Air Force Football: Regular Season Reflection

Coach Troy Calhoun

The final game of Air Force's season epitomized the Falcons' season well. It wasn't always perfect or pretty, but they showed a good amount of resolve and made it a success.

AIR FORCE =========

INSIDE SLANT

Air Force finished the season by rallying from a 17-7 deficit to beat UNLV, 35-20.

The Falcons finished 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the Mountain West Conference.

Air Force suffered through the first three-game regular-season losing streak of Troy Calhoun's tenure as coach, but bounced back to win their final three games.

The Falcons captured the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the first time since 2002 by sweeping Army and Navy.

After the final game, Calhoun reflected on the tough road his team had, playing 12 consecutive games without a bye, including three against teams that were ranked in the top 10, and four others against teams headed to bowl games.

"You wonder how much is in the tank," Calhoun said. "To dig down and find a little more was incredible."

The Falcons probably will land in the Independence Bowl, although that could change if TCU is not invited to a BCS game. That would give the Independence Bowl more options.

Air Force has said it isn't too concerned about which bowl it goes to, because the Falcons are headed to a fourth bowl game for a fourth consecutive season for the first time in almost 20 years.

Calhoun keeps building, and assuming that he is back with Air Force, not a guarantee, considering his name always seems to come up with major-conference coaching openings, the Falcons should be positioned for another good season in 2011.

Air Force will lose some key players, but have a lot back, including quarterback Tim Jefferson and tailback Asher Clark, who became the third tailback in Air Force history to have a 1,000-yard season.

NOTES, QUOTES

GAME OF THE YEAR: Air Force 14, Navy 6 -- Troy Calhoun did a great job in his first three seasons as Falcons coach, but some fans were concerned that he hadn't beat the Midshipmen. That changed on Oct. 2, when the Falcons took the first step toward their first Commander-in-Chief's Trophy since 2002. That year was also the last time Navy lost a service-academy game, but the Midshipmen were outplayed by the Falcons. A blocked punt in the fourth quarter by freshman Jamil Cooks led to a touchdown that gave the Falcons a comfortable cushion.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: QB Tim Jefferson -- Jefferson emerged as a dual threat as a junior and should be one of the best players in the Mountain West next season. Jefferson started all 12 games, battling through some injuries, and won the respect of his teammates. He had 769 rushing yards and ran for 15 touchdowns, and passed for 1,342 yards and 10 touchdowns. The passing stats aren't great for most schools, but the Falcons don't throw much, and Jefferson was effective when asked to drop back. He started as a freshman, and as a fourth-year starter, Jefferson should lead a very potent Air Force offense.

FAST FORWARD: As long as Troy Calhoun keeps winning games and taking the Falcons to bowl games, he'll be mentioned as a candidate for every job opening in a BCS conference. Calhoun doesn't discuss rumors about job openings, but the former Air Force quarterback has said often that he is happy at the academy. Even though the job at Colorado is open a couple hours north of Air Force, that doesn't seem to be a job Calhoun that would make him leave. Another reason Calhoun would be wary of leaving is he should have a very good team returning. There are a few holes to fill, especially at fullback, but the Falcons, led by QB Tim Jefferson, should be in line for another successful season.

RECRUITING TRAIL: As usual, Air Force isn't going to grab any recruits away from the big-name schools. The Falcons' recruiting has, however, gotten much better with Troy Calhoun, who has a different approach than former coach Fisher DeBerry. DeBerry would bring in a large group of players and try to find some good players out of that group. Calhoun is much more focused, having a shorter list of players who would be good fits at the service academy. Much of the Falcons' talent comes from the prep school and there are interesting prospects there, including QB Mitch Griebel.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Coming from the program we came into, the excitement of making a bowl game freshman year was almost strange. Now, we're trying to win conference, we're trying to go to the biggest bowl possible. It's a mindset that has changed, for sure. Going to a bowl game was a big deal. Now, going to a bowl game is what we expect." -- Senior backup QB Ben Cochran, also a special teams standout.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2011:

LB Jamil Cooks -- Cooks is a fantastic athlete, as he showed on special teams this season as a freshman. He wasn't quite ready to make an impact on defense, but that could change next year. Senior Andre Morris is graduating, and Cooks could slide into that spot. With an offseason to learn and get stronger, Cooks could make an impact next year.

WR Zack Kauth -- When WR Kevin Fogler went down because of a knee injury, Kauth stepped in and impressed the coaching staff. He is a deep threat who has great ball skills when a pass is in the air. He should have the kind of season Air Force likes from its receivers, providing a vertical threat and making the most out of the opportunities that come his way.

S Jon Davis -- Davis might be the best athlete on the team. That hasn't yet translated to a big season, but that might be on the way next year when Davis is a senior. He has good ball skills and has shown signs that he can be an all-conference player if it all comes together.

PRO PROSPECTS:

CB Reggie Rembert -- The Falcons might not have another Ben Garland, a player who develops so well over his time at the academy that he gets into the NFL despite the two-year service commitment. But Rembert has a chance. He is short, but is a very sound player. He has good athletic skills, can cover and could develop into a solid slot cornerback in the NFL if a team gives him a chance.

ROSTER REPORT

--K Erik Soderberg was benched for the regular-season finale after missing half of his 10 field goal attempts. He will be a senior next season, but will have to fight for a job. He was a second-team all-Mountain West player as a sophomore.

--S Brian Lindsay sustained a broken collarbone, which cut his season short. The Falcons haven't given up hope that he will play in the bowl game, but he should be back at full speed next season. He is a big and fast player who makes the defense better because he can defend the run and the pass.

--DE Rick Ricketts is graduating and that leaves a big hole. If there's an area Air Force might be thin at going into next season, it's on the defensive line. Some depth will have to be developed.

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