2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 4 - Tennessee St at Air Force
Mountain West Fearless Predictions &
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Sept. 24 at Air Force 63 … Tennessee State 24
CFN Analysis: Air Force ripped off 792 yards of total offense, rolled for 595 yards on the ground, and Tim Jefferson became the winningest quarterback in school history. Everyone should be happier about it. Of course, it was only a win over Tennessee State, and the focus is on being sharp and near-perfect, and instead of being fired up about the monster game, the two fumbles when knocking on the door are what'll be emphasized. Jefferson was phenomenal making all the right decisions and hitting on 11-of-13 passes for 178 yards and two scores, and 15 different runners accounted for all the yards, and now it's time to go to work on the road at Navy and Notre Dame.
(AP) AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Nearly 800 yards of offense wasn't enough to put a smile on Troy Calhoun's face. Neither was almost 600 yards on the ground or nine touchdowns to go with just one punt.
Air Force's forlorn coach was more concerned about the two fumbles inside the opponents' 5-yard line and a blown coverage that resulted in an 80-yard pass play in the Falcons' 63-24 rout of Tennessee State on Saturday.
"There were some things that we did well out there and yet there were a good number of mistakes," said Calhoun, his sights set squarely on Navy next weekend.
The Falcons (2-1) atoned for their sloppy play with a dominant ground game that churned out a whopping 595 yards on 66 carries against the lower division Tigers (1-3), and Tim Jefferson threw for a career-high three touchdown passes in setting the school record with his 23rd career win.
Air Force piled up a school record 792 yards of offense, a Mountain West Conference record.
Calhoun was not impressed.
"Not really, no," he said, citing the two fumbles near the goal line and the big blown coverage.
Not helping his mood, either, was the reality that his turnstile defense will need yet another adjustment following injuries to starting linemen Zach Payne (knee) and Cody Miller (leg).
"There are going to be some parts, we've got to get them fit together, and we're just going to have pull together, too," Calhoun said. "...We've got new guys in there and yet we're going to have to play like we're old and grizzled."
Air Force rushed for six touchdowns, including the first two of junior Mike DeWitt's career and one by starter Asher Clark, who had 148 yards on 13 carries. Freshman Jonathan Lee scampered into the end zone from 49 yards out on his first collegiate carry, which made it 63-17.
The Tigers of the Ohio Valley Conference had never allowed more points.
"At least we didn't get beat up as bad as we thought," Tigers coach Rod Reed said. "We were bigger than this team but they played hard every snap. We had offensive linemen (blocking) our safety down the field on every snap. I see why they defend our country. They're a very disciplined group."
And yet in the Air Force locker room, there wasn't so much satisfaction over a job well done as determination to clean things up.
"Overall, I would not say we played great," Jefferson said. "We played well. But I can definitely find areas where we could have done things better. Two fumbles on drives inside the 5-yard line, that says enough by itself. Defensively ... there was just a bust in the secondary. You can't have that, especially coming up against Navy, there's no room for error."
Jefferson (13 of 15 for 178 yards) threw a pair of 34-yard scoring strikes, Clark scored on a 7-yard run, DeWitt took it in from 4 yards out and Wes Cobb added a 2-yard TD run for the Falcons, who led 35-10 at halftime.
It could have been much worse.
Air Force defensive back Anthony Wooding Jr. allowed Calvin McNairl to blow past him and haul in an 80-yard TD catch, and Falcons running back Anthony LaCoste was stripped by linebacker John Jones a foot before crossing the goal line on a 22-yard run.
"If the offense would have come through after that, it would have been a different ballgame," Jones said.
They didn't, going three-and-out. Jon Davis returned the punt 19 yards to midfield. Three plays later, Mikel Hunter's 34-yard TD catch made it 21-7, and the rout was on.
About the only time the Tigers held up after that was when Lamar Wallace recovered DeWitt's fumble at the Tennessee State 5 in the second quarter.
Davis was one of the few Falcons who allowed himself to bask in the 39-point victory, warts and all. After all, they forced eight punts two weeks after failing to get TCU off the field in a 35-19 loss to the Horned Frogs.
"We get our confidence back," Davis said. "We were able to get guys off the field on third down. That's what we couldn't do against TCU. That makes us feel great."
The Falcons improved to 17-0 against teams from the Championship Subdivision. They put Tennessee State on their schedule to fill a hole that was left when Utah and BYU bolted the Mountain West Conference and only Boise State joined.
The Tigers came to town a day early to try to get acclimated to the 6.620-foot elevation but they were gasping for breath chasing the Falcons' ball carries all afternoon.
"This was a game we knew would be tough for us, especially coming from Tennessee to this altitude," said Tigers coach Rod Reed, whose school got a $370,000 check to go along with the whooping. "We had guys coming out on the first series who couldn't breathe.
"It's something we have to look into in the future whether we want to take a game like this. It's really hard on the kids and you know it's hard on their spirits when you give up a lot of yardage like that."
Tennessee State (1-2) at Air Force (1-2) Sept. 24, 3:00
Here's The Deal … Will someone get Air Force the memo that you're supposed to take two weeks off to prepare for TCU or Notre Dame, not Tennessee State?
The Falcons have had to sit and stew on a tough loss to TCU two weeks ago to already put them being the eight-ball in Mountain West play, and now they get to take it out on poor Tennessee State, arguably the worst team in the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Tigers started out the season hot with a blowout win over Southern, and then the defense went bye-bye in losses to Jackson State and Murray State. Now they get a paycheck game to make up for the beating they'll about to receive. This is the third road game in a run of seven away dates in eight games, and it's the only game against an FBS team.
Air Force goes on the road over the next two weeks against Navy and Notre Dame for big-test games before even tougher and more important conference games against San Diego State and at Boise State. The Falcons have to enjoy the breather while it lasts.
Why Tennessee State Might Win: The statistics are better than the team, but the Tigers have been a rock against the run. The pass rush has been fantastic, coming up with 12 sacks so far, while allowing just 85 rushing yards per game. Rico Council has been a machine making 30 tackles, and he's just active enough and good enough to be a disruptive force to keep the Air Force ground game from taking off.
Of course, part of the reason the run D stats are so great is because teams have been so good at bombing away, throwing for a whopping 410 yards per game with Murray State putting up 638 yards and eight scores, but Air Force doesn't throw the ball. It'll be tempting to air it out on the miserable Tennessee State secondary, and that's what the Tigers want. The less Air Force runs, the better.
Why Air Force Might Win: Air Force will occasionally throw the ball, and it'll be for big home runs to make an already potent offense that much more devastating. The Falcon running game is humming, and with Tennessee State might have nice linebackers, they're not as good as TCU's; Air Force ran through the Horned Frogs for 249 yards, and Tim Jefferson completed 9-of-15 passes for 83 yards. Against TSU, those throws will go for 183 yards.
The Tiger offensive line hasn't been a rock in pass protection, and Air Force isn't having a problem being disruptive. This is an active line that hits the quarterback and should be able to throw off any timing, and the run defense, especially after dealing with TCU, and with two weeks off, should bounce back. It's better than it looked against the Horned Frogs.
What To Watch Out For: There have been a few ups and downs over the career of Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson, but he's a great leader and an ultra-productive playmaker, running for 1,544 career yards and 24 touchdowns, while passing for 3,141 yards and 21 scores. Unless a miracle happens, he'll also be known as the winningest quarterback in Air Force history, on the verge of breaking the mark of 22 set by Dee Dowis in the late 1980s. The accomplishment is being downplayed by the team and Jefferson, but once it actually happens, and once TSU is put away, it'll be celebrated more and Jefferson's legacy will be cemented.
What Will Happen: It'll take about two drives to put this away. Jefferson will get everything going both through the air and on the ground, and TSU, despite coming up with a few scores to make the score look a wee bit better, won't have any answers to slow down the machine.
CFN Prediction: Air Force 66 … Tennessee State 17
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