Preview: Notre Dame - Air Force

Notre Dame will host Air Force this weekend. IrishEyes takes a look at the match-up.

 Notre Dame vs. Air Force
Fighting Irish   Falcons
Saturday, November 10th
Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Ind.
2:30 EST

 For the first time in my memory, Air Force isn't being led by Fisher DeBerry (23 seasons). Taking over the Falcon program is former AFA quarterback Troy Calhoun, who is only the sixth head coach in the program's history. Calhoun comes from the NFL, where he spent three seasons with the Denver Broncos and one season Houston Texans. Calhoun's one season in Houston was as their offensive coordinator.

Despite the NFL roots of it's head coach, change can't happen all at once, and you'll see much of the same offensive looks from the Air force offense as you have in prior seasons. The quarterback has the second most rushes on the team, and their wide receiver/wing-back leads the team in rushing. The Air Force offense has opened their game up a little this season. Through 10 games they have averaged 53.3 rushing attempts, 272.8 rushing yards per game, 16.4 passing attempts per game, and 122 passing yards per game. Last season the Falcon offense averaged 55.0 rushing attempts, 229.4 rushing yards per game, 12.2 passing attempts per game, and 101.2 passing yards per game.

Due to the changes in offense and the coaching staff, this was supposed to be a season of struggles for the Falcons. The reality is that they are a better team than they were last season, which means that this game will be a difficult challenge for the Irish. Air Force has seven wins against; South Carolina St, Utah, TCU, UNLV, Colorado State, Wyoming and Army. Air Force's three losses came against Navy, New Mexico and BYU.

  On Offense:

 Offense '07 Rank Per Game ND Defense '07 Rank Per Game
Rushing Offense # 4 272.80 Rushing Defense # 95 199.00
Pass Offense # 118 122.40 Pass Defense # 7 169.89
Pass Eff. # 38 132.69 Pass Eff. # 116 97.75
Total Offense # 57 395.20 Total Defense # 53 368.89
Scoring Offense # 68 25.70 Scoring Defense # 88 31.44

Anticipated Depth Chart.

  Quarterback ATT-COMP-YRD TDs/INTs Comp %
  Shaun Carney 102-163-1,202 6/4 62.6
  Shea Smith - - - 0/0 - -

Shaun Carney (5-10, 190 pounds) is starting for his fourth straight year. He holds a number of records at Air force including passing touchdowns, passing yards, and total yardage. He is a solid passer in the Flacon system, and his experience as a starter will b e a challenge for the is Irish. As with most seasons, the Falcon quarterback will carry the ball as much as any running back. 104 rushing attempts for 411 yards and 3 touchdowns.4.0 yards per attempt and 41 yards per game.

Shea Smith (5-11, 190 pounds) is in the same mold as Carney, but he hasn't seen much time over his career, because Carney has cemented himself as the Falcon quarterback the last four seasons.

  Running Back Hgt/Wgt Rushes-Yards
  Jim Ollis, Sr. 5-11, 200  68-365, 3 TDs
  Savier Stephens, Fr. 5-11, 190  31-113, 2 TDs

Ollis averages 5.4 yards per carry and 45.6 per game. He's been the back-up quarterback for the Falcon's. If you're a quarterback for the Falcon's you obviously have experience running the football, so the transition to tailback isn't a big move for Ollis. He isn't overly fast, but he knows the offense very well, and he'll get positive yardage on most plays. He has had some fumbling issues this season.

Stephens has received some work because of the various injuries. If everyone is healthy, Stephens will see most of his action on special teams.

Senior Chad Smith might get the start against the Irish. He's missed most of the season with an ankle injury, but he returned for some carries last weekend against Army. Smith is a solid back that will work for positive yardage.

  Fullback Hgt/Wgt Rushes-Yards
  Ryan Williams, Sr. 5-9, 210  53-203, 0 TDs
  Todd Newell, Sr. 5-10, 210  5-25, 0 TDs

Williams will get most of the work at fullback. In the re-tooled offense, Williams doesn't get near the number of carries as fullbacks of the past, but he is effective when he does tote the ball. You probably won't see Williams in the passing game, he only has two catches for 24 yards on the season, although he does have solid hands.

  Wide Receiver Hgt/Wgt Stats
  Chad Hall, Sr. 5-8, 180  41  rcpts/426 yds/1 TDs
  Mark Root, Sr. 6-2, 195  22 rcpts/319 yds/2 TD
  Sean Quintana, So. 6-2, 205  18 rcpts/257 yds/0 TD

Chad Hall is listed on the depth chart as a wide receiver, but he also leads the Air Force in rushing with 1,122 yards in 160 rushing attempts. He has 12 rushing touchdowns on the season. Hall averages
7.0 yards per carry and 112 yards per game. He rushed for a single-game school record 275 yards last week against Army. Hall is a special athlete and the fact that he has shined as a receiver

Root averages 14.5 yards pre reception, Root is the brother of former Notre Dame tight end Matt Root. Quintana averages 8.7 yards per reception.

Spencer Armstrong was one of their more dangerous receivers heading into the season, but he was injured early and has missed most of the season. He did make it back last weekend against Army where he caught two passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. Spencer was third on the team in receiving last year.

  Tight End Hgt/Wgt Stats
  Travis Dekker, Jr. 6-4, 245  18 rcpts/257 yds/1 TDs
  Keith Madsen, Jr. 6-3, 230   3 rcpts/29 yds/1 TD

Travis Dekker is the starter, but he suffered a concussion last week against Army and missed the entire second half. It is possible that he will be back this weekend, but Madsen might see more playing time.Dekker is third on the team in receptions, and he averages, 14.3 yards per catch. Keith Madsen averages 9.7 yards per reception.

  Offensive Line Hgt/Wgt Experience
  LT Keith Williams, Jr. 6-6, 275  10 Starts
  LG Nick Charles, So. 6-4, 285  10 Starts
  C Blaine Guenther, Sr. 6-2, 270  22 Starts
  RG Caleb Morris, Sr. 6-2, 285  10 Starts
  RT Chris Campbell, So. 6-3, 270  3 Starts

Although this line is only retuning one guy, they are more effective than the unit was last season, which is a surprise. they were expected to be the biggest weakness for the new coaching staff. With the line performing at the level that they are, it has made the small changes in the offense much easier. Guenther is the only returning starter, but he's moved to center this season after playing right tackle. He's a big, physical lineman that can hold his own on the inside against the Irish. Morris is the other guy that has really stepped up this season. He was also the lineman with the most experience next to  Guenther. Like Morris, Charles has the size to match up with the Notre Dame defense. He's big and he likes to mix it up. The offensive tackles aren't bad, but they are the weak link up front. Williams recently moved over to the offense, from the defensive line.

 On Defense:

 Defense '07 Rank Per Game ND Offense '07 Rank Per Game
Rushing Defense # 51 141.80 Rushing Offense #118 56.44
Pass Defense # 34 205.80 Pass Offense #114 152.00
Pass Eff. # 27 112.65 Pass Eff. #116 97.75
Total Defense # 47 347.60 Total Offense #119 208.44
Scoring Defense # 19 18.50 Scoring Offense #118 13.78

Anticipated Depth Chart. 

  Defensive Line Hgt/Wgt Stats
  DE Ben Garland, So. 6-5, 270  21 tackles/ 2.0 sacks
  NT Jared Marvin, Jr. 5-11, 265  22 tackles/ 1.0 sacks
  DE Ryan Kemp, Jr. 6-5, 255  39 tackles/ 2.0 TFL

Like most of the academies, Air Force doesn't have a lot of experienced depth up front, but this group is doing a pretty solid job for their experience level. Ryan Kemp has the most tackles among the defensive linemen, and he's listed ninth overall in tackles on the team. Kemp was expected to be the top guy this season and he hasn't let anyone down. Jared Marvin is too small to hold the middle in a '3-4', but he certainly battles life and limb. Eventually he needs to rest and that is when there is a drop in performance.  Ben Garland gets off the ball very well for his size, and he battles like a player much bigger than he is.

  Linebackers Hgt/Wgt  Stats
  OLB John Rabold, Sr. 6-3, 235  61 tackles/ 13.0 TFL
  ILB Aaron Shanor, Sr. 6-1, 235  73 tackles/ 2.5 TFL
  ILB Drew Fowler, Sr. 6-2, 240  90 tackles/ 1.5 TFL
  OLB Hunter Altman, Jr. 6-0, 215  53 tackles/ 9.0 TFL

This linebacker group is playing above their heads right now. When your linebackers are four of the top six tacklers in the team, they're doing their job. This unit is making plays all over the field and they will present the young Irish line a lot of trouble. Drew Fowler leads the team in tackles. He plays the run extremely well and despite his limited mobility, he has added three interceptions on the year. John Rabold is fourth on the team in tackles, and is doing what the team needs him to do...make plays in the backfield. Aaron Shanor is third on the team in tackles,  Hunter Altman is sixth on the team in tackles

  Defensive Backs Hgt/Wgt  Stats
  CB Carson Bird, Sr. 5-11, 190  40 tackles/ 6 INTs
  CB Garrett Rybak, Sr. 5-10, 180  45 tackles/ 2 INTs
  FS Chris Thomas, So. 5-11, 205  84 tackles/ 1 INTs
  SS Bobby Giannini, Sr. 6-2, 210  56 tackles/ 0 INTs

Thomas is second on the team in tackles, and he has added 7.5 tackles for loss. He is another guy that has really stepped up their play. Air Froce needed a guy that could come up and make plays around te line, and he has done just that. Bird is having a monster year, and he's among the nation's leaders in interceptions. This group has experience and the only young guy in the group might be playing better than any of them. Top Stories