Air Force Travels to In-State Rival CSU

Rashaun Greer

Steve Fairchild's second season at the helm of the CSU Rams got off to a great start by going 3-0 including getting the elusive victory over instate rival Colorado. Since then, the Rams have hit rock bottom. A home loss to San Diego State has put CSU in a position where they must win three of their remaining four games just to become bowl eligible. Air Force is next up for the reeling Rams.

For Air Force, this game isn't necessarily a must win to keep their post season hopes alive, but its pretty close. The offense for Air Force has not been able to find any rhythm this season and has marginalized a fantastic season by an Air Force defensive unit that is looking like one of the best in Academy history.

When Air Force has the ball

Air Force has moved the ball all season long, but poor performances in the red zone could arguably account for every one of their losses. Falcon kicker Erik Soderberg has attempted and made more field goals than any kicker in the conference (14 of 19). In fact, only two kickers in the NCAA have attempted more field goals. So what does all this mean? Lots of big time opportunities for the Falcon offense were squandered as 15 of Soderberg's 19 attempts were between 20-35 yards. The Falcons' offensive struggles have reignited a quarterback controversy that seemed settled as soon as returning starter Tim Jefferson was squared away academically. However, an ankle injury suffered against New Mexico combined with inconsistent play opened the door for fellow sophomore Connor Dietz to assume the starting role. Dietz brings quicker feet and a more aggressive running style to the Falcon spread option attack. Last week, against the 18th ranked Utah Utes, Dietz became the first Falcon to break the century mark in rushing this season. However, the effort proved costly for Dietz and the Falcons as Dietz will miss at least three weeks with a broken bone in his hand. In his absence, Jefferson must execute in the red zone against a middle of the pack Ram defense to set the tone for the remainder of the season. The Ram defense is led by talented sophomore Mychal Sisson, who leads the team with 60 tackles this season. Sisson, a consensus Freshman All-American, will likely be locked on Air Force's fullback Jared Tew throughout the game. Tew has carried the ball 51 more times than any other Falcon this season, and is subsequently Air Force's leading rusher. If Tew has consistent success up the middle, the Falcon offense will start to click. Colorado State features a young secondary which has gotten even younger with the loss of senior safety Klint Kubiak to a torn pectoral muscle. He is replaced in the line-up by sophomore Ivory Heard. Heard made his first start last week against San Diego State, and will face a much stiffer challenge against the Falcon rushing attack.

When Colorado State has the ball

Senior QB Grant Stucker leads the Ram offense, and he may be asked to do even more through the air this week because CSU's top running back, Leonard, Mason, is questionable after a rib injury. Stucker has a couple of playmaking wide outs in Rashuan Greer and Dion Morton. Falcon cornerback Reggie Rembert is questionable this week after taking a devastating hit on a kickoff return last week. If Rembert can't go, PJ Adeji-Paul will get his third start of his career, and should expect to be tested often by Stucker. The Falcon linebackers have suffered the bulk of the team's injuries this season. Starters Ken Lamendola and Patrick Hennessey have both suffered season ending injuries, and big time freshman contributor Alex Means has missed time with an ankle injury. Despite the injuries, the Falcon defense has continued to play outstanding football. Air Force currently ranks ninth in the country in yards allowed (267 yards/game) and eighth in scoring defense, allowing just over 13 points/ game. Colorado State ranks 91st in the nation in scoring offense, so they should struggle to get points against the Falcon defense. If Colorado State struggles to move the football, they will try some trickery. Dion Morton has thrown the ball twice this season, both times resulting in scores. With the way the Falcon offense has played this season, giving up a trick play would be disastrous for Air Force because the defense has almost no margin for error.

Prediction: Air Force benefits from a pair of interceptions which they convert into points. Jefferson finds Fogler on a play action for the lone Falcon TD of the Game. A Falcon turnover in the second half results in points for CSU, but they are stopped by the Falcon defense on the last drive of the game.

Air Force wins 16-10.

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