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Air Force Football Preview: Falcons Travel to UNLV with Hopes to get the Season Back on Track

In what seems like yet another must-win game for the Falcons, the Rebels may be key for Air Force to get its confidence back

NCAA Football: UNLV at Air Force Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The season so far has been confusing at best for the Air Force Falcons. They enter their seventh game of the season against UNLV with a 0-3 record in conference play, but that record doesn’t come close to telling the full story of the Falcons’ season.

Looking Back on Air Force This Season

Air Force entered the season without naming starting players for several games and in an odd, almost meme-worthy move, they decided not to release the name of their defensive coordinator, John Rudzinski, until this week.

Although it could be considered an old-school, smoke and mirrors type of strategy, it’s unclear what the Falcons have truly gained by playing these media games, as it certainly hasn’t shown positively in their win-loss record.

The Falcons are currently on their third string quarterback, despite the first two quarterbacks running successful offenses so far this season. With a revolving door of starting quarterbacks, it’s hard to believe that anyone has any sort of leadership established on offense, but Coach Calhoun seems most comfortable with the current quarterback, Donald Hammond III, who will be out for at least this week with an injury. The Falcons have a strong run game and the defensive stars have had great successes this season with players like Garrett Kauppila, Lakota Wills, and Brody Bagnall holding up high powered offensive opponents.

In three of their four losses, the Falcons have held opponents to margins of five points or less, but some of the coaching moves leave fans scratching their heads like running out the clock with possession with 40 seconds left to play and running fullback plays up the middle on 3rd and long. It’s as if the Falcons’ coaching staff don’t mind losses as long as the games are close.

To compound issues, the Falcons had a scary moment with quarterback Donald Hammond III leaving the last game against San Diego State with an injury and defensive standout Garrett Kauppila is now out with a broken arm.

If there are any bright spots in the Falcons season, it was the dismantling of Navy in a 35-7 win and the fact that the difficult conference opponents are behind them in the schedule, aside from Boise State.

What to Expect From UNLV

We may have reached the point of no return as far as high level bowl game hopes go. It’s certainly possible for the Falcons to win out, but the results this season have been deflating. Going into UNLV, it has to be difficult for the Falcons to squash all self doubt.

UNLV is not a hugely threatening team by any means. Their starting quarterback, Armani Rogers is out with a foot injury but the backup, Max Gilliam, has been a decent replacement despite a 0-2 record in his starts. He was able to tally three touchdowns in the 59-28 loss to Utah State, but his passing completion percentage hasn’t exceeded 50% since being named the starter.

Lexington Thomas has led the Rebels run game, but he’s much smaller than previous Air Force opposing running backs, standing at 5’9” and 170 pounds.

The Falcons should be able to open up the playbook and allow the receivers to get comfortable catching passes in preparation for Boise State next week and Army the following week. It’s unfortunate that Donald Hammond III will be out due to his injury, but Aarion Worthman and Isaiah Sanders are both capable players who shouldn’t have any problem against this defense. The Rebels have allowed 50 and 59 points, respectively, in their last two games and this will be UNLV’s first time seeing the triple option this season.

What this Game Means

The most obvious questions that will be answered is whether or not the Air Force coaches have used this past week’s practice to implement any sort of two minute drill to allow for hurry-up scoring opportunities or if the naming of John Rudzinski as defensive coordinator will hinder the defense in any way.

Both UNLV and Air Force are at a crossroads in the conference. They both have seen injuries to key players and they both are coming off of ugly losses. One team will leave with a win that may set the tone for the rest of the season. The other team, well, let’s just hope it’s not Air Force.