Three Game Keys: Notre Dame

The Falcons take on the most daunting opponent of their season when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish come to town on Saturday afternoon. With a disappointing season limiting the team's expectations for the rest of the year, Air Force will try to change the mood surrounding the program before its 2013 journey comes to an end.

1) The first key for Air Force is to find a way to neutralize the Irish's talented defensive line. Between Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III, the Irish have two dominant defensive linemen who could have a field day against an undersized Falcons offensive line. Air Force has to find a way to run away from these two massive players in order to get anything going; otherwise, Tuitt and Nix could completely overwhelm the Air Force offense. Remember that Air Force has had over two weeks to prepare for this game. The Falcons played on a Thursday in week seven, received week eight off, and now face Notre Dame on a Saturday in week nine. If there was ever an opponent Air Force could truly scout this season, it's Notre Dame. Preparation on the part of the coaching staff needs to be seen – and felt – in this game.

2) The second key for Air Force is to take away the kill shot from Tommy Rees. It's going to take a strong effort from the Falcons secondary to stop the Irish passing game, but sometimes Tommy Rees stops that passing game himself. Rees – who has been cleared to play this game despite a neck injury suffered against USC – loves to take shots down the field at certain points during a game. Limiting the Irish's big plays on vertical passes will be a big key on Saturday. Air Force must make Rees win this game with short to intermediate throws. If the Falcons can do that, the odds of Rees making mistakes will grow, and Air Force can find the turnovers it will surely need in this nationally televised clash.

3) The third and final key for Air Force is to finish scoring drives in the red zone. While this isn't the Irish defense of a year ago, it's still a pretty good unit that makes things tough on opposing offenses. Ask USC what it thinks about Notre Dame's defense after the Trojans were repeatedly denied in the final 20 yards of the field on Oct. 19 in South Bend. Air Force has its work cut out for itself against this group. Moving the chains will be enough of a challenge, and punching the ball into the end zone will be big. You can't leave points on the board when you're facing a team that is superior in a lot of ways. Notre Dame's red zone defense has to be defeated on a regular basis in order for Air Force to bank enough points to win. The 20 points AFA scored against San Diego State in week seven were not enough; the Falcons will need to score at least 27 points, if not more, in order to win this game.

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