Ultimately Air Force won the game in the end 49-21, but three things can be taken from the season opening victory on Saturday afternoon at Falcon Stadium. The Falcons' offense did not miss a beat with Connor Dietz running the show. Second, Dietz has improved his passing ability but he still needs to get his timing down with his receivers. However, the supposed new philosophy of an attacking style of defense has not shown up.
The Air Force offense ran all over the Bengals in the first have totaling 303 yards rushing and a 28-0 half time score. Cody Getz was at 151 yards at the half and scored the Falcons first three touchdowns on runs of 9, 63, and 41 yards. Getz showed off his speed finishing with 218 yards on 17 carries. Dietz chipped in with 74 yards on 7 carries with a 49 yards scamper into the endzone near the end of the third quarter. Sophomore Jon Lee was the second string running back this week where he had 9 carries for 69 yards and a 14 yard touchdown run of his own to close out the first half. Total the Falcon offense amassed 484 yards rushing on 58 attempts. That's an astounding 8.3 yards per carry. The starters played for a little more than three quarters, but second and third stringers did substitute in quite often throughout that time.
Going into the season the one thing that new starting quarterback Connor Dietz needed to work on the most was his passing. As with many option quarterbacks, passing is usually their weakness. Dietz has improved his passing abilities, but his timing with his receivers needs a little fine tuning. Many times it was the Falcon receivers who had to make great plays on balls that were a little late or underthrown. Three different times Dietz had a wide open receiver down the middle of the Bengals defense and all he had to do was hit them in stride and each time they would have been gone for a touchdown. All three passes were completed but the receivers had to adjust back to the ball allowing the Idaho State defensive backs to catch up to them, or had to sprawl out to catch the ball in open field with no defenders around. All in all Dietz was 8 of 11 for 142 yards, but it could have been more. Look for Dietz to get his timing down with his receivers as the season goes along.
The most troubling part of the season opener was the defenses lack of aggressiveness. Going into the season the players and especially new defensive coordinator Charlton Warren were constantly driving home that this year's defense was going to be more aggressive and would attack the opposition. That simply did not happen against Idaho State. The Bengals utilized a constant game plan of quick passes and screens to the receivers. And then after half time the Bengals started to hit their tight ends and slot receivers running right down the middle of the field.
The Falcon defensive backs are still playing 5 to 10 yards off of the wide receivers giving an appearance of not wanting to get beat deep. The only reason Idaho State never did beat the Falcons deep, was because they never tried to. The defense will never get pressure on the quarterback if they allow that large of a cushion and the quarterback can get rid of the ball in less than three seconds. Watching the game in the second half each time the Bengals had the ball it felt like it was inevitable that they would move it down the field and ultimately score. All tolled, the Falcon defense gave up 365 yards on 42 of 53 passing by the Bengals quarterbacks. Now yes, the Idaho State offense is a pass happy offense, but if you allow that much to a FCS school what are the likes of Michigan, Wyoming, and Fresno State going to do?
Yes, Air Force won the game and are showing great signs on the offensive side that they have the weapons to hammer the ball down the field, but this team is going to have to win shootouts to win games the rest of the way if the pass defense doesn't improve. Saturday's game at the Big House in Ann Arbor might be hard to watch, viewer beware.