Air Force enters a rare early season bye week with many questions about this year's team. The Falcons have started what was anticipated to be a break through season with a lackluster second half performance against South Dakota and a flat out no-show against TCU. In fact, the Falcons have had one great quarter of action on both sides of the ball, that being the second quarter against South Dakota. Normally Troy Calhoun would have pulled his starting defense and offense near the end of the third quarter in week one, but poor tackling and sloppy ball handling kept his starts in for the whole game against South Dakota.
On the other side of the ball, the Falcon defense has shown glaring problems of their own. Both South Dakota and TCU were able to move the ball with regularity. There has been no pressure on the quarterback and the defensive backs haven't done their part either. Air Force clearly misses Reggie Rembert in the defensive backfield. Both Dante Warren and Casey Pachall picked on Rembert's replacement Chris Miller time after time. But it isn't just one replacement, the entire back end of the defense has been playing 10 yards of the line of scrimmage on snaps allowing underneath completions that nickel and dime you all the way down the field. The coaching staff hasn't shown any creativity with this group, instead it appears they just don't want to get burned deep.
Injuries have started to pop up as well. Starting nose tackle Ryan Gardner left the game against TCU early with a knee injury, and outside linebacker Patrick Hennessey was lost to a broken hand. Ineffectiveness wasn't the only reason that Tim Jefferson was taken out of the TCU game in the third quarter as it was revealed afterwards that he had suffered a bruise forearm. Both Gardner and Hennessey are likely out for the rest of the season, but Jefferson should be fine for next week's game against Tennessee State.
The Falcons are going to have to find some replacements to step in and produce immediately. The Tennessee State game should be fresh re-start to the season and can be treated like a week one game normally should. The pressure will be on the defense to find that spark to disrupt the offense and create turnovers. Good tackling technique will need to be emphasized in practice and in the game. And there has to be a change to the coaching philosophy in the secondary and get the DB's in position to make plays on the ball. The defense just isn't performing up to expectations and their own abilities.
Offensively, the Falcons need to get on the same page and build a rhythm. Tim Jefferson has placed the weight of the team on his shoulders, but doesn't need to do all the work. He needs to be patient, work through his reads and make good clean throws to his receivers. The receivers must work on catching the ball. The drops are inexcusable.
It is time to take a deep breathe and hit the re-start button on the season. The Commander-in-Chief's Trophy still can be defended. And if improvements can be made and replacements can step into the line-up the conference title is still a possibility. The season is far from over, games still have to be played. But the time is now to fix the problems and get back to the basic fundamentals of football.