With the first play of the game, the Falcons left no doubt that they were focused on South Dakota and were not looking ahead to their week 2 matchup with TCU. Mikel Hunter's 80 yard scamper for a touchdown on a reverse was the opening statement in a 37-20 Air Force win.
But problems were still there as in every season opener. Air Force struggled finishing tackles and taking correct angles to make others. South Dakota quarterback Dante Warren proved elusive in the pocket despite the Falcons' 6 sacks on the day. There could have easily been twice as many with the penetration the Falcon defenders got into the back field. The problem was they were unable to contain the pocket and allowed Warren to escape to many times.
This game was not about beating an FCS opponent some much as it was getting ready for TCU, a fact that showed in the second half. Air Force led by Tim Jefferson sprinted out to a 30-7 halftime lead. And with a three and out by the Falcon defense to start the second half, the Falcons got the ball back stormed down the field in three plays to stake a 37-7 lead with 12:19 remaining in the third quarter. It appeared, at that point Air Force was no longer focused on South Dakota, but rather in the TCU game next week.
Tackling which had been lacking in the first half turned poor in the second and Dante Warren was able to guide the Coyotes to two fourth quarter drives that must have gotten on Air Force coach Troy Calhoun's nerves. Typically in an opening week game against an FCS team, the Air Force starters will play a couple of series into the third quarter. On Saturday, the starters on both sides of the ball played the entire game. Calhoun and the coaching staff could not have been pleased with the second half effort and sent his team a message that being lackadaisical will not be tolerated with such a veteran team this season.
Air Force can take away a couple of things from this one. First, they will be reminded that they must secure the football. Three turnovers and four fumbles that they kept will not work against the teams Air Force has coming up on their schedule. Secondly, this team has the talent and intelligence to execute and win games. The loss of focus in the second half was laziness, pure and simple. The coaching staff made their statement to the team by keeping the starters in the rest of the game. And without a doubt the players will be reminded of that this week in practice that they have to play for 60 minutes.
The biggest jump in improvement usually comes from week one to week two. Shoring up the defense, finishing tackles, and securing the football have to be priorities this week in practice if Air Force looks to beat a wounded TCU Horned Frog squad angry about their first game loss to Baylor. Week two will be a huge statement on where this season is headed for the Air Force Falcons.