In what turned out to be quite a week for FCS football teams, the Lafayette Leopards came into Falcon Stadium and gave the Air Force Falcons a pretty good run for their payout money.
The game started out as expected with the Falcons producing two long touchdown marches sandwiched around a 3 and out. Then the Leopards, led by two quarterbacks who had not seen any action in a college football game, started to bring their team back by producing a 13 play, 88 yard march for a touchdown. After the two teams traded touchdowns at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half, it started to look like we might have a tight game. But the Falcon defense stiffened and the offense produced another touchdown to put the game away, 35-14.
All-in-all it was a good start to the season. The offense churned out 370 yards rushing. The passing game produced over 16 yards per catch in only 5 attempts. The Falcons did not have a turnover. They converted 57% of third downs and 3 of 3 fourth downs. Brad Roberts had his third 100 yard game in 5 played. But the best part of the day was the emergence of the wildcard I hoped for in my season preview. Micah Davis had a magnificent debut at the starting slotback position by running 4 times for 101 yards and 2 TDs and catching 2 passes for 27 yards, including this diving catch at the sideline for a first down:
With Davis added to the backfield, it creates quite a logjam among the slotbacks. It will be very interesting to watch the deployment of Davis, Brandon Lewis, Amari Terry, DeAndre Hughes, and Jordan Gidrey at the slots depending on the situation. It’s clear that Brad Roberts is the fullback, with Omar Fattah providing rest breaks, situational blocking and short yardage runs, and all the others are slotbacks with different skill sets that involve running, receiving, and blocking, not necessarily in that order. Micah Davis so far appears to be the home run hitter with Brandon Lewis, who was also lining up as a wide receiver at times, closely behind. The kicker is that we know that Troy Calhoun has not shown everything he has up his sleeve. With Navy up next on the schedule, there will be a few more surprises.
On the defensive side of the ball, not everything was rosy in this game. The Falcons gave up 244 yards passing to two FCS quarterbacks who had no college football experience. I will say these two looked very competent, but the Falcons will be facing top QBs like Carson Strong, and Hank Bachmeier (or Jack Sears, God forbid), and promising passers like Terry Wilson and Logan Bonner this year. Corvan Taylor picked up the third interception of his career and Tre Bugg came close to another, and turnovers can compensate for a lot of yards allowed, but the Falcons need to do better.
The run defense, as usual was solid. 43 yards on 24 attempts, enough said.
To say the least, special team in the areas of field goal kicking and kick returns have not been positives this year and last year. For this game, Calhoun decided to go with a freshman kicker, Matthew Dapore as his primary placekicker. For the most part, he did fine, but he did hit the uprights on a PAT, and never had the opportunity for a field goal. That does not instill confidence in the success of a field goal try in a tense situation in the future.
In addition, the Falcons did not attempt to return a kick in this game. Starting field position statistically is a major determining factor in scoring success. It would help to be closer to the end zone when drives begin, but the emphasis is obviously to hold onto the ball and make sure the offense gets on the field.
All-in-all it was a solid effort for the completely revamped line. The rushing numbers speak for themselves, and especially the 3 for 3 in 4th down conversions. Haaziq Daniels got sacked once on a missed assignment, and he got hit while throwing the pass that Davis made the great catch on. Also another missed assignment resulted in Brad Davis’ first loss of yardage ever. A lot of Diesels got some playing time, as Calhoun seems to be emphasizing earlier development of young players. Center Ben Mercer left the game with an injury, and there is no report on his condition for the next game.
Stay tuned Thursday, when I release my #BEATNAVY preview.