Thursday, September 8, 2011

Players to Watch Week 2: Air Force Falcons

I don't think I have to reiterate on this here blog how important winning Saturday at Air Force is, but I'm going to anyways. We REALLY need to win. Air Force is a pretty tough place to play, whether it be the altitude, the weather, or a the really hostile group of pilots in the stands. You probably remember how close it was 2 years ago as we struggled to a 20-17 victory basically playing on a block of ice. 2 years before that, they beat us by an identical 20-17 score (oddly enough, I think I remember kicking playing a negative role there). So by no means do I expect us to go up there and out-athlete them and run away with this, especially after seeing our obvious defensive deficiencies last week. Air Force always has one of the best rushing offenses in the country thanks mostly in part to their multiple variations of the triple option. Over the past few years they've also been a very stout defense, especially in the secondary. So let's take a look at a couple players to watch for this week's crucial conference opener.

Offense: Tim Jefferson (Sr. QB, 6' 200, #7)

Ryan Southworth and Tim Jefferson Jr. - Air Force v UNLV

Expect plenty of this.

Alright, so this goes against what I said I wouldn't do in week one, and that's pick the most obvious player to watch on offense, but with Jefferson I had to make the exception and give praise to the guy who deserves it more than anyone. Jefferson took over the starting duties as a freshman for the Falcons, starting the final 8 games of that season and has never looked back leading the them to 3 straight bowl games. Last season, he rushed for 794 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also threw for 1,459 yards with 10 TD's and 6 interceptions last season. Those passing numbers aren't gaudy, but they are very efficient, and yes, Air Force will try to hit home runs on deep passes when we cheat up to the line of scrimmage, so that may scare you (it scares me). It's very clear that Jefferson has got this triple option attack down about as smoothly as Andy Dalton had the zone read perfected, so don't expect many mistakes from him. Also, many of you might remember their strategy last year of lining up in an offensive position on 4th down only to have Jefferson drop deep and punt on us a few times while we were caught with no return man deep. It worked pretty damn well too, as he punted 5 times for a 49 yard average with 3 landing inside the 20 including a 71 yard bomb. So yeah, he's a pretty important player to this offense.

Defense: Jordan Waiwaiole (Sr. LB, 6'3 230, #32)

Waiwaiole led the Falcons in tackles last season with 96, but recorded only 2 against the Frogs last year. He also hauled in 1 interception, recorded 2 sacks, and returned a fumble 52 yards for a score last year. If Air Force wants to contain the run, which they did not do last year against TCU, Waiwaiole, who is in his second season at inside linebacker after starting outside, and the rest of the linebacking corps are going to have to do a better job containing our talented, yet dinged up backfield. Ed Wesley went for over 200 yards last year against them, but it appears we may be without Wesley in Saturday's game, so that will put the other running backs to the test and we might be relying heavily on Matthew Tucker and Waymon James again.

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