Confidence building for Falcons, but schedule provides tough test
Troy Calhoun has had so much success at Air Force, it’s easy to forget that he was still building the program. He has only four seasons under his belt, after all. This year, finally, a majority of his first recruiting class will be seniors.
This is the year Calhoun has built up to, and there is a lot of excitement around the program for it. Senior players like quarterback Tim Jefferson, one of Calhoun’s first recruits who spent a year after high school learning at Air Force’s prep school, are the foundation of a program that has high expectations this season.
“This really can be a special year for us,” receiver Jonathan Warzeka said.
While there’s confidence, there will be challenges as well. The schedule isn’t easy. TCU comes to Air Force in Week 2, and while the Horned Frogs are retooling, they won’t be lacking in talent. Trips to Navy, Notre Dame, Boise State and Colorado State will test the Falcons, as will a home game against San Diego State.
To compete for a conference championship, the Falcons need a lot of things to go right. As usual, they won’t be incredibly deep, so injuries will be important to watch. They also can’t give away close games. Three of their four losses last season came by a combined 10 points (two of those close losses were to teams ranked in the top 10, and the other was against a bowl-bound San Diego State team), which shows how close Air Force might be to a breakthrough season.
To take the next step, the Falcons have a few positions to shore up in training camp, including fullback and the cornerback spot vacated by Reggie Rembert, perhaps the team’s best player last year. The good news is they have a lot of pieces in place.
The quarterback position is in good hands with Jefferson, who will become Air Force’s all-time leader in wins for a starting quarterback early this season, passing Dee Dowis. Asher Clark ran for 1,000 yards last season at tailback. The defense is strong in the secondary, even without Rembert, and there’s a lot of returning talent in the front seven.
Air Force thinks it has a chance at a special season. By the time the Falcons’ home game against TCU in Week 2 is finished, it should be clearer how close that dream is to coming true.
Spotlight On September: The first month of the season is a bit odd. Air Force needed to schedule a fifth non-conference game because of the pared-down Mountain West, and because the Falcons had difficulty finding a reasonable FBS opponent, they took a second game against an FCS team—Tennessee State on Sept. 24. The season opener is against FCS opponent South Dakota. But sandwiched in between those games is one of the most anticipated games in recent Air Force history, at home against defending conference champion TCU. The Horned Frogs could be vulnerable so early in the season, and if Air Force wants to jump into the elite class of the conference, this is its best opportunity.
Keys To Success: The offense is going to look familiar. The Falcons will run the ball until the defense shows some resistance. And Air Force usually runs the ball very well. The Falcons were second in the nation in rushing offense last year. The difference with this team is when it does need to throw, it can do so effectively, because quarterback Tim Jefferson is a good dual threat. The defense under Troy Calhoun has always thrived on forcing turnovers, and while the Falcons took a dip in that category last year, there’s enough talent to turn it back around this year.
Areas Of Concern: The fullback is the heart and soul of the triple-option offense, and Air Force doesn’t yet know who will fill that role this season. There’s almost no returning experience at the position, because the top three last year were seniors. Wesley Cobb has the first crack at the starting job. The defense has a lot coming back, but it wasn’t impenetrable last year. The run defense needs to improve, and to do that there needs to be consistent play from the inside linebackers.
Date Opponent Best Likely Worst
Sat, Sep 3 South Dakota 2:00 pm -- W W W
Sat, Sep 10 TCU 3:30 pm -- W W L
Sat, Sep 24 Tennessee State 3:00 pm -- W W W
Sat, Oct 1 at Navy 12:00 pm -- W L L
Sat, Oct 8 at Notre Dame 3:30 pm -- L L L
Thu, Oct 13 San Diego State 8:00 pm -- W W L
Sat, Oct 22 at Boise State 3:30 pm -- L L L
Sat, Oct 29 at New Mexico 2:00 pm -- W W W
Sat, Nov 5 Army 3:30 pm -- W W W
Sat, Nov 12 Wyoming 2:00 pm -- W W W
Sat, Nov 19 UNLV 6:00 pm -- W W W
Sat, Nov 26 at Colorado State 6:00 pm -- W L L
Season 10-2 8-4 6-6