It all came down to which team could execute their game plan when it mattered at the end of the game, and Army was the one to come up with the big plays, ending the Falcon’s season on a sour note.
The deciding exchange of drives began with Air Force leading 7-3 with 12 1⁄2 minutes left in the game, when Army was forced to punt the ball away from Air Force’s 49 yard line and Ben Peterson fair caught the ball at his own 16 yard line. The Falcons began a nice drive, highlighted by Haaziq Daniel’s 20 yard scramble and his 22 yard pass to Ben Peterson on third and 18 for a first down. On first and ten inside Army territory, Brad Roberts rushed for 8 yards for a second and two at the Army 40 yard line.
Despite his quarterback having already giving up his first interception of the season, and despite his rushing game averaging 5.9 yards per rush, Troy Calhoun and his offensive coordinator decided to go for broke, and called for a pass into the end zone. Daniels overthrew his intended receiver, Daniel Morris and Jabari Moore was in good position to make the interception.
Army immediately turned around and ground out a 16 play drive of 80 yards, scoring their only touchdown of the game on a fourth down, 1 yard dive by Jakobi Buchanan. The drive took more than 7 minutes off the clock and left the Falcons with just over a minute to try to score. Daniels threw his third interception on the first play after the touchdown, and Army won 10-7.
For Army, the game was a near perfect example of what Coach Monken likes to do. They played stout defense and forced some turnovers that the offense could turn into points. They controlled the ball for more than 37 minutes, threw only two passes for no yards, and rushed for 290, with no run for more than 16 yards.
On the Falcon side, it seemed that the game plan was designed to spotlight Daniels after his two consecutive efficient passing games, but the errant throws demonstrated he needs more experience in the decision making process of finding open receivers. Calhoun and Mike Thiessen also twice abandoned their normal trust in the Falcon run game by attempting field goals on 4th and 1 in enemy territory. Tevye Schuettpelz-Rohl twice misfired on those mid-range kicks, leaving the Falcons in a hole. The only positive thing to say about those decisions is that if the kicks would have been good, the Falcons would have won.
The season ends on a sour note, but there were encouraging signs, even in this game. I continue to be impressed by Kyle Patterson’s potential at tight end. With his height, and the way he seems to catch everything thrown near him, he could develop into a big threat for the Falcons. He still made some errors in the run game, including another false start, but he will learn with more experience.
Also, another potential solid defensive lineman emerged in the Army game, namely McKenly O’Neal. Much like George Silvanic, O’Neal was converted from offensive line to defensive line at the beginning of this season. With the absence of Michael Purcell from the Army game, he got his first extensive playing time, and was an impressive disruptor on the line. He finished the game with 12 tackles, including a key 3 yard TFL that stymied an Army drive.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Falcon news as the off-season progresses.