After an impressive opening touchdown drive by the Aggies that covered 65 yards in 15 plays and took 8 minutes off the clock, and a following 11 play 75 yards by the Falcons, it seemed we might be in for another familiar offensive shootout from these two division foes. After that, however, the young Falcon defenders settled down and shut out the Aggies the rest of the way. Meanwhile, the offense immediately responded with two more drives of 82 and 99 yards to take over the game before halftime.
The Falcons initially had trouble running the ball inside the tackles, as the Aggies went all in attempting to stop the fullback dives, counters, and zone runs, so the Falcons turned to the edge and an extremely efficient passing game. Kade Remsberg returned from an injury suffered over a month ago to take multiple option pitches for substantial yardage and pick up 107 yards on 11 carries. Haziiq Daniels took advantage of an overcommitted secondary to complete 7 of 9 passes for 127 yards, including a 49 yard touchdown pass to Ben Peterson.
For Utah State, promising sophomore quarterback Andrew Peasley looked good at times, particularly in his ability to scramble out of trouble and get good yardage. He looked good on short passes, but his accuracy on longer passes was subpar, and he was intercepted twice on errant passes. The Aggies were without lead running back Devonta’e Henry Cole, and the running game, other than Peasley, was not effective.
Falcon Player of the Game
With Kade Remsberg back in the lineup, the success of the pitch out of the triple option was a major factor in the long Falcon drives. Remsberg averaged 9.7 yards per carry, but a good portion of that came as a result of excellent blocking by my player of the game - Ben Peterson. It seemed as though every time one more tackler needed to be blocked to enable a nice gain, Peterson was there. He is probably the best 5’9” blocker in the league. Also, the Falcons were without their two top receivers, Kyle Patterson and Brandon Lewis for undisclosed reasons, so someone had to step up as the replacement, and Peterson was the man. In a play reminiscent of DJ Hammond to Ben Waters last year, Daniels was able to hit Peterson streaking down the middle of the field for the Falcon’s second touchdown. Peterson also caught a 24 yard pass on a diving catch, leading to Air Force’s last touchdown. These receptions were only the 4th and 5th of the senior’s career, and his first touchdown.
Keys to the Game
I worried in my preview about the Falcon’s fumble fingers from the previous game against New Mexico, and the fact that the Falcons did not turn the ball over and picked up two interceptions contributed to a larger win than I expected.
Contain the Quarterback
Peasley’s third down scramble for 14 yards and a first down was a major contributor to the Aggie’s only touchdown of the game, but other than that and a 24 yard scramble later in the game, the Falcons did a good job keeping him in the backfield and pressuring his passes. On the second interception, either Michael Purcell or Caleb Humphrey got a hand on his arm to force the errant pass that was picked off by Matt Malloy.
Passing Game Efficiency
On the first Falcon possession, after the first couple runs up the middle were stopped by a packed-in defense, Daniels came up throwing and had three complete passes on the drive, all for first downs, and after that, the run game up the middle opened up quite a bit. In fact all but one of the completions were either for a first down or a touchdown. The last two games have been a large improvement over earlier in the year, and is an encouraging sign for the future. Perhaps we will have another DJ Hammond on our hands.
I predicted a 35-21 Air Force victory, so I was dead on the Falcon score, guessed correctly on the cover, but missed when I predicted the over. I continue to underestimate the strength of the Air Force defense, mostly because of the poor game they had against Boise State, but I may have to adjust my opinion when I consider the Army matchup. I had published a preview of the Army game before that game got cancelled, but I’ll go back and revise that article based on the new data points prior to game day. Tune in again before the big CIC championship game!