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And in that corner… The Air Force Falcons

Oct 23, 2013, 11:40 AM EDT

San Diego State Air Force Football AP

It’s been a tough go of it for Troy Calhoun and Air Force. After an unprecedented run of success the wheels finally have come off this season, with Air Force entering Saturday’s game against Notre Dame a hard luck 1-6.

It’s been a mixed bag of mostly bad for Air Force, a toxic mix of injuries, lack of depth, a tough schedule and some really heartbreaking losses. One of those came last week against San Diego State, when the Aztecs scored a touchdown in the game’s final 100 seconds to complete a fourth quarter rally. The Falcons managed to lose to Nevada in a similar manner, with former Irish assistant Brian Polian’s squad finally taking the lead with under two minutes to go as well.

Covering it all for the Colorado Springs Gazette has been Brent Briggeman. Brent was kind enough to get some really thoughtful answers to my questions, helping to get all of us prepared for Saturday afternoon’s game at the Air Force Academy.

Enjoy.

1. This Air Force team has already lost as many regular season games as they did last year. What gives? Difficult schedule? Tough luck? 14 graduated starters?

As you would probably expect, it’s been a combination of all of these things. Injuries and a suspension have decimated the team at the quarterback position, but the more serious problems have come on the defensive side. Speedy quarterbacks from Utah State and Wyoming were able to pick apart the inexperienced secondary by running into open spaces if the defensive backs stayed in coverage or hitting open receivers if the d-backs broke coverage to step forward in run support.

In between those games was a trip to Boise State, where the Broncos took all the underneath routes that Air Force was giving them by playing off the line of scrimmage and then the Broncos used their superior athletes to provide yards after the catch. Those three games put a cloud over everything and have clearly damaged the confidence of the defense and it has subsequently folded down the stretch in the past three games in allowing second-half leads to slip away. Luck hasn’t helped, as typically sure-handed receivers have dropped passes at key times and injuries have particularly hurt and already thin defensive line. Still, change two plays and the team is 3-4 despite all its woes, which isn’t all that bad for a service academy in a down year.

2. We’ll get to the prolific rushing offense in a second, but what exactly is going on at the quarterback position? Four quarterbacks have gotten opportunities to win the job. Where do things stand heading into the weekend?

Two quarterbacks battled for the job in spring with the fleet-footed Kale Pearson winning the job over Jaleel Awini, a strong-armed replica of Duante Culpepper. Pearson was then lost for the season in the first half of the opener and Awini committed an unspecified violation that dropped him from good standing as a cadet and left him unable to represent the academy in intercollegiate athletics. That left it to third-stringer Karson Roberts, a sophomore who ran for 160 yards at Nevada in his first start but has struggled since then. Roberts left the most recent game with a first-quarter concussion and freshman Nate Romine — who watched the opener from the stands — was thrust into action. Romine seems to have a more diversified skill set, but he’s new to the triple-option and just two months removed from basic training. Roberts returned to practice on Monday and figures to stay in the starting role, but any hint of a return of his symptoms would put Romine back under center.

3. The defense on the other hand has given up over 37 points a game, good for 112th in the country. They’ve coughed up a couple late leads, too. There is young, but inexperienced talent on this defense. Are they up for the challenge or a Tommy Rees led passing attack or an Andrew Hendrix ground-and-pound game?

Air Force’s players are just happy that their choices consist of a passer OR a runner and not a combination of the two, as dual-threat types have shredded this defense. Rees and a passing game could open the door for big plays either in the form of sacks or interceptions, and the Falcons will clearly need some big plays. A Hendrix-led offense would be more likely to take care of the ball and force Air Force to go toe-to-toe and win a traditional scrum. Notre Dame would have to like the odds if that were the case.

4. The ground game seems like a constant. What kind of challenge will they be for a Notre Dame defense that is finally hitting its stride.

If Karson Roberts plays, Notre Dame will have to defend the traditional triple option. The first option is speedy, large fullback Broam Hart, who has shown he can have impact with the ball in his hands. Roberts would be the second option, and he’s shown a slippery ability to find a few more yards than most plays seem to present for him. The tailbacks, Jon Lee and Anthony LaCoste, both have breakaway speed. The whole of the attack is greater than the sum of its parts when it’s working because the speed at which it is executed is faster than most teams can simulate in practice.

5. Troy Calhoun has done a great job at Air Force, but the Falcons do seem to be on a downward trend. He’s seven years into his tenure in Colorado Springs. Where does Calhoun stand right now?

Calhoun remains as secure as any coach in the nation after taking the team to six consecutive bowl games – an almost unheard of feat at a service academy that plays in a competitive conference – and there’s a strong chance that even with a loss on Saturday the Falcons could close on a four-game winning streak because of the layout of the schedule and cruise in with four or five wins in a down season. That’s not going to set off any alarms. However, there’s certainly some unrest with the defensive schemes after the past few seasons. If change isn’t seen in that regard in a hurry, there may be a strong call for new personnel on his staff. Part of the issues with the program stem from some thin numbers in the upper classes that have resulted from some players who either couldn’t make it at the academy or decided it wasn’t for them. There’s always going to be some attrition, but those classes seem to have been decimated more than most and the lack of veterans has been a major hindrance for the team – even if the talent of the younger guys does provide hope for the future.

***

You can read more of Brent’s stuff at the Colorado Springs Gazette. You can also follow him on Twitter @BrentBriggeman.

  1. bearcatirishfan - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    So is the only way to watch this game to order theCBS SPORT network or will there be online options? I shall not be ordering the network.

    Is this something swarback can negotiate in future meetings, that they will only play air force if the game is nationally televised or we don’t play them? I know CBS conference rights but is it possible.

    • ndirish10 - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:50 PM

      I believe so. I get the CBS Sports Network channel through DirecTV. It will be on channel 221 @ 5pm. GO IRISH!!!

    • bearcatirishfan - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:03 PM

      I have the channel on uverse but have to pay extra to see it.

    • ndcanuck - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:21 PM

      Being in Canada I don’t think I can get this on TV at all – have to look into it. Anyone know of a good Peer-to-Peer site where I can catch this online otherwise?

      • canadianirish - Oct 24, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        @ ndcanuck, who is your cable provider? I have cogeco in ontario and I’m pretty sure I get CBS Sportsnetwork

    • jonnybrooklyn - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:58 PM

      @ndcanuck, Google “first row sports” and click on the first link at the top — pretty good peer-to-peer site.

      P.S. Keith I hope that doesn’t undermine your network, haha, no offense. I use the NBC sports website for all the home games which is awesome (except when it buffers).

    • upthera44 - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:56 PM

      Will this site have the game streaming as it has some of the others recently?

      http://stream.nbcsports.com/notre-dame/

      • mtndguy - Oct 23, 2013 at 6:31 PM

        I can’t see why CBS would let NBC stream a game they paid for.

    • dickasman - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:48 PM

      How much you guys pay for cable? I have comcast/xfinity tv internet I’m paying 138/mo and it makes my butthohle sore every time I get the bill.

      Am I the only one gettin raped? Who you got and how much do you pay? I’m thinking of switching to dish or directv

      • papadec - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:05 AM

        dick – I pay $55.85/month for dish – and I don’t get cbs sports network. I get a couple hundred shit stations that I never watch. I can’t comprehend how ND allows cbs to screw the fans the way they do for this game. I think this is cbs’s way of getting back @ ND for the nbc contract.

      • dickasman - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:13 AM

        I thought you get every local channel like fox, abc, CBS, NBC, not true?

  2. irishdodger - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    So AF is 1-6 w/ question marks at QB & the possibility of a first time, true freshman starting at QB? And their D has given up an avg of 37 pts per game? That’s the perfect recipe of another ND letdown that requires them to pull it out late in the fourth quarter to beat AF in their quasi-bowl game.

    • nducsb - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:52 PM

      HAH exactly what I thought when I read “speedy, large fullback Broam Hart”. I really, really hate fullbacks in the triple option when they play ND. That being said, you do have to give BK credit to recently defending this kind of offense… even though a large part of it was Teo somehow making every single tackle.

      • irishwilliamsport - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:00 PM

        We just move a DB to play a 4th LB and the DB’s are one on one vs. the receivers.

      • dickasman - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:42 PM

        Y and watchem run over our DBS over n over

    • dickasman - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:52 PM

      Guys, before I forget, sing along w me…

      Ohhhhhhh sayyyyy cannnnn you seeeeeeeeeeeeeee. USA, USA, USA, USA,USA, no Obama, go home Obama, USA, USA, USA, no Obama, no Obama, USA, USA

      • dickasman - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:52 PM

        I consider myself to be a patriot, sir yessir?!?!?

  3. irishwilliamsport - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    AF wil play the game of their lives on Saturday, you can bet that, but I can’t see this being a loss. If we can get out in front and score a few times early I think we blow them out. We have physical advantages everywhere and it’s just a matter of time.

    • dickasman - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:17 PM

      Yeah, navy does too. I have it us winning 7-6 or 6-3. A wins a win!

  4. scottatnd - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    Sure would like to see our defense pitch a shutout.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      you and me both, like last year’s navy game; jump on them early, often and don’t let up.

      i love niklas in this game. he’s a nightmare as a match-up and has proven he can go up and get it.

      • nducsb - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:31 PM

        not to mention he will probably out-weigh the guy matching up with him by 100 pounds… and can probably run faster too.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:45 PM

        that’s what i was thinking. just like how big dudes don’t fit in submarines very well, they don’t fit in the cockpits of F-16(s) that well either.

      • dickasman - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:23 PM

        Fitting in the cockpits are Soo HOTT right now.

      • dickasman - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:26 PM

        Well inside the irishers should looooooooove this game. There will be frigging 12 Cam McDaniels running around out there.

        I might watch the first quarter and then go clip my toenails n trim my nose hair. Well past due.

    • dickasman - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:53 PM

      Whew, I thought you wee gonna say tent. Not another Obama voter. Carry on!

    • papadec - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:08 AM

      And the offense crank a few home runs!

  5. getsome99 - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    Cbssports.com maybe? Rees should play just one or two series if he’s able and then Hendrix can finish out the game. Could be Tarean Folston’s time this week. 10-15 touches?

    • dickasman - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:22 PM

      No because he’s a secret weapon and we can’t let possibly a freshman have a good game. He’s a freshman. We have to hold them back. We can’t let them play a full game. I gave him 2 carries just so he can’t say he didn’t transfer because I didn’t put him in the game. Oh no he don’t.

      • getsome99 - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:46 PM

        Rees was allowed to play full games when he was a true freshman.

      • dickasman - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:33 PM

        Rees is a white boy, so is McDaniel, ya dig?

      • dickasman - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:39 PM

        Oh wait, and yeah before I forget, “knows how to read defenses”.

  6. mimefrog - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    Only sort of related, did you guys see the photo of Cam against USC? It is hilarious. Keith should put this on Inside the Irish, front and center: http://deadspin.com/ridiculously-photogenic-running-back-stars-in-impossibl-1450840862

    • dickasman - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      Oh that’s the famous eat my a$$ pose. They should put it on beeg

    • onward2victory - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:24 PM

      haha that’s great!

      Why does Cam always make the obscure headlines??

      • dickasman - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:37 PM

        Prolly same as woodhead does. When someone says woodhead, I’m thinking wood n head not football as most do.

    • mtndguy - Oct 23, 2013 at 7:03 PM

      Great picture, thanks mimefrog.

    • papadec - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:14 AM

      Great photo!!!! That’s the Cam (at least I) we love to see running with the ball. 100+ yards this week.

  7. goirishgo - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    Air Force is a bad team. I’d like to see ND score on every first half possession and pitch a shuout. Use the second half to get PT for younger players, especially Folston and the receivers. But as soon as the youngsters get in the game Rees needs to come out. He cannot get hurt again.

  8. upthera44 - Oct 23, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    I’m sure many of you guys saw this video. Amidst the negativity that flares up among fans on these blogs, I think it’s worth pointing out from time to time what we all know but sometimes take for granted — what a great program we have for the caliber of person it turns out. This video really makes that hit home:

    http://www.watchnd.tv/#!/videos/B1a2g5ZzrWltbqis0yTyYJr2w_G3Dd_h

    • papadec - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:21 AM

      Nice – thanks for posting it.

    • dickasman - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:16 AM

      I thought you get every local channel like fox, abc, CBS, NBC, not true?

    • dickasman - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:17 AM

      Guys it’s nice n all but would it kill them to dress up a lil better? Or is that ugly green n grey sweats mandatory?

  9. loadofwash - Oct 23, 2013 at 8:38 PM

    Me thinks the Falcons soar easily, ND defense far too slowwwww. Hey gents, just for funzies let’s set the ND turnover total at 5.

    • papadec - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:23 AM

      load – you just gotta get off those bad drugs.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Oct 24, 2013 at 10:01 AM

        i think its the lead in the paint chips he’s been eating

  10. dbldmr - Oct 23, 2013 at 8:56 PM

    Load, you are such an amazingly relentless dipshit.

  11. fnc111 - Oct 23, 2013 at 9:24 PM

    This will be like the Purdue game.

  12. loadofwash - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:02 PM

    Rumor has it BK wants to run the read-option, problem is…there’s no option. Need speed. Greasy, fast, speed. Me thinks they should try the chicken drill, or they should recruit jc’s with talent. Gonna be a long day gents, strap on ye seat belts cause the falcon’s are flying high!

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