The Falcon drive summary from the Nevada game tells the whole story.
- Field Goal
- 5 Second Drive, End of Half
- Field Goal
- 3 Minute Drive, End of Game
Offensive efficiency and offensive line dominance is back after a one week hiatus.
A follower on Twitter said to me, “I still have no clue how we lost to Wyoming.” I would say there are only two teams in the Mountain West who can consistently stop the Falcons offense, Wyoming and San Diego State. Both those teams have had defensive minded coaches with good rushing offenses that their defense can practice against. In the Wyoming game, you add to that the sickened state of the offensive line, and it’s pretty easy to see how a 3 point loss in the last quarter might happen. I don’t mean to take away from the Cowboy's defensive effort, they were making all the right plays, and the game would have been close even with a healthy Falcon team. In any case, we should see more offensive results in the conference like the Nevada game in the future and fewer games like Wyoming, at least until the San Diego State game.
Notice that I referred to conference games and not all games because Navy and Army are still on the schedule, and they happen to have teams with good rushing offenses that happen to run a very similar offense to the Falcons. A highly profitable betting scheme in Vegas has been to always bet the under in service academy games because the defenses are very familiar with proficient option offenses. Those games should also be challenging for the Falcons. Since the next game for the Falcons is the Navy game next Saturday at Falcon Stadium, I’ll discuss that later in the article.
Thoughts on the Nevada Game
It was clear from the start that the offensive line had it’s groove back. The Falcon’s opening drive was mostly fullback or quarterback up the middle, and the Falcons moved consistently downfield. It stalled out after a 15 yard personal foul that forced a 41 yard field goal from Matthew Dapore. I started to feel a little uncomfortable because of the unforced error on the penalty and as Haaziq Daniels was reaching for his left shoulder and exhibiting some discomfort with it.
After a second stop by the defense, my anxiety increased as fourth string quarterback Ben Brittain trotted on the field replacing Daniels. My anxiety lasted about 5 seconds as I watched Britain hit David Cormier in stride down the middle for an 80 yard touchdown.
In an interview after the game Cormier said “We worked that play with different quarterbacks all week, so it really doesn’t change the heartbeat.” A couple years ago, I had heard that the coaches were pretty high on Brittain, but he had largely disappeared behind Daniels’ large shadow. It’s clear now that they’re high on Britain because of his passing ability, and he may have fallen to fourth string because his command of the option offense might not be at the level of the three above him. In any case, it was a great play call and substitution by OC Mike Thiessen and Coach Calhoun. The actual injury to Daniels provided the opportunity to utilize the right play and the right personnel to energize the team.
There were a few more penalties against the Falcons than usual, although not bad by college football standards. Also, this was the second straight game without turnovers after the sloppy game against Colorado. I think everyone should put to rest the talk that the Falcons have turnover issues. The majority of this year’s turnovers have come during garbage time or in the rain at Falcon stadium. The one big shocker this year was the Brad Roberts fumble in the rain when the tackler put a perfectly placed helmet on the ball. That was Roberts’ second fumble of his career, and the first was on a bad handoff from Daniels. To put that in perspective, everyone was shocked Saturday when Bijan Robinson of Texas fumbled in overtime leading to Texas Tech’s victory. It was the fourth of his career.
With 20 carries for 123 yards and 3 TDs against Nevada, Roberts is now on pace to place his name on par with some of the all time great Falcon. He also had a 26 yard touchdown run that was nullified by a penalty. He will likely end up with the fourth most rushing yardage in Falcon history, the third most rushing TDs, and the fifth most rushing attempts. He is this week’s NittanyFalcon Player of the Game.
It was another solid performance on defense. While the starters were on the field prior to the fourth quarter, Nevada managed only 7 points and 103 yards. With Nevada having only 16:19 time of possession, there wasn’t much time for the defense to accumulate stats, but Alec Mock was able to tally 8 tackles, .5 TFL, and a QB hurry. Camby Goff got his sixth PBU, which puts him tied for fourth in FBS. The secondary was reinforced with the return of Eian Castonguay from injury and Corey Collins from a self imposed break to get his academics on track.
For the third straight year, Navy is a struggling program. They lost the first two games of the year to Delaware, an FCS team, and Memphis, by a score of 37-13. This last week they managed a win over East Carolina in overtime, 23-20. Their main problems has been that the rushing attack is subpar by Navy standards. They average only 197 yards per game with a rushing average of 3.2 ypc. The other problem has been turnovers, with seven turnovers in three games.
The quarterback, Tai Lavatai, is not nearly as dynamic as past Navy quarterbacks, although he has displayed a pretty good passing touch. He’s averaging only 2.0 ypc, but has completed 15 passes for 386 yards and 2 TDs. Navy’s most dangerous offensive player is slotback Maquel Haywood, who is averaging 5.2 ypc and has 2 receptions for 77 yards.
A positive for Navy so far this season has been the rushing defense. They are allowing only 69 yards per game at 2.3 yards per carry, good enough to be the fifth best rushing defense in FBS. This factor alone will make them a tough opponent for the Falcons. Their prowess at stopping the run, however, is offset by their porous pass defense. They’re currently the 11th worst team in FBS in passing yards allowed per game with 290 yards.
The Navy defense has been very good at creating negative plays thus far this season. In three games they have 22 TFLs and 10 sacks. Compare that to the Falcon’s 12 TFLs and 1 sack in 4 games.
Game Analysis and Prediction
This game will be played at Falcon Stadium on Saturday, October 1 at 10am MT. It will be televised nationally on CBS. Currently on Draft Kings the Falcons are listed as 15 point favorites and the over/under is 37.
The game is setting up too uncomfortably similar to the Wyoming game. The line is closer than that game, in line with usual results in academy games. Last year the Falcons were able to pull away in the second half for a 23-3 victory. Despite their early season problems, the Midshipmen have made some strides since that game, and the run defense looks very good.
I think the Falcons might need to air it out a little more than usual. In particular, Kyle Patterson and David Cormier should be big mismatches for the Navy defenders, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see some early targets for those two. It looks like Dane Kinnamon might be available for this game along with Zach Larrier, and those two would help in the explosive play area. Haaziq Daniels has been a little erratic in his throws this year, which is why we saw Ben Brittain last week on the long touchdown. Also Daniels hurt his shoulder last week, although it wasn’t his throwing arm, and there is no information on the extent of the damage. Of course, all these questions and strategies will go out the window if the Falcons are able to move the ball on the ground early.
Last week on defense, the Falcons started Kalawaia Pescaia at tackle to provide more size along the line. This week we might see a little more of Bo Richter and PJ Ramsey to help in the run defense. If they can help keep Navy’s run game in check, safeties Camby Goff and Trey Taylor can provide a little more help in case Lavatai takes some shots downfield.
My prediction for the game is a victory by the Falcons, they clearly have the better ground attack. I think they can come away with a 21-10 victory. Take the points with Navy and take the under.