Saying that Air Force likes to run the football is an understatement.
Ranking fourth in the nation at 276 yards per game, Air Force (4-4, 3-2 MWC) will pose a unique challenge to CSU (3-5, 0-4) out of its triple option offense on Saturday at Hughes Stadium.
Out of the flexbone option formation, the Falcons possess multiple options as four players have at least 300 yards rushing on the season. Don’t expect to see much passing, however, as Air Force averages a mere 66.5 yards per game through the air and their quarterbacks have thrown only three touchdown passes all season.
“It’s just different,” head coach Steve Fairchild said of Air Force’s offense.
“You don’t know who’s going to end up with the ball,” sophomore linebacker Mychal Sisson added.
Defensive coordinator Larry Kerr said the defense has been preparing all week for the run-first attack.
“It’s so critical that, No. 1, you stop the fullback. Everybody is assigned to different phases of the option: You’ve got the quarterback, the pitch man and you have to be aware of the play action pass,” Kerr said. “If you’re not a disciplined player, you will not be able to play against the option.”
CSU running back Raymond Carter played the role of USAFA quarterback Tim Jefferson in practice on the scout team this week to give the defense the looks it will present Saturday.
Jefferson has rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns and has thrown for another two scores in five games this season.
The defense will receive a boost Saturday as it returns middle linebacker Alex Williams from a knee injury and defensive end Corey Macon from illness.
“On the defensive side of the ball, we are starting to get thin in numbers, which is no excuse. But the more bodies the better,” Fairchild said.
CSU quarterback Grant Stucker will lead the offense against the ninth ranked defense in the country. The Falcon defense is especially stingy against the pass, having only given up three touchdown passes all season.
“To me their defense is comparable to TCU,” Fairchild said. “They’ve done a nice job with their personnel. This will be a tough challenge for us.”
Always searching for balance in his offense, Fairchild said it will be important for CSU to get the running game established. The running game will be enhanced as junior back Leonard Mason returns to the backfield after missing last week’s game due to bruised ribs.
CSU is trying to win its first MWC game and end a five-game losing streak. Currently, CSU sits at the bottom of the conference with New Mexico, which is 0-3 in the MWC and 0-7 overall.
“We had a tough streak of games, and it might have gotten some of the guys’ confidence down. But guys are enthusiastic every day in practice,” safety Elijah-Blu Smith said.
Football Beat Reporter Stephen Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.