In a rebound week for the Air Force Falcons, the team will head to Dallas and the Texas State Fair to do battle with their Mountain West divisional foe the New Mexico Lobos. The Falcons, who have 28 current players on their roster from Texas, will be looking to get back in the win column after being defeated in Wyoming last weekend. The Lobos have sputtered out to a 2-3 start and were soundly defeated by Boise last weekend, making this game extremely important in staying alive in the Mountain division race. For the Falcons to avoid a losing streak there are three key factors in this upcoming match-up.
Stop the Lobos rushing attack
New Mexico head coach Bob Davie, who is in his fifth year, has built his offense around the triple option running attack and found great success with his scheme. After five games this season, the Lobos are averaging a remarkable 354 yards a game on the ground. That puts the Lobos as the best rushing team in the nation, averaging 21.2 yards a game more than Army who is in second place. The Lobos are paced by Teryion Gipson, who did not play versus Boise, and his 12.9 yards per attempt mark. The Lobos as a team are averaging 6.4 yards per rush and have seven players who have at least 100 yards rushing for the season. The Lobos have 18 rushing touchdowns on the season. The Lobos balance and big play ability in the running game will test the Falcons and their strong rushing defense. The Falcons are only allowing 80.2 rushing yards per game, which is second in the nation. This is the perfect example of two strengths matching up and whoever gets the upper hand in this battle between runners and defenders will win the game.
Get more consistent play from the quarterback
Nate Romine has had a rocky career with the Air Force Falcons. He was thrust into a starting role his freshman year as one of the four quarterbacks forced to play that year because of injury. He was backup to Kale Pearson his sophomore year and only started one game that season before being named starter last season only to have his season ended in the second game of the year versus San Jose State. Romine is recovered from that injury and is the starting quarterback once again. The problem with Romine this season is that his inconsistent passing has now become a consistent pattern. Romine is only completing 42% of his passes this season, and has especially struggled in the short to intermediate aspect of the passing game. He had untimely turnovers versus Wyoming last weekend and really struggled with his throws outside two passes that turned into long touchdowns by Jalen Robinette and Timothy McVey. New Mexico is giving up 244.6 yards a game through the air, and just like last week versus Wyoming there will be chances for Romine to make things happen with his arm.
Utilize Owens and Robinette
The Falcons have two stars on their team that could potentially be playing on Sunday after they complete their last year at the Academy. Jacobi Owens and Robinette have been great Falcons, but this year they are not getting the opportunities on a consistent enough basis to showcase their skills and help the Falcons quest for a Mountain West championship. Robinette has made big plays this year, as evidenced by back to back games with a 75 yard touchdown. However, he only has 14 receptions in five games. There were points in the Wyoming game where Romine did not even look his way pre-snap to check if Robinette was in single coverage or not. This has got to change, because if a player like Robinette gets single coverage and you have a pass play called, he needs to be at least looked at early in the read. As for Owens, who is coming off back to back 1,000 yards seasons, the lack of carries have been curious. Owens only has 43 carries on the year, and his 283 yards is good for 6.6 yards per carry. Healthy fullbacks in D.J. Johnson and Shayne Davern have been one of the reasons why Owens is seeing a reduction in carries as well as the emergence of McVey, but you have to wonder why Owens isn’t seeing the ball 10-15 times a game.
Despite some concerning problems with the offense this season, the Falcons are still 4-1 and in control of their destiny if they win out. With the excursion to Texas, the Falcons should be energized and ready for a tough game versus New Mexico. The Falcons will need to play the option game of New Mexico better than they did last season in a 47-35 defeat that saw them give up 410 yards rushing. Offensively, the Falcons need to get back to running the ball well with their many weapons to open up the play action pass for Romine. The teams are dead even in turnovers so ball security could be one of those underlying story lines in this contest. In the end, I see a happy ending for the Falcons in Texas with a final score of Air Force 34 New Mexico 24.