An Early Look: Air Force Defense, ST
"Hold on to the ball and don't throw" should be the Army motto when facing the Falcon defense. The Air Force defense is solid and ranked 10th nationally in scoring defense. The Falcons, which run a 3-4 defensive alignment, are giving up less than 14 points and 267 average yards per game. This is impressive considering they've played such opponents as TCU, Navy, Utah and Minnesota. The most points the Falcons have given up in a game this season is 23 to Utah and that was an overtime game. Also impressive is the fact that they've shut out two opponents this season in Nicholls State and Wyoming. One thing that jumps out at you when you look at the Falcon defense is that while they are only a decent 53rd in rushing defense, they have the nation's best pass defense. Turnover margin is another statistic in which Air Force excels. The Falcons are No. 2 nationally in turnover margin, with a plus two margin. This means that it's imperative that the Black Knights protect the ball in order to have a chance to win on Saturday.
Air Force's rushing defense has been fairly solid this year, giving up about 130 yards a game. However, last week at 3-6 Colorado State they allowed 180 yards rushing. In the loss to TCU they allowed 195 yards rushing. The best game they had this season against the run was against San Diego State whom they held to just 39 yards on the ground. Inside linebacker John Falgout is the main stopper for the Falcon rushing defenders. The 6-foot, 225 pound senior has a team leading 66 tackles including 25 solos. Then there's fellow inside linebacker Justin Moore who is second on the team in tackles. He's got 25 solos and 28 assists along with 4 tackles for losses, a force fumble and fumble recovery. Defensive tackle Ben Garland is a beast at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds. The senior has 31 tackles including 8.5 for losses. Myles Morales at defensive end is a force too. He's got 7.5 tackles for losses.
As mentioned earlier, the Falcons are No. 1 nationally in passing defense. This is impressive considering that they play in the pass happy Mountain West Conference. Interestingly, three of Air Force's four losses have come to teams that excel at running the ball: Navy, TCU and Utah. All three of those are in the top 40 nationally rushing with Navy and TCU among the nation's top 10 rushing teams. The most passing yards the Falcons have given up in a game was 284 at San Diego State and the least was 36 at Navy. The Falcons have an impressive 11 interceptions through nine games. Two players, defensive backs Reggie Rembert and Anthony Wright, have three picks while Jon Davis has two. Air Force's defensive line is also solid at pressuring quarterbacks. They have 23 sacks already on the season. Big Garland, mentioned above, has four of those sacks and three other players have at least three sacks.
Air Force's has very good special teams. The Falcons rank in the top 50 in net punting, punt returns and kickoff returns. Punter Brandon Geyer has 39 punts this season for a 42-yard average. His longest punt has gone for 56 yards. Kicker Eric Soderberg has made 19-of-24 field goals with a long kick of 50 yards. Reggie Rembert and Anthony Wright both return punts for the Falcons. Rembert averages 5.8 yards a return and Wright 12.3 yards. Rembert also returns kickoffs, averaging 25.8 yards per return with a long of 60 yards. Jared Tew also returns kicks and has a 23.6 yard average. Air Force opponents have returned 14 punts for a 10.4 yards average and 37 kickoffs for a 20.4 average.
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