Air Force Travels to Minnesota

Air Force's season opener game against Nicholls State held several positives for Falcon fans: It was a win, nobody got hurt, and the Falcons got to pad some stats (576 total yards offense, 474 rushing). Unfortunately, Nicholls State provided so little resistance as they graciously received a 72-0 beat down; the Falcons are left with more questions than answers as to the true ability of their team.

While the Falcons were running wild on Nicholls State, their next opponent, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, needed overtime to take down a pesky Syracuse team on the road. Syracuse could not find an answer for the Gopher's WR Eric Decker, who caught nine balls for 183 yards and accounted for just over half of Minnesota's total offense.  Clearly the Gophers' road to victory is in the reliable hands of Decker, and the Falcon secondary must prepare to face one of the top receivers in the college game.

When Air Force has the ball

The Air Force starters played just over one quarter in the opener. Of the starters, Asher Clark was particularly impressive. The sophomore has gotten noticeably quicker and gained 66 yards on six carries. Jared Tew added 57 yards of his own and three scores.  The Minnesota defense led by linebacker Lee Campbell (13 tackles, 1.5 TFL) paced the Gopher defense which held Syracuse to 2.6 yards/attempt. Minnesota   will have a difficult time experiencing similar success against the Falcons powerful and deep running attack. Keeping the Falcons under 4.0 yards/attempt should be considered a victory for the Minnesota defense and will force the Falcons to create some opportunities with the passing game. When the Falcons throw, expect the majority of the passes to go in the direction of Kevin Fogler.  The 6'5'' junior had a 57 yard receiving touchdown in the opener and his size could create match-up problems for the Minnesota corners who both stand 5'11''. Also, expect an increased workload for sophomore Z-receiver Jonathan Warzeka. Warzeka, who is starting in place of the injured Kyle Halderman (collarbone), tallied only one catch for four yards in limited playing time against Nicholls State. Nevertheless, Warzeka possesses excellent speed, and expect Troy Calhoun to find some creative ways to get him the ball. The Falcon offensive line will be bolstered by the anticipated return of senior guard Nick Charles from a hamstring injury. A.J. Wallerstein played a solid game in Charles' absence, but the Falcon offensive line is simply a better unit when Charles is in the line-up.

When Minnesota has the ball

Quite simply stated, the 6'3'' receiver Eric Decker is among the best in the country and holds the Minnesota record for most receptions. The Falcon secondary will need to play an outstanding game if they are to limit the damage he will inevitably cause. Adding to the difficulties facing the Falcon secondary is that their most experienced and physical cornerback, Reggie Rembert (5'8'', 185) , sat out the season opener as he continues to serve a team suspension. If he is in the line-up, the job of covering Decker will fall to him. If he is still suspended, sophomore Anthony Wright will be tasked with covering Decker. Regardless of who covers Decker, he will make plays. A successful Falcon defensive effort will only be possible if they can effectively pressure Minnesota QB Adam Weber throughout the game and generate turnovers. Getting the bulk of the carries for the Gophers will be sophomore Duane Bennett. He had a very solid day (16 carries, 81 yards) against a Syracuse rushing defense that ranked 102nd in the nation last year.  Air Force has a very solid front seven led by senior nose guard Ben Garland and junior linebacker Ken Lamendola. Both saw very limited time against Nicholls State, but they still contributed to an Air Force team effort that held the Nicholls State option attack to two yards/carry. It seems likely that Bennett and the other Gopher ball carriers should have more success against the Falcons than Nicholls State, but less success than they enjoyed against Syracuse.

Prediction: Eric Decker scores twice, but the Falcons stay on the plus side of turnover margin and steal one on the road. Falcons win 27-24.

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