The first great Air Force football team zigzagged when everyone else zigzagged, setting a precedent that the program will continue to follow.
That 1958 team was only the second team in AFA history, led by coach Ben Martin, to achieve a perfect 9-0 record with 24.2 pass attempts per game. In the Cotton Bowl he won against TCU and in the final he placed 6th. Associated Press poll.
Other teams in the top 10 that season averaged less than 16 passes per game, 33% less than the Falcons.
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The Air Force, who will face Baylor at TCU in the Army Bowl at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, continues to strategize against the style and go against grain.
“If all of college football was under the center running the I formation, we’d be in the shotguns,” coach Troy Calhoun said. “Fifty years ago, when everyone was playing football,[Martin]knew he had to throw the football.
“That’s the reason for our approach.”
The Falcons took that plan to the extreme. They led the nation in rushing for the third year in a row this season, running for 41.5 yards per game more than anyone else. Even among teams that rely heavily on their running game, the Air Force used it at a very different rate. was the yard. The Falcons had 330.9 with 61 starts per game.
A running game allows the Falcons to bite the clock (they led the nation with an average possession time of 36:16, but some of that credit goes to the nation’s top-ranked total defense). Passing game (they threw the fewest interceptions in the country and had the fewest incomplete passes in the country at 2, 53) and that makes them a unique preparation challenge for opponents.
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So it makes sense that Air Force losses in recent years have two things in common. 2. They have mostly played against teams they meet each year.
Since 2019 (dropping the shortened 2020 season), the Falcons are 30-8. Of these losses, seven were to teams that play each year (Boise State and Utah State each twice; Army, Navy, and Wyoming each once). The other was against a cross-divisional Mountain West foe, San Diego State.
Against out-of-conference teams and non-service academies, the Falcons have won nine in a row, including four against teams in the Power Five conference.
They have won four of their last five bowl games.
It’s up to Baylor to come up with a strategy to stop the Falcons and do it quickly (the matchup was announced on December 4, 18 days before the game), without a defensive coordinator.
After firing coordinator Ron Roberts at the end of the season, head coach Dave Aranda will take charge of defense.
Aranda previously served as a defensive coordinator at the University of Wisconsin and LSU, a role that spanned a decade of her career.
“It’s been a while,” Aranda said at last week’s Baylor Coach Show. Not anymore. ”
Aranda said he consulted friends who coach in the Army and Navy to gather advice on stopping the Air Force’s unique attack.
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“Once they know your formation, they know how to attack it,” he said. It’s a kind of underhand and it’s going to be a subtle attack that you have to face off. No. You have to believe that someone is going to do what you need to do, so it takes great connections.”
The Air Force knows Baylor’s defense will be a challenge, especially in a line where 358-pound Siaki Ika could be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft.
Calhoun said the Air Force has probably “never faced a man as capable on the front line” as Siaki.
“You can get all sizes and all things, but if you don’t understand our offense, there’s also a way to counter it.” Rush yards — The Falcons’ all-time record for most in a season. “They have some men, and we have some men.
“I think it will be a very good match.”
The Air Force style alone almost certainly does. It’s been a goal since the academy started the sport.