Air Force Football: Injuries...Taking a Toll

FB Nathan Walker for injured Jared Tew

Two weeks ago against Colorado State, the Falcons lost two defensive starters. In a 27-25 loss to San Diego State on Saturday, the offense took two major hits.

INSIDE SLANT

Fullback Jared Tew injured the fibula in his right leg and will miss at least six weeks, coach Troy Calhoun said, which would put him out through the regular season. Receiver Zack Kauth also was injured, hurting his ankle. Kauth could miss three weeks, Calhoun said. Kauth was replacing injured starter Kevin Fogler, who is out until mid-November with a knee injury.

The biggest loss so far is Tew, who was on pace to become the first Air Force tailback in 21 years to rush for 1,000 yards.

"(The offense) does suffer, and I would lie if I said it didn't," quarterback Tim Jefferson said. "But Nathan Walker is a good fullback himself."

Walker will replace Tew in the starting lineup. As a senior, Walker brings experience, and he is a hard runner. But Tew, a preseason first-team All-Mountain West selection, will be tough to replace.

Tew's strengths fit the position very well. He is elusive on dives and triple-option handoffs, so he could often find a small crease and turn it into significant yardage. And although he isn't very big, he could usually keep his legs moving and pick up extra yards, especially in short-yardage situations.

Kauth is also a big loss, because now the Falcons are getting thin at receiver. Kauth had done a nice job replacing Fogler, who is second in school history in yards per reception. Brandon Hirneise might be the starter at that spot; he had just one catch for 9 yards coming into the San Diego State game.

The previous week against Colorado State, Air Force lost starting nose guard Ryan Gardner for a few weeks to a groin injury, and safety Brian Lindsay, perhaps for the rest of the season, with a broken clavicle.

NOTES, QUOTES

--In Air Force's 27-25 loss to San Diego State, there was one call the Falcons disagreed with, and the call might have cost them the game.

On a two-point conversion attempt with 2:08 left, Asher Clark caught a pass, turned and seemed to carry a defender with him into the end zone to tie the game. Upon replay review, officials ruled that Clark's knee touched the ground before he got into the end zone.

"I don't feel it was (down)," Clark said. "But that's not how they saw it; that's not how it was called."

--Against the Aztecs, coach Troy Calhoun went for a two-point conversion with 18 minutes left in the game. The Falcons didn't get the conversion, which would have cut San Diego State's lead to 17-14.

That missed point was important later in the game, when the Falcons had to go for two points to tie after a late touchdown. The attempt failed.

"We hadn't scored a lot of touchdowns," Calhoun said about going for two in the third quarter. "You thought it perhaps could come down to hitting a field goal."

--Air Force's defense couldn't get a stop when it needed one Saturday. In a third-quarter touchdown drive, San Diego State converted a third-and-10, a third-and-19 and a third-and-goal. "We had some third downs where we need to get off the field," Calhoun said.

GAME BALL GOES TO: CB Reggie Rembert -- Rembert helped hold San Diego State's Vincent Brown without a catch in the first half, while coming up with an interception. The Aztecs tried Brown deep early in the game, but Rembert had great coverage and came down with an interception in the end zone despite Brown being called for pass interference.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Brandon Hirneise -- Even though Hirneise has almost no experience, he is going to have to learn in a hurry. Kevin Fogler and Zack Kauth could both be out for a few more weeks with injuries, putting Hirneise in a possible starting role. Even if he doesn't start, he'll play a lot more. He has just two career catches but does have some athleticism. He showed the ability to get open against San Diego State.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have a tough path. We're going to have to find a way to win a game." -- QB Tim Jefferson, on Air Force's next two games, against TCU and Utah.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: If the Falcons can take anything out of the San Diego State loss, it's that they did get the offense rolling near the end of the game. For most of the first three and a half quarters, the Aztecs did a good job swarming to the ball and not giving up many yards. The Falcons put together two long scoring drives in the fourth quarter and might have had a chance to win had they recovered either of their two onside kicks.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Air Force's run defense had another tough game. SDSU's Ronnie Hillman had 191 yards against the Falcons, breaking 65- and 44-yard touchdowns. On many plays, Air Force missed chances to tackle Hillman. The Falcons' run defense has not been great all season and is vulnerable going into a tough matchup against TCU.

ROSTER REPORT:

--S P.J. Adeji-Paul started in place of injured strong safety Brian Lindsay, a spot Paul could keep for the rest of the regular season as Lindsay heals.

--Backup FB Nathan Walker will start for the next few weeks, and possibly the rest of the season, with Jared Tew out. Walker is a tough inside runner, and has done well around the goal line this year.

--Starting K Erik Soderberg missed his first field-goal attempts against San Diego State, his fourth miss in six attempts. He did come back to hit his final two kicks in the game.

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