Several FCS teams seemed to have their FBS foes dead to rights on Saturday, but Air Force wasn’t going to fall victim to the trend. After a season where almost nothing seemed to go according to plan, the Falcons weren’t about to let a few Leopards ruin their home opener.
At least, not if Haaziq Daniels and the offense had anything to say about it.
They had quite a lot to say in the first half, scoring a perfect four touchdowns on four offensive possessions to head into halftime up 28-7. In fact, Air Force looked well on its way to covering the massive 40-point line that the oddsmakers had set. They didn’t quite get there though, and here’s how it all went down.
The Leopards took the opening possession of the football, trotting out their first quarterback of the day, Aaron Angelos. After a false start, a nine-yard sack, and a rush that went nowhere, Lafayette grabbed a few of those yards back with a short pass, but it was time to punt.
Air Force took over at its own 41 and immediately showed off the returning skill from last year. The Falcons rushed on 11 straight plays, with Haaziq Daniels, Ben Roberts, and Micah Davis contributing key yardage. Davis had the honor of securing the first touchdown of the year on a 10-yard pitch to the corner of the end-zone. Matthew Dapore sent his first extra point through the uprights — he would make three of four on the day.
Lafayette received the ensuing kickoff and drove all the way to the Air Force 35 before the drive stalled. Three consecutive Angelos incompletions led to a turnover on downs, and Haaziq and the boys were ready to take over.
They had no trouble moving the ball again at will, with Micah Davis adding a huge 36-yard run to his growing box score. Brandon Lewis added his lone 12-yard rush of the day, but this time it was Daniels’ turn to put points on the board with a seven-yard run.
QB1️⃣ to the end zone❗️— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) September 4, 2021
Falcons lead 14-0 in the first! pic.twitter.com/XGdzZTBl90
The third drive for the Lafayette Leopards came with something new — a second quarterback under center. It was now Rent Montie’s turn to lead the offense, and it immediately paid dividends with a 13-play, 83-yard drive. Montie hit Julius Young with a 23-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead in half with 9:02 left in the first half.
Don’t stop us if you’ve heard this before, but Air Force grabbed the ball back and ran with it. Daniels and Roberts traded short rushes before Haaziq decided to show off his arm to the tune of a 23-yard completion. After the pass, the Falcons swapped back to the traditional run-first offense, with Micah Davis finding pay-dirt on a 16-yard pitch. In truth, it looked like a perfect mirror of his first touchdown on the day.
The Leopards trotted back out for a quick three and out that featured both Montie and Angelo, as well as a blindside block that put Lafayette behind the chains. It brings back the old saying, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none.”
Lafayette punted back to Air Force with just under two minutes in the first half, and the Falcons wasted no time. They only had to go 40 yards to find the endzone, and a pass from Haaziq Daniels to Micah Davis took care of 17 of those yards in one go. Daniels kept the ball for himself once again, and a two-point try out of DeAndre Hughes gave the Falcons their 28-7 halftime edge.
Finishing the quarter in the end zone! pic.twitter.com/8dR7LKJOwZ— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) September 4, 2021
It felt safe to assume that Air Force was ready to come back out for the second half and roll, but that’s not what we got. Two short Falcon drives sandwiched a long Leopards touchdown push capped off by a Selwyn Simpson run. Pettit put his extra point through the uprights to give the Leopards their final 14 point total.
Both teams traded punts at this point until the Falcons regained possession with around 10 minutes left in the game. They had the benefit of a short field to work with, and Haaziq Daniels put the icing on the opening day cake with a 19-yard touchdown scamper.
Lafayette appeared to have one more shot in them as they put up a quick 41 yards in just five plays on the ensuing drive. Then, on third down, Montie stepped back to pass, only to fire the ball directly into the waiting arms of Corvan Taylor, effectively icing the game. The Falcons returned on offense, marching 44 yards in nearly four minutes until the clock hit triple zeroes with a final score of Air Force: 35, Lafayette: 14.
Taking care of the football
We spent a good chunk of last year bemoaning Air Force turnovers. The fumble bug seemed to rear its ugly head at precisely the worst times, and interceptions proved costly for a team that doesn’t love to throw. Luckily for everyone, that didn’t seem to be the case in week one. No matter who had the ball — from Daniels and Roberts all the way to Emmanuel Michel with just one carry — the Falcons protected the rock. Not one single fumble, and not a single interception on five attempts. It bodes well ahead of a stiffer Navy test.
A team effort on defense
We’ve also made a lot of the impact of turnbacks on this Falcons team, and it felt good to have key names back in the box score. Demonte Meeks and Jordan Jackson found themselves among the top five tacklers on the team, but we’re here to look at everyone. A total of 21 Falcons tallied tackles, whether they were solo or assists. Overall, the team added 47 stops compared to 92 stops for the Leopards, just to show you how much Air Force dominated possession.
The offense will be just fine
For as perfect as the first half seemed to be, the Falcons' second half was rather shaky. They couldn’t get anything going, though it may have been a chance to rotate some depth on the offensive line. After all, this is a line tasked with rebuilding following the departure of vaunted names like All-American Nolan Laufenberg. There should be no cause for alarm, as the first half showed just how well this machine can hum. Look for the first-half team to show up again next week.
The Falcons are on their way to Annapolis, Maryland for Week Two, where they will take on the Midshipmen of Navy. Stay tuned for more content than you can shake a stick at this week.