To crack the top three of the Mountain West Conference, Air Force probably had to beat BYU at home in the second week of the season. Knocking off a longtime rival on its final trip through the Mountain West was just a bonus.
"Around the locker room, we're getting tired of getting fourth place, not cracking the top three," receiver Jonathan Warzeka said. "This is the first step coming towards that conference championship, is taking one out on BYU."
The Air Force offense is always strong, and usually not tough to figure out. It is going to run the football whenever it can, and did at will against BYU. The Falcons rushed for 409 yards, topping the 400-yard mark for the second straight week, as its deep group of playmakers all contributed.
The defense really stood out against BYU, however. After a slow start, in which BYU scored on two of its first three possessions and fumbled inside Air Force's 10-yard line on the other one, Air Force clamped down. In the second and third quarters, BYU had just 7 yards passing. The Cougars finished with 88 passing yards, the first time since 2003 they had less than 100 yards passing.
"I thought our defense was absolutely special today," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "After the initial drive, they probably played as well defensively against Brigham Young as we have in ... maybe ever."
Air Force's schedule doesn't get any easier. The next four weeks include a game this week at Oklahoma, then games at Wyoming and a huge rivalry game against Navy. But the Falcons are playing with a lot of confidence and have shown they will be sound this season on both sides of the ball.
--Cornerback Reggie Rembert was questionable all week after getting carted off with an injury in the opener. Rembert was allowed to come back to practice after a spinal cord injury was ruled out, and he found his way in the lineup against BYU after testing himself during pregame drills.
"I felt good, so I was ready to go," Rembert said. "It was a big game, so I wanted to be out there."
--In 2009, veteran BYU quarterback Max Hall ripped apart Air Force's secondary with 377 yards passing. By allowing only 88 yards to BYU this year, it showed that Air Force's secondary has taken another step forward, and BYU's inexperienced quarterbacks might struggle this season. Air Force baffled Cougars quarterbacks Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson by disguising coverages.
"An experienced quarterback like Max would have waited and saw what we were doing," Rembert said. "The inexperience definitely helped us."
--Troy Calhoun had never beaten BYU as a player, assistant or head coach before Saturday. But instead of soaking in the 35-14 win over the Cougars, the Air Force coach found plenty of things to be worried about, such as 10 penalties for 125 yards.
"We've done some good stuff, like how hard we've played, but we've got so much work to do," Calhoun said.
GAME BALL GOES TO: LB Andre Morris Jr. -- There were plenty of candidates, and certainly ones with better stat lines than Morris' four tackles. But Morris was all over the field and was a big reason BYU quarterback Riley Nelson couldn't find many rushing lanes after the first quarter. Morris' big hit that caused a Nelson fumble was also a big momentum changer for Air Force in the first half.
KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Asher Clark -- It's hard for an Air Force tailback to not get yards in a great rushing system, but Clark has the look of someone who could have a very big statistical season. Clark had 121 yards against BYU but the most surprising element to his game was how hard he ran. Clark often dropped his shoulder and picked up extra yards, showing an edge that he may have gained from adding strength this offseason.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This game means everything to us. We haven't beat them in the last six years, the seniors wanted to go out with a bang, and they're going independent again so we might never play them again. It meant everything." -- Safety Jon Davis, after beating BYU.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Air Force's strengths before the season were well known: a lot of running backs, a quarterback entering his third year as a starter, and a secondary that had two first-team preseason all-Mountain West cornerbacks. But the biggest question was the offensive line, and that unit played very well against BYU. The line is doing a good job getting to the second level -- a must in Air Force's running system -- and has now paved the way for back-to-back 400-yard rushing games for the team. The coaching staff wasn't sure if this unit would mesh early in the season, but is has.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The Falcons have started both of their games slow. Against Northwestern State, the defense allowed 215 passing yards before halftime before picking it up and pitching a second-half shutout. BYU had 139 rushing yards in the first quarter against Air Force, before the Falcons got on a roll defensively. Air Force can't keep starting slow, especially at a very talented Oklahoma team this week.
--Starting FB Jared Tew left the game in the fourth quarter with a hand/wrist injury. The team was doing further tests before determining how long Tew might be out.
--WR Mikel Hunter is becoming a weapon for the team. He had 90 yards on three touches and scored two touchdowns against BYU. The Falcons can use him to run the ball on reverses or to get out in a pattern and beat a defense deep.
--Starting QB Tim Jefferson continues to be an asset in the passing game for the Falcons. He had just 68 yards passing, but Air Force didn't need to pass much after getting a lead against BYU. He has shown a strong arm and gives the Falcons more play-calling options.