It’s kind of funny to talk about a breakout passing performance when a team completes seven passes and gains just more than 100 yards through the air.
But a breakout performance it was for Air Force’s aerial attack when quarterback Tim Jefferson completed 7-of-12 passes for 111 yards and two scores in Saturday’s 34-16 victory over Colorado State at Hughes Stadium.
Because remember this: In the Falcons’ previous four games, they completed just 24-of-54 passes and averaged 46.4 yards through the air. That’s not good enough. Even for an option team.
Air Force never will be Texas Tech, or anything close to it. But the Falcons do need to take advantage of the play-action opportunities their running game provides. And they need to do enough through the air to keep opponents honest. They did both Saturday.
Jefferson, back in the starting lineup, looked the best he has all year. He played like he had something to prove, considering Connor Dietz had seemed to have taken over the starting QB role with his performance last week (before it was found Dietz had broken a bone in his hand and will miss at least three weeks).
So, did Jefferson have something to prove?
“I don’t know,” Jefferson said. “I know that we’ve been trading the starts, and it kind of hurt us when (Dietz) went down because he’s a great player. I don’t think I had anything to prove, I just wanted to go out there and play, and I got the chance.”
Jefferson ran the offense with a good tempo and showed off his great feel for the option. Jefferson’s pitches always lead backs so they are full speed when they catch them. And he has an innate ability to hold the ball until the last possible moment, often influencing defenders to come off the pitch man to stop him.
Still, Jefferson made the key play of the game with a pass, hitting Kevin Fogler for 34 yards down the right sideline on a 3rd-and-18 early in the second half.
While the throw and the catch both were impressive, I was particularly impressed that Air Force coach Troy Calhoun made the call.
So many times this season, we’ve seen Air Force run up the middle in 3rd-and-long situations—especially when it’s backed up in its own territory. More than anything else, simply calling for a pass showed Calhoun had the confidence in Jefferson to make a play. That spoke volumes.
“It was in the game plan,” Jefferson said of the pass. “Coaches told us we were going to have a chance to hit some shots because their secondary wasn’t that strong. I was glad that he made the call and glad that he had confidence in us.”