Air Force coach Troy Calhoun believes he can win games by leaning on his outstanding defense and playing conservative, mistake-free offense.
The Falcons beat New Mexico and San Diego State that way, and they beat Wyoming that way on Saturday. So his philosophy can work.
But here’s the thing—when you play like that as much as Air Force has, it’s hard to change gears and open it up when necessary.
And it likely will be necessary during the next two weeks. It’s hard to believe, after all, that the Falcons will topple Utah, or even Colorado State, completing just one pass and running the fullback dive 30 times.
Which is why I thought Air Force missed out on a chance against Wyoming. Like the games against New Mexico and San Diego State, Saturday's contest with the Cowboys offered a chance for Calhoun to try some things offensively and to take some chances.
Yes, you don’t want to jeopardize your opportunity to win the game with a risky, wide-open plan. But as well as the defense was playing, Air Force’s offense probably could have made a few mistakes or turnovers without letting the game slip away.
Asked after the game if his offense is too predictable, Calhoun said, “Could be.
“And yet what we’ve been looking for, you keep looking for play-action passes. Today I think we had a chance to throw a few more. And, absolutely, we could have thrown more balls today.”
They should have.
And not just play-action. How about spreading the field and allowing the quarterback—Tim Jefferson or Connor Dietz—to make a throw? And if nothing’s open, they can run. Look at how spreading the field allowed Wyoming quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels to make some freelance plays with his feet.
The Falcons can beat teams from the bottom half of the Mountain West Conference with the play-it-safe, lean-on-the-defense approach. But that’s not going to get it done against the upper half.
Or Navy, for that matter.
And it’s too much to ask of the offense to open things up just for those games. They won’t be ready.
Air Force had a chance to experiment and add some offensive facets to its arsenal against Wyoming.
And it didn’t.