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Film Study: After 45 years, Air Force takes flight in Boulder

The Falcons own time of possession, convert on third down, and upset Power Five opponent Colorado

NCAA Football: Air Force at Colorado Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

The Mountain West’s latest Power Five victim is the Colorado Buffaloes, who fell 30-23 in overtime at Folsom Field in Boulder to the Air Force Falcons.

In this edition of the Mountain West Connection’s Film Study, we detail how the Falcons, who haven’t played the in-state Buffs in 45 years, did it.

On the surface, Air Force did what it wants to do going in to every game: run the ball and control the clock. The Falcons outgained a solid Colorado offense in the game, 444-325, and outrushed the Buffs 289-105. Air Force had the ball for 34 minutes, 4 seconds, nearly 10 more minutes longer than Colorado.

Oh, and Air Force won the game even after it committed three turnovers, losing two fumbles and throwing one interception.

Sure, gaining all those rushing yards and controlling the clock is normal for triple-option offenses. Starting A-back Kadin Remsberg looked good and fast running the ball. He finished with 23 carries for 146 yards and one touchdown, averaging 6.3 yards per touch.

Here’s a standard triple option play that Remsberg took for a first down. Colorado’s outside linebacker takes quarterback Donald Hammond III, who makes the easy read to pitch it to Remsberg, who uses his lead blocker well:

And here’s the same play that went for the game-winning touchdown on the first play of overtime. Safe to say Colorado’s defense struggled defending this:

But I’m betting Colorado fans were surprised by how effective the Air Force offense was in the passing game.

Hammond III completed seven passes for a whopping 155 yards — that’s 12.9 yards per catch — and two touchdowns.

Here’s the first touchdown pass from Hammond III to Geraud Sanders for 32 yards. Colorado looks like it busted its coverage due to two players, including the safety, going with the receiver to the flat. That left the field corner with outside leverage all alone against Geraud, who wins the foot race:

On this 81-yard touchdown pass from Hammond III to receiver Ben Waters below, Waters simply runs straight through the Buffs’ zone defense. Looked like the two deep safeties just didn’t get deep enough or respect Waters’ speed.

That’s what playing a triple-option offense will do to a defense, though. After hammering the run over and over, it’s natural instincts to creep towards the line of scrimmage. Then bam, play action pass down the field:

Another impressive part of Air Force’s win was what it did on third down — the Falcons converted 7 of 12. Here’s a conversion on third-and-10 that Colorado was, again, lost in covering.

Watch how the arc motion draws the attention of the outside linebacker and safety. No one, however, takes Waters, who makes an easy catch for the first down:

On this play below, tight end Kade Waguespack simply finds an open area of grass and sits down, showing his hands to Hammond III. First down on fourth down:

Running the ball. Controlling the clock. And even some success in the passing game. Air Force was clicking on all cylinders against Colorado. The Falcons just made a Friday night game in Boise even more interesting.