In what could have been a statement victory for Air Force to begin this season’s conference play, poor play calling and mismanaged personnel led to a 32-42 loss for the Falcons.
The First Half
The Falcons kicked off to the Utah State Aggies to start the game and the defense appeared prepared to manage the passing game, captained by Aggies quarterback Jordan Love, after they forced a punt following a 37 yard drive to the Falcons’ 38 yard line. After a quick three and out from Air Force, Utah State settled in and drove 62 yards down the field for a quick touchdown.
Air Force was slow to make any meaningful offensive progress. Isaiah Sanders started at quarterback, and his inability to run to the outside downgraded the threat of a triple option to a double option. It wasn’t until the Falcons’ third possession that the offensive coordinator, Mike Theissen, decided to play to Sanders’s strength and work in a passing play. An 82 yard march down the field resulted in Kadin Remsberg punching in a touchdown to equalize the game.
The offense settled into a more diverse play package on their next drive and Cole Fagan was able to find the end zone after the Falcons took the ball on another long 62 yards. The 14-7 lead was short-lived for Air Force as Jordan Love was able to make quick work on the next drive, with Ron’Quavion Tarver as his primary passing target and Gerold Bright willing his way into the end zone.
The first half was riddled with questionable play-calling. After the game at Florida Atlantic, it was clear that the Falcons would need to increase their third down efficiency in order to be successful, but handing off the ball to their fullback on third and long plays seemed to be the default play call. The Falcons converted only 11 of their 26 third downs, which was actually an improvement over their last game, but it proved to be detrimental once again against Utah State.
The Falcons also seemingly had no hurry-up offense package, or at least they chose not to implement one before the end of the first half, allowing the clock to run out from 30 seconds before heading into the locker room.
The Second Half
In the second half, the Falcons substituted in their former starting quarterback, senior Aarion Worthman, which jumpstarted the triple option, but he was quickly brought out in favor of Sanders. This rotation led to more difficulties for the Falcons as they were unable to establish a rhythm until the fourth quarter.
A touchdown run by Kade Remsberg early in the final quarter followed by a successful two point conversion breathed some life into the Falcons and a strip taken back for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff by the Falcons inside linebacker, Christopher Musselman, brought Air Force back into the game just down 35-32.
However, Air Force was never able to regain the lead and Aggies running back, Gerold Bright, put an exclamation point on their lead with a 70 yard touchdown run with 6:52 to play to seal the game.
It was clear that the Falcons had a lot of mismanaged talent in the game. When Isaiah Sanders would stand tall and target sure-handed receivers, they would revert back to the triple option, which proved ineffective against the well prepared Aggies defense. It was frustrating to see poorly timed substitutions especially at quarterback as Worthman was never given a chance to settle in.
The Air Force defense contained the offense as well as they could, but the Aggies were extremely efficient and played very fast.
The Falcons take on Nevada at home next Saturday before taking on their service academy rival, Navy at home as well. While Troy Calhoun is known for managing games in a big picture sense, something needs to be done to address the play calling issues we saw today. The Falcons are much more talented than their record shows and hopefully adjustments can be made soon to get this season on the right track.