The defense was more of a mystery, aside from a top-notch secondary. Through five games, the defense has proven to be one of the elite units in the conference.
The secondary has been good, as expected, and the front seven has come along well. Air Force has allowed just 27 points in the second halves of its five games this year, and is one of only two teams (Oregon is the other) that haven't allowed any points in the fourth quarter this season.
"I think we're one of the elite defenses in the conference," defensive end Rick Ricketts said.
The Falcons were breaking in two new inside linebackers, which was a concern. But Brady Amack started fast, and Jordan Waiwaiole has played much better after an inconsistent start. Waiwaiole was the Mountain West Conference defensive player of the week after collecting 15 tackles against Navy.
The defensive line was also a bit of a question mark, because it lost nose guard Ben Garland, the rare service academy player who gets picked up by an NFL team. But through a rotation of many players, the line has held up fine.
The second-half dominance is what stands out about that group. Part of it is conditioning -- practicing and playing in high altitude helps. But the coaching staff has done a great job with adjustments, such as against Wyoming when the Cowboys surprised the Falcons with some new formations and a run-first approach. Wyoming got 140 rushing yards before halftime and 34 after.
The adjustments aren't just the coaches, either. The players are smart and can tell the coaches exactly what's happening on the field.
"It helps having sharp kids that love football and are attentive," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "You mix that in with good coaches, and the more you can do as the game goes on."
--Air Force snuck into the Associated Press poll, at No. 25, but Falcons coach Troy Calhoun isn't getting too excited. He said it's too early in the season to worry about rankings.
"If we're talking about how much stuffing was in the turkey and the quality of the pumpkin pie, that's the time of year for that," Calhoun said.
--This week's game against Colorado State looks like a prime chance for Air Force to overlook an opponent, especially coming off an emotional win against Navy. But the players and coaches weren't making too much over the win against the service academy rival.
"We're not getting ahead of ourselves," quarterback Tim Jefferson said. "It's not the end of the season. We've still got seven games left in the season. I'm going to stay modest, and the rest of the team will."
--The Falcons are developing a nice home-field advantage. The sellout against Navy was the first time Air Force has sold out consecutive home games since 1972. With the team playing well and getting into the top 25 this week, the crowd should be pretty good against Colorado State this week as well.
Coach Troy Calhoun gave the fans a lot of credit for helping the Falcons finally beat Navy. "It was a big time atmosphere," Calhoun said. "That's the most rambunctious I've ever heard Falcon Stadium, ever. When (Jamil Cooks) blocked that punt, it's the loudest I've heard it. "The cadets were something else. They were flat incredible. And it wasn't just that northeast part of the stadium. The current ran through the entire stadium."
SERIES HISTORY: Air Force leads Colorado State 28-19-1 (last meeting, 2009, 24-16 Air Force).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Falcons are running the ball well, but the team seemed to miss receiver Kevin Fogler a bit in the offense Saturday. Fogler, the team's best deep threat, is out with a knee injury and the team rarely stretched the field without him. Tight end Chaz Demerath made some big catches, however, and could help fill the void. The Falcons' offense will be better off if someone emerges on the outside, however.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Falcons have done a very good job of disguising coverages and confusing quarterbacks. That's possible because of a veteran secondary. The defense should be able to make life difficult for Colorado State freshman quarterback Pete Thomas this week. Thomas has played well but this might be the best and smartest secondary he has faced. If the Falcons can get some turnovers early, the game could get out of hand.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We want to step up to a level where we never just give into a game. We want them to feel our pressure." -- Nose guard Ryan Gardner on the Falcons' fourth-quarter dominance.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Colorado State at Air Force, Oct. 9 -- Air Force (4-1, 2-0 Mountain West) is coming off a tough early part of its schedule, in which it played four 2009 bowl teams in five weeks, in very good shape. This week the Falcons get Colorado State (1-4, 0-1), which has struggled a bit this season and the last few seasons against Air Force. The Falcons are focused and unlikely to take an in-state rival too lightly.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Make the Rams one-dimensional. If Colorado State can't run the ball, the secondary might be able to make some huge plays against freshman quarterback Pete Thomas. The offense needs to be efficient and take advantage of a shaky Rams defense.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
WR Zach Kauth -- Kauth is coming off a game with no catches. Colorado State is without CB Momo Thomas for the season, so this might be an opportunity for the Falcons to get Kauth going. Kauth is filling in for Kevin Fogler, who has a knee injury.
CB Reggie Rembert -- Rembert hasn't had too many passes his way this season, as teams are a little wary of Air Force's stellar cornerback duo. But the Rams rely on the passing game, and the Falcons have started to move Rembert around to make it a little tougher to avoid him.
RB Asher Clark -- Fullback Jared Tew gets more work on inside handoffs, but this could be a good week for Clark. Colorado State has some talent in the front seven, so the Falcons might want to test the perimeter with Clark, who is having a very good season himself. Clark has 423 yards and is averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
--Starting LB Brady Amack will likely miss this week and perhaps a few more games with a bone chip in his ankle. Amack was the team's leading tackler through four games.
--Backup LB Austin Niklas, a sophomore, will go into the starting lineup to replace Amack. Niklas has played a lot on passing downs and got some extended time against Navy.
--Backup LB Ken Lamendola, the team's leading tackler in 2008, has started to do some drills and could return from a knee injury by the end of October. He missed all but the team's first five games last year.