Friday, September 14, 2007

Wrapping up the TCU victory

Just finished watching CSTV’s replay of Thursday night’s game.

Wow.

If Air Force doesn’t make all of about five plays in the second half, the Falcons probably don’t win. Carson Bird’s late interception. Chris Thomas and Drew Fowler making the stuff on fourth-and-inches to set up the Falcons’ first score of the second half. And, of course, Jim Ollis’ 71-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 that tied the game with 5:55 to play.

That was an interesting situation. With about six minutes to go, Air Force could have punted, asked its defense to come through one more time and then gotten the ball back – likely with comparable field position. And, had they not made it, it’s probably ball game.

But there was no hesitation by Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, and none from his players. Quarterback Shaun Carney said he wasn’t surprised at all that the Falcons chose to go for it, and he said he knew Calhoun had the perfect call ready for the situation.

Both Carney and Calhoun noted the Falcons’ tendency on third- and fourth-and-short this season had been to run the ball inside.

“And, again, (TCU is) extraordinarily well-prepared, and they were packed down in there (inside), and so we had a chance to get the ball to the perimeter, and once we did, we were in pretty decent shape,” Calhoun said.

Indeed, Carney held the ball just long enough to draw a defender, and then made a perfect pitch to Ollis. Fullback Ryan Williams got a piece of the Horned Frogs’ play-side cornerback. Chad Hall took out not one but two TCU safeties, the second with a diving cut block was perhaps the key element of the play. And Ollis did the rest.

Other observations:

-Fantastic job by Hall faking out several TCU players on the Horned Frogs’ punt before Air Force’s game-tying drive. Hall saw the ball was going to land at about the Falcons’ 7-yard line, so he stood at the 11-yard line and pretended as if he was about to catch the punt. As TCU players gathered around him, the punt landed behind him and rolled into the end zone. So Air Force starts at the 20-yard line instead of the 5. Coaches have talked so much this season about little things adding up. That was one of those little things.

-Can’t say this enough: WHERE WERE THE TIGHT ENDS IN THE OFFENSE LAST YEAR? Travis Dekker was the only Air Force tight end to catch any passes last year and he had just four for 40 yards. This year, in just three games? Nine catches, 160 yards, one touchdown.

Both he and Keith Madsen (who caught a touchdown pass from Carney) are big, reliable targets. (And watch out for freshman Steve Shaffer.) Cannot believe they weren’t more involved last year.

-Couldn’t see this from the press box, but it stood out on TV: Calhoun’s stoic reactions to huge plays, most notably TCU’s missed field goal in overtime. Loved that. You know he’s jumping up and down inside, but he’s calm and cool on the outside. Reminiscent of Larry Bird when he was coaching the Pacers and Reggie Miller hit a last-second shot to beat the Bulls in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. Absolutely no reaction.

-Ditto on Ryan Harrison’s game-winning field goal. Maybe a quarter fist pump by Harrison, and then he takes out his mouthpiece and unbuckles his chin strap like it was just a walk in the park – no big deal. Then, of course, he was absolutely mobbed by all of his teammates and pretty much the entire cadet wing.

Two basketball-related notes: Saw recently-graduated Jacob Burtschi on the field after Thursday night’s game. He is spending this year serving as an assistant coach for the academy’s prep school basketball team. He still wants to play pro basketball, but he said the only time that could happen is after two years of service.

His former teammate, Dan Nwaelele, however, still is holding out hope that he can play in the pros immediately. Nwaelele’s agent, J.R. Harris, told me today that Nwaelele recently completed a minicamp with the San Antonio Spurs. Harris told me Spurs staffers told him Nwaelele was impressive. Nwaelele should find out if he gets an invite to veteran camp by the end of next week.

6 comments:

Jim said...

Jake,
I've watched repeats of the game on CSTV 3 times since the live game last night! I haven't enjoyed watching college football this much in a long time! (OK, that's a fib, I love watching college football as often as possible).

Needless to say, it was a superlative effort by the Falcons, especially the D! They kept showing up time after time! The offense finally BROUGHT IT in the 4th quarter. And Harrison's 57-yarder was good for at least 5 more, don't you think? The Falcons deserve to celebrate this win in a BIG way!

My votes for players of the game:
offense - Jim Ollis
defense - Carson Bird
special teams - Ryan Harrison

Great job, Air Force!

jake.schaller said...

Jim,

No doubt. What a game. I spoke to my parents (they called my cell phone) when TCU went up 17-3. We all thought the game was over. They were shocked when they got up the next morning (they live on the East Coast) to learn that Air Force had come back.

It was truly a case of not giving up, playing hard every play and eventually making the breaks that win a game.

MVPs? Offense would be either Jim Ollis or Chad Hall. Check out the replay of Ollis' touchdown run. Hall goes inside to take out one safety, but when he figures that safety already is out of the play, he breaks off and then dives to take out another safety who likely would have caught Ollis after a gain of about 10 yards.

Defense? Geez, I'd have to give game balls to the whole unit. Bird, of course. But how about Rybak for his forced fumble/recovery. Fowler for his pick and his fourth-and-1 stuff with Chris Thomas. Aaron Kirchoff and Hunter Altman for team-high 10 tackles apiece. John Rabold, who was everywhere. I'll give it to the whole unit.

And special teams, obviously Harrison. You're right -- it looked like the 57-yarder would have been good from much longer. What a weapon. And how about how calmly and cooly he nailed the game-winner. That bodes well for the future.

The only question now ... can Air Force come back to earth and get ready for consecutive road games at BYU and Navy? It will be interesting.

Anonymous said...

I don't recall AFA having let down games after big wins. Its usually after a loss that things begin to snowball. Cadet life never lets anyone get too high...but it can kick you to the curb when your down.

Ben said...

One question for you, Jake -

When (if ever) will the 07-08 Basketball schedule be released? I want to see it so I can start planning around some of the games!

Thanks!
Go Air Force! Beat BYU!

jake.schaller said...

Ben,

The schedule is all but done. They're trying to lock down a dispute about who they play when during the tournament they're going to play in Spokane, Wash. (Nov. 23-25). And they're trying to lock down the details on one more game.

Should be released officially today, though, I'm told.

Jim said...

Jake,
It's Tuesday morning and I can't wait for your next piece! I hope it won't be long before you blog again.

You were right about Chad Hall's blocks on that Ollis TD run. Thanks for pointing that out. Total teamwork is so important for a team's success. Each man plays a specific role with a task to complete, and there are no unimportant roles.

I don't think the Falcons will have any difficulty coming back down to earth after the TCU win. From what I can glean, they were yanked back by the end of Saturday's practice. As well, I don't get the feeling that egos are tolerated for long at the Academy. So, on to BYU!

I was excited to see this tidbit in the Gazette:

"Finally, freshman William Keuchler is listed as Hunter Altman’s backup at outside linebacker, replacing the injured Julian Madrid, and Nathan Smith is listed as a backup cornerback, moving ahead of Kevin Rivers."

Will is a great kid, and I've been glad to see him get some playing time on special teams so far. It will almost seem like old times when he and Chris T. are on the field together.