Beating Air Force at Their Own Game

With the new timekeeping rules shortening games, a ball control triple-option offense like Air Force's can make points hard to come by for opponents. When BYU traveled to Colorado Springs last Saturday, however, the Cougars borrowed a page from the Academy's book and possessed the ball for the majority of a 33-14 victory.

The Falcons lead the nation in third down conversions and, prior to their contest with BYU, were ranked third in the nation is rushing yards per game. The ball control offense of Air Force, complete with its best in the nation third down conversion rate, nearly allowed the Falcons to come away with a win on the road against Tennessee.

Heading into last Saturday's contest, Coach Mendenhall mentioned his concern with the Falcon's ability to convert on third down and control the clock. As it turned out, the Cougars gave the Falcons a taste of their own medicine. BYU converted 75 percent of their own third down situations (9-of-12) while chewing up the clock with sustained scoring drives.

"We did to them what they wanted to do to us," said defensive tackle Jan Jorgensen. "We took their game to them, and our coaches did a great job in game planning that. I don't know if Coach Anae called the game different or what, but we just took their game at them and it was nice. I'm not going to complain about that."

"I think we got nine out of twelve third down conversions," said John Beck. "Anytime you can do that it puts a lot of pressure on the opposing team. Then our defense was able to cause a couple of turnovers and that gave us the shorter field to work with at a time when we already had momentum."

The 63-minute first half was the fastest first half of the season. On the opening possession, BYU's offense marched 81 yards downfield on 14 plays to score with only 7:53 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

"I don't know how many times we've done it this year but it's been numerous times that when we get the ball first we score," said Curtis Brown. "That has become apart of who we are. Whenever we go out to the coin toss before we used to defer but now it's give us the ball and let us score. When we can go out there and take the lead early, it puts the pressure on them and lets them know that we can play. It's kind of funny because every game I've gone into where we've driven down and scored, we just kind of smile. You look at the defense and there's nothing they can do. We have too much talent this year and players are composed and we just know how to win."

"Our defense has to really give credit to our offense," said Jorgensen. "Getting the ball on that first drive and going seven minutes down the field that was great. If you're standing on the sidelines and you're watching a team do that to you, it's really hard and gets really demoralizing."

However, Beck believes the performance of the defense is the reason why the offense was able to keep the pressure on.

"I think part of that comes due to the fact that our defense played so well," Beck said. "I think our defense held them to their lowest yard average per rush on the year. Air Force lives by the run and they live by converting on third downs, and our defense went out there and stopped them at what they do best. They didn't convert a lot on third downs, and I think our defense did a great job of setting us up offensively."

A well balanced rushing and passing BYU offense won the time of possession battle 30:34 to 28:59.

"The thing about this is coach has talked about tempo," said Brown. "The funniest thing about that is, no matter what the situation is we control the tempo. John is great at controlling the clock, and depending on how much rest we might need John will call the play. I think our offense is finally in control, and we just go out there and just dominate."

"I think that's the game plan we have in heading into every game, we want to make the most out of every time we have the football," said Beck. "As we headed into this game with Air Force, it was the same type of preparation. When we get the chance to have the football, we need to make the most out of it, and I think we scored on six out of seven possessions.

Being able to control the tempo on the field and convert on third downs has allowed BYU's defense to get the much-needed rest on the sidelines. This, in part, has allowed BYU to play at a higher level defensively when it is their turn to take the field.

"When we come out onto the field, we're really fresh because our offense is out on the field for a long time," Jorgensen said. "That really helps us out. We just went out there ready to go every time, and I think it helped us to be able to keep Air Force under their lowest yard per average per rush in, I think, over three years.

"You have to really give a lot of credit to our linebackers, they did a great job. They were tacking on cut blocks, like Kehl, and still sacking the quarterback. Someone came out and tried to cut block Kelly Poppinga and he jumps him and still makes the tackle, so they were all just great and did an awesome job out there and probably deserve the credit of our defensive performance. It was just surprising and really showed how well our game plan was and how well overall our coaching staff prepared us."

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