Air Force Report Card: Utah State

Air Force fell to Utah State 52-20 on Saturday. Falcons Report's D. Yates grades Air Force's performance in several key team areas.

Air Force attempted 18 total passes completing six for one touchdown. Jaleel Awini, the starter, struggled for the most part completing just 4 of his 12 passing attempts for 61 yards. Most of those 61 yards came on a pass to Ty MacArthur on the Falcons' second drive. Karson Roberts showed good accuracy on a 37-yard scoring pass to freshman Jalen Robinette in the fourth quarter. Robinette has a big 6-foot-3, 220 pound frame for blocking and has good speed. He was one of the few bright spots during the game. MacArthur led the Falcons with three catches for 49 yards. Marcus Hendricks, Garrett Brown and the aformentioned Robinette all had one catch. Air Force's offensive line didn't allow any sacks.

Anytime an option team finishes with 162 yards rushing it isn't good. The Falcons averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on 49 rushing attempts. Awini was the team's leading rusher with 48 yards on 11 attempts but his longest gain was just seven yards. With Air Force trailing 7-0, on the Falcons first offensive play of the game Awini fumbled giving the Aggies excellent field position to take a 14-0 early lead. This was an absolute disaster. Broam Hart picked up a measly 24 yards on seven carries and had the longest run of the game for the Falcons, an 11 yard carry in the third quarter. What's really discouraging is that this smallish 162 number isn't distorted by sacks and tackles for losses by Utah State. The Aggies had no sacks and just four total yards of tackles for losses. Utah State simply schemed the Air Force option game to perfection and shut it down.

Air Force lost this game back in 2010 when Chuckie Keeton decommitted from the Falcons and opted instead to play for Utah State. Give Troy Calhoun credit. He spotted this talent and almost had him in Air Force blue. Keeton wasn't pursued by the BCS powers but I'm sure there are many coaches from top notch programs that wish they would have went after this kid. Keeton was nearly unstoppable against Air Force completing 32-of-40 attempts for 360 yards and five touchdowns. Other than an interception by Jamal Byrd there was little Air Force could do to slow Keeton down. Dexter Walker sacked Keeton for a huge 16-yard loss in the first half to force a punt but that was the only time the Falcons would get to him. Lineman Alex Hansen forced a fumble by Keeton on a run, which was another bright spot, but Keeton recovered it.

Keeton's stellar passing opened up the Aggie rushing attack to the tune of a healthy 217 yards (4.7 YPC) and two touchdowns on 46 carries. Just as in the passing game, Keeton led the visitor's rushing attack gaining 77 yards on just eight carries. Backup running back Robert Marshall carried 13 times for 49 yards (3.8 YPC). Starter Joey DeMartino had 10 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown, a two yard run in the second quarter that put USU up 21-6. It wasn't that the Falcon defense was play soft. They were in fact playing hard and hitting hard too. Linebacker Joey Nichol led the Falcons in tackles with 13 including 9 solos. Fellow back Spencer Proctor was second with seven tackles and recovered a fumble. You want your linebacker to lead in tackles.

Kicker Will Conant made both his field goals, one from 33 yards and the other from 34 yards. David Baska did well punting with a 41.0 average on six (way to many) attempts. He had a long 49 yarder in the second quarter and had another that he downed inside the 20. Briceton Cannada had four kickoffs and three of them were touchbacks. Drew Oehrle handled another kickoff. Anthony LaCoste returned one kickoff 15 yards. There were no major breakdowns by Air Force's punt/kick coverage teams.

Although a head coach is responsible for whatever his team does, good or bad, I can't give Calhoun a bad grade for this performance. His team faced a very good veteran Utah State team that is quarterbacked by a player some are hyping as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Keep in mind too that that was AFA's backup quarterback in there doing his best. Calhoun did what he could. He had the Falcons going for it on fourth down four times and converting on three of those. Who knows what would have happened had Keeton been the starting quarterback out with an injury and Kale Pearson had been playing. My guess is that the score would have been a heck of a lot closer.

The Falcons converted on only two third downs which meant the defense spent way too much time on the field. There were some good plays during the day, no doubt. Just not enough of them to sustain a competetive game. The good news is that every team doesn't have a quarterback the calibar of Keeton. He's likely the best QB that the Falcons will face this season; that includes Notre Dame.. and Boise State who Air Force faces next. Air Force needs to forget this game and move on.

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