Rocky Long used to regularly frustrate the Falcon rushing game as head coach and defensive coordinator at San Diego State. However, for the last three year as DC at New Mexico, he hasn’t found any answers to the nation’s best rushing attack. Each year the Falcons have increased their yardage totals with this year’s tally coming in at 428 yards.
It didn’t take long to realize it would be a long night for the Lobos when Haaziq Daniels took a counter play on the Falcon’s third play from scrimmage around the right edge 65 yards for a touchdown. He got two good blocks from his pulling left guard and left tackle and then outran a linebacker and a safety into the end zone.
The rest of the game was a whole lot of Brad Roberts, who carried the ball 29 times for 163 yards, bringing his total yardage for the year to 1241 yards, putting him in seventh place in all FBS. He also took over fourth place on the Falcon list for career rushing yards with 3,054 yards.
The defense had it’s second consecutive outstanding game, holding New Mexico to 172 yards including only 44 yards on the ground. The only score the Lobos converted was a field goal after Falcon fumble at midfield. The 3 points lowered the Falcons season average of points allowed to 14.4 points, good enough for sixth place in FBS and first in the Mountain West.
The Falcons continue the pattern of dominating the lower tier teams in the conference, which is what a good team should do. New Mexico played fairly good defense on the edges, taking away the pitchouts for the most part. Daniels legs were dangerous enough to keep the defense from crowding up the middle, allowing Roberts and Michel to make consistent plays up the middle. I was expecting a little more from Rocky Long’s defense, but the Lobos were lost against the rush attack of the Falcons for the third year in a row. I would expect the last two opponents will be attempting the same strategy of focusing on the dive and the pitch, necessitating plenty of runs by Daniels.
Some of the underclassman got some playing time during the game. Junior Ethan Jackman played a couple of series at guard early. With Isaac Cochran graduating this year, Jackman should be able to slide into his position next year. At 6’4” and 300 pounds, he follows in the mold of Cochran and Hawk Wimmer. Junior PJ Ramsey played several series at DE, rotating with Chris Herrera, who also graduates this year. None of the underclassmen at QB or fullback played until the game was well in hand. Junior Jenson Jones exhibited nice running ability at QB late in the game, but again attempted no passes or option plays. Sophomores Jet Harris and Sione Angilau got in some reps at fullback late in the game. Both appear to be the more traditional style fullbacks that were common prior to Brad Roberts and Timothy Jackson.
Lastly, the results of this game have placed the Falcons as the #1 defense in FBS in passing yards allowed. Certainly, the number is skewed to some degree by the fact that Air Force has played Army and Navy and that the Mountain West is fairly inept this year in the passing game. However, all of the defensive backs have shown themselves to be excellent tacklers in both the running and passing games. It’s usually expected that would be the case with the safeties, but cornerbacks Eian Castonguay and Michael Mack have been very solid in this area as well. There has been an issue on coverage of short out passes and passes in the flat, but that may be more attributable to the defensive scheme. It does make sense that with a good tackling backfield, damage could be kept low as compared to letting a receiver get behind the defenders.
Next up will be the CSU Rams. Come back later this week for a preview.