Air Force made a big-time error in overtime by giving kicker Erik Soderberg a fairway that favors a fade instead of a draw.
I’ll explain: After Air Force picked up a first down by going for it on fourth-and-1, coach Troy Calhoun called for three straight runs. And, yes, I question the play-calling (which I’ll get to below). But forget for a moment about whether Air Force should have run the ball or passed on third-and-9. Because if you’re going to run it, you have to run left and give Soderberg a better angle.
As was pointed out to me this week at practice by a fan, Ted, Soderberg’s ball flight is right to left (in other words the ball starts out heading a tad right, and then curves a little left—like a draw in golf). If you have a right-to-left ball flight, the margin of error becomes much smaller when you’re kicking from the right side.
Picture it like this: If I hit a draw off the tee, the holes that set up for me are the ones where the fairway doglegs to the left. If I’m hitting a fade off the tee, then I like fairways that dogleg right.
Soderberg hits a draw. Calhoun should have put him on the left hashmark or, at the very least, in the middle of the field.
I felt awful for Soderberg, who felt terrible about the kick.
Kickers have a really, really tough job. Soderberg came through in one incredibly pressure-packed situation, forcing overtime with a 39-yarder as time expired in regulation. But he couldn’t come through in two.
Now, back to the play-calling after picking up the fourth-and-1. It was just curiously conservative, especially after taking a big gamble by going for it on fourth down.
How about a pass out of the shotgun? How about Jefferson rolling out with a run/pass option? How about—if you’re going to run it—going with the option? I don’t want to get into this too much, because it’s the subject of David Ramsey’s column in tomorrow’s edition of The Gazette, and I don’t want to step on Ramsey’s points. But here was what Calhoun said when he was questioned about those calls.
“I thought we could pop one up inside,” Calhoun said. “They’d taken both their ends, and they started playing a little wider whenever we were in two (running) backs. And we thought there might be a chance where we got both our guards up on their (linebackers) and the ball would pop through.”
Air Force once again needs to make winning the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy the program’s top priority instead of lumping it in with conference play or ranking it behind competing in the MWC.
It was strange talking to players this week. Some said Navy was just another team on the schedule and that the winning CIC trophy wasn’t the team’s top priority. Some said the CIC Trophy and the MWC title are about equal goals. Others said regaining the CIC Trophy ranks number one.
The outlook should be the same for everyone. And it’s foolish to act like Navy is just another game. It’s not.
And the difference in the teams’ excitement levels seemed glaring to me. Navy, which treats this game like the Super Bowl, was pumped up. Air Force seemed a little flat.
And maybe that’s why the Falcons got off to a horrendous start.
Just not enough playmakers on offense. I hate to say it, but watching the Falcons’ offense at times feels a bit like watching CU’s offense—who scares you if you’re the opposing defense?
One thought on Jefferson. I’m beginning to think he looked faster/quicker/more agile than he really is last season because we were juxtaposing him with Shea Smith.
That’s not meant to be a knock on Smith, who’s an absolutely fantastic competitor and a student of the game. But, Shea was so slow that when Jefferson took over last season it looked as if he was a world-class sprinter. This season, not so much.
This is the third time in Calhoun’s three seasons that Air Force is 3-2 after five games.
After the 3-2 starts the last two seasons, two things happened: One, Air Force made a fairly major personnel move or two (in 2007, it was shifting Chad Hall back to tailback. Last season it was putting Jefferson and Asher Clark in the starting lineup). And, two: The Falcons bounced back the following week with a victory.
Not sure if Air Force will make any major personnel moves. But bouncing back with a victory will be much tougher this year. TCU is coming to town. The two previous years Air Force faced Mountain West Conference bottom-feeders UNLV (in 2007) and San Diego State (2008) on the schedule after Navy.
And, speaking of lame opponents …
I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this game in the next few days, but I’ll leave you with this: It’s been a long time since Air Force has beaten a team it wasn’t supposed to beat.
After knocking off Utah and TCU in back-to-back weeks early in 2007, Calhoun’s first season, here are the teams the Falcons have beaten: UNLV (twice), Colorado State (twice), Wyoming (twice), Army (twice), Notre Dame, San Diego State (three times), Houston, New Mexico (twice), and Division I-AA squads South Carolina State and Southern Utah.
Not exactly a murderers’ row, huh?
Only Notre Dame jumps off the page as far as names go—but Air Force beat the Irish during their worst season in history. I guess the Houston win was pretty good, but the Cougars came into that game dealing with Hurricane Ike and the damage it was doing to their home town.
So who did they beat that they weren’t supposed to beat? On the other hand, how many games did Air Force lose that it probably should have won?