Air Force Football: Jake's Post-TCU Musings

Jake SchallerContributor IOctober 11, 2009

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 16:  Fans cheer for the TCU Horned Frogs during play against the BYU Cougars at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 16, 2008 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

-I thought Connor Dietz looked much more comfortable in his second career start. He avoided any major mistakes (though he fumbled a couple snaps early that Air Force recovered), and he led a late touchdown drive to get Air Force within a field goal.

Sophomore starter Tim Jefferson, the player Dietz replaced, warmed up but did not play at all. Jefferson did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday and is clearly still struggling with his injured right ankle.

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said Jefferson won’t play until he can “go without any hesitation at all. … Until you can just push off and push off in a way that’s not just adequate but is explosive.”

It might be time to shut Jefferson down for a while. He hasn’t looked exactly right since injuring his right ankle at New Mexico on Sept. 19. Even when he’s played (against Navy last week and in practices), he’s looked a touch hesitant.

I asked Calhoun tonight if Dietz has done enough to make him think about starting Dietz even when Jefferson is healthy.

“It’s something that when you get to that point, that I think we’ve got to look at,” Calhoun said. “He’s played well, and I think he’s only going to play better.”

It will be an interesting decision. I think Dietz, who rushed for a team-high 71 yards and a score on 15 carries is probably the better runner. But I think Jefferson is probably a better passer than Dietz, who completed just 6-of-17 passes for 42 yards.

-Speaking of quarterbacks, at this point in the season, TCU junior Andy Dalton has my vote for Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year. He's just a confident player, as he should be in his third year starting.

He throws the ball really well (he made a couple throws on third down and another on a fourth down that were right on the money) and he’s a deceptively good runner. He ran that speed option really well and was good with his fakes.

“You can just tell that’s a seasoned guy,” Calhoun said.

-Air Force’s offense finally made it back to the end zone when Jonathan Warzeka hit Kevin Fogler for a 16-yard touchdown pass late in the first half. It was the first time the Falcons’ offense scored a touchdown since the third quarter of the Sept. 19 game at New Mexico, a stretch of more than 10 quarters.

The offense definitely looked better, especially in that there were some more big-gain plays. Dietz ripped off a run of 19 yards, Savier Stephens had a 12-yard carry, Asher Clark had a 29-yard burst and freshman receiver Mikel Hunter ran 36 yards on an end-around.

“They were better,” Calhoun said of his offensive players. “And yet, I didn’t think so in the first quarter. I think there’s a perfect case in point where the parts are there, but the way that you have to operate and execute all 11 guys, unity-wise, the execution’s got to be better.”

-While you wouldn’t have confused Air Force with Boise State as far as play-calling, Calhoun definitely opened it up a bit. The Warzeka-to-Fogler touchdown (Dietz ran the option right and pitched to Warzeka, who ran a couple steps and then threw) was a terrific call.

-Scary moment late in the first quarter.

Air Force junior outside linebacker Andre Morris Jr. was drilled by TCU’s Jurell Thompson on a punt return. It was one of those where Morris was ran down the field, then turned and was coming back the other way … and he was set up perfectly for a big shot by Thompson, who was setting up TCU’s wall.

Morris was down on the field for several minutes, and a stretcher was brought out for him before he got up and left the field under his own power.

“I don’t think it’s a concussion, I think it was a lights out,” Calhoun said. “At first, you just thought, ‘Gosh, is he OK?’ It was a NyQuil shot.”

-To me, Air Force’s biggest games of the season now are next week’s game against Wyoming and its Oct. 31 game at Colorado State.

An upset of Utah, which clearly is down from last season, or even BYU is within the realm of possibility. But far more important than pulling an upset is making sure no ground is lost.

Air Force has kind of established a beachhead as the top team outside the MWC’s “Big Three” of TCU, Utah and BYU. And the Falcons can’t afford to lose it.