Navy Coaching vs. Air Force Coaching
When you take a look at the Duke game it becomes apparent that Navy has one of the best coaching staffs in the country. For three quarters the Midshipmen could nothing right defensively, and then Coach Green switched to a 6 defensive back alignment and held Duke scoreless for the final 25:50 of the game. Coach Johnson could tell that the Blue Devil defense was winded, so he changed quarterbacks and began bunching the wide receivers tight to the offensive line. This allowed the Navy slot backs to get wide and out run the tired Duke defenders.
A new era has begun in Colorado Springs as Troy Calhoun takes over for coaching legend Fisher DeBerry, who retired last season after 23 years as head coach. Calhoun, a 1989 Air Force graduate, is beginning the shift from a primarily option offense to a more wide-open passing attack. He spent the last 4 years coaching in the NFL, most recently as Offensive Coordinator for the Houston Texans. Thus far his first season as a Head Coach has been successful, as he has led the Falcons to a 3-1 record, with upset wins over Utah and TCU. Utah has an impressive win over UCLA on their résumé and TCU entered the season highly rated with BCS aspirations.
Navy Offense vs. Air Force Defense
If the last two weeks have shown Navy fans anything it's that we have two good quarterbacks. Both Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and Jarod Bryant have proved they can lead this offense. Both have different strengths, but seem to be complementing each other as the offense thrives no matter which is at the helm. Jarod is thought to be the better passer, but Kaipo is coming off an 11 of 16 passing performance for 217 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Jarod came in and produced with his legs, gaining all 48 yards of the final drive by himself. Using two quarterbacks is not unprecedented for Coach Johnson. Last season, Kaipo spelled Brian Hampton in the UMass game. In 2005, Hampton played for extended periods while Lamar Owens was battling a cramping issue and Coach Johnson was also Offensive Coordinator during the 1996 season when Chris McCoy and Ben Fay split time under center.
We also seem to have two fullbacks. Coming into the year Adam Ballard was supposed to be the workhorse. Not that Ballard has played poorly; it's just that Eric Kettani is outplaying him. Kettani has 4 touchdowns and 197 yards in the last two games. With Shun White questionable for this week after an ankle injury, the young slot backs need to step up and fill the void. Sophomore Bobby Doyle and junior Greg Shinego both played against Duke. Doyle completed a touchdown pass to Jarod Bryant. What more can you say about Reggie Campbell, except that if he were a few inches taller he would be standing next to Tim Tebow at Florida. Campbell averaged 11.8 yards per carry against Duke.
Over the last two weeks, the offensive line has helped pave the way for 1,125 yards in total offense.
The Falcon defense is holding opponents to an average 15.8 points per game, which is 17th best in the country.
The front three in the Air Force 3-4 has not put up gaudy numbers, but they have done their job as the players behind them have. Defensive End Jake Paulson has recorded 3 tackles for loss, including 1 1/2 sacks.
Inside linebackers Drew Fowler and Aaron Shanor are second and third on the team in tackles respectively. Senior outside linebacker John Rabold is the leader of the unit. He leads the team in both tackles for loss with five and sacks with two.
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Strong safety Chris Thomas leads the Falcons with 39 tackles. Cornerback Carson Bird has three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. The other corner Garrett Rybak has an interception and a fumble recovery.
Air Force Offense vs. Navy Defense
The shift in the offense seems apparent, as last season Shaun Carney had only two games will 11 or fewer carries and through 4 games this season he already has three. His 28 passing attempts against TCU were a career high. Carney has completed 61% of his passes during his career and only need 148 yards to become the Falcons career leader in total offense. He is a four-year starter.
Jim Ollis is the Falcons leading rusher, even with missing the season opener. He has 205 yards on 32 carries with 2 touchdowns. Ollis broke a 71-yard touchdown run against TCU. The rest of the depth chart at tailback is a bit in flux. Senior Chad Smith returned to the lineup last week verses BYU. He had missed the first three games after having surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee. Senior Kip McCarthy, who was the starter in the season opener, missed the next two games with a sprained right knee. He has returned to practice. Smith and McCarthy's return to heath has removed freshman Savier Stephens from the two-deep. Stephens has 79 yards on 21 carries with 2 touchdowns thus far in his freshman campaign.
The wide receivers are led by senior Chad Hall. Hall is the Falcons leading receiver with 17 catches for 173 yards. He also has 22 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown. He is by far the team's leader in all-purpose yards. Thus far this season, tall receivers have victimized Navy and Air Force has a pair. Senior Mark Root and sophomore Sean Quintana are both 6' 2''. The Falcons also have a pair of big tight ends with Keith Madsen at 6' 3'' and Travis Dekker at 6' 4''.
The Air Force offensive line averages 6' 4'', 276 pounds. As a group they entered the season with a combine 24-career starts. The line is anchored by senior center Blane Guenther, who moved over from right tackle this off-season.
Nate Frazier recorded his first career sack on a beautiful stunt around the right side. Sophomores Jordan Stephens and Kyle Bookhout continue to garner more playing time. Andy Lark is also getting into a rotation with Frazier. Chris Kuhar-Pitters needs to improve as Stephens has taken over his starting spot.
Watching last week's transformation you could start to see Irv Spencer step up as a leader. He was consistently seen talking to the younger players on the field, especially sophomores Ross Pospisil and Tony Haberer. The core of these three inside linebackers is starting to improve. If only the same could be said for the outside linebackers. Matt Wimsatt is the only one playing well. Matt Humiston and Matt Nechak need to improve. Incremental improvement can be seen from week to week, but it is time for an exponential jump in production.
The secondary went through a transformation last week as Coach Buddy Green kept making adjustments. Darius Terry started, but is only 5' 7''. Anyone who sits near me in Section 1 can tell you I was calling for Greg Thrasher to replace Terry after the second touchdown he conceded. I got my wish and saw Thrasher get burned on his second play. Coach Green then used a slew of other players including Ram Vela, Jesse Iwuji, Blake Carter and freshman Emmett Merchant. The dice game worked as the defense held and the Midshipmen came back to win. Veterans Rashawn King and Ketric Buffin are starting to form an impressive duo. Buffin became the first Navy player in history to start a season with interceptions in 4 consecutive games.
Navy Special Teams vs. Air Force Special Teams
The Navy special teams alternated between horrendous and magnificent last week. On one hand you have the lethargic fake punt, where Troy Goss looked like he was running with a gorilla on his back and on the other hand you have the incredible game winning field goal by Joey Bullen.
Matt Harmon did not kick that badly before he was injured. He made a career-long 46-yard field goal, but later missed a 26-yard attempt. Joey Bullen came in and was better. He made both of his field goal attempts, including the 44-yard game winner, and sent both of his kickoffs into the end zone, one resulting in a touchback.
Reggie Campbell continues to do fine returning kicks. He busted a 36-yard kickoff return against Duke. He has had only a limited number of punt return opportunities. Speaking of limited opportunities, Greg Veteto has only punted 4 times in 4 games.
Chad Hall is the star of the Air Force special teams. The senior wide receiver is also the primary punt and kickoff returner. Hall has returned 4 punts for 56 yards and 7 kickoffs for 161 yards.
Ryan Harrison handles both the punting and kicking duties for the Falcons. So far this season Harrison is 6 of 9 on field goal attempts. All three misses have come from outside of 46 yards. Harrison connected from 57 yards verses TCU. He is also averaging 41.4 yards per punt.