocket and then make something on his own. With 10 different players catching a pass, no single receiver dominated for the Cougars, although JJ DiLuigi did grab four balls and turn them into 83 yards and a score while also leading the team with his 69 yards rushing as well. Last season, DiLuigi was second on the team in rushing behind Harvey Unga, but it was a distant second as the youngster ran for less than 20 yards per contest. In 2009, the team, even with the efforts of Unga and his 90.6 ypg on the ground, generated just 145.7 ypg rushing and that had them ranked fourth in the MWC and 63rd in the country. As a result, the offense leaned heavily on the passing of Max Hall who was one of the best in the business as he guided the team to 281.5 ypg, but with Hall now gone it falls to Heaps and Riley to keep the squad afloat. Heaps is a freshman from the state of Washington and Nelson is someone who started out his career at Utah State before making the jump to Provo and the Cougars.
Against one of the more heralded quarterbacks in the Pac-10 Conference in Jake Locker, the pass defense for the Cougars did rather well in limiting the damage caused by the signal-caller in the narrow win last weekend. Locker, who ran for a touchdown in the meeting, converted 20-of-37 passes for 266 yards and a score, but was sacked by the combination of Jordan Pendleton and Romney Fuga, the former delivering 1.5 tackles for loss altogether. Joining Pendleton in the middle of the field this season are Aveni Leung-Wai, Shane Hunter and Jameson Frazier and all three are upperclassmen so hopefully that will translate into success at the linebacker positions. Andrew Rich, who led the team in tackles a year ago with better than six and a half per outing, tied with Hunter for the most stops versus Washington with nine. One area in which the Cougars have to give more attention is getting into the opponent's backfield, considering they placed seventh in the conference in both sacks and TFLs and were tied for 101st in the nation in the latter category with only 4.7 per game in 2009.
Not known much as a passing program, Air Force may have raised a few eyebrows during the first week of the season when quarterback Tim Jefferson began the onslaught against Northwestern State with a 38-yard TD pass to Jon Warzeka early in the first quarter. Jefferson, who placed third on the team in rushing with 59 yards and scored twice on the ground, turned 7-of-12 passing into 179 yards and a couple of TDs for the home team. Ranked third in the nation in rushing last year with 283.5 ypg, Air Force stepped up the pressure in the opener by romping for 437 yards and seven touchdowns. For several years the Falcons have been one of the premier running teams in all of college football and the tradition continues under head coach Troy Calhoun, the difference now being that Calhoun is also trying to get his quarterback to stretch defenses. Last season, the academy passed for a mere 88.4 ypg to rank 117th in the country, so already the group is off to a quick start, even if the first opponents was from outside the FBS.
While the offense for the Falcons was humming along, the defense not only gave up 21 points to the Demons, it also lost a crucial player in Reggie Rembert to a neck injury. Rembert, who was one of three players to go down with serious injuries on the day, also doubled as a kick returner a year ago for the Falcons so the loss was that much more severe. Early this week he was listed as doubtful for action against the Cougars, but you never know with the stubbornness of a cornerback. Also suffering a crucial blow was defensive end Wylie Wikstrom who tore an ACL and will now miss the remainder of the season as a result. Having a pair of key contributors on the sidelines certainly will hurt the Falcons as they try to duplicate their pass efficiency defense which ranked 17th in the nation with a rating of 106.84 a year ago. Take away a rusher at the line of scrimmage and a cover man in the secondary and BYU will likely try to take its chances setting up plays over the top.
The loss of Rembert for this game could be huge because he could have so much influence over the BYU quarterbacks. However, even if the cornerback is unavailable, expect to see the Cougars have a response for everything the Falcons might throw at them.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 27, Air Force 17
Saturday, September 11th, 4:00 p.m. (et).
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