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Air Force football has had few answers for New Mexico's speed

October 12, 2016 Updated: October 12, 2016 at 6:07 pm
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New Mexico's Jhurell Pressley runs past Air Force defenders on his way to a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Albuquerque, N.M. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche)

Every Air Force defensive player asked about New Mexico this week included one common term in their response - speed.

Coach Troy Calhoun was basically a human thesaurus on the subject.

"They have absolutely, tremendous acceleration and explosive speed," Calhoun said. "When there's a crease where they go, a lot of times they do not get caught."

The Falcons see running attacks all the time. They play Army and Navy every year. But what New Mexico does produces drastically different results.

Consider the big plays on the ground. Army and Navy have combined for six carries of 20 or more yards against Air Force over their past two meetings in each series, a span of 16 quarters.

New Mexico had six 20-yard gains last year against the Falcons. Four came in the first half.

"One little hole and they'll pop out and gain, like, 50 yards," Air Force nose guard Lochlin Deeks said.

Over the past 29 games, only California - behind quarterback Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft - has gained more yardage against Air Force than New Mexico's 512 a year ago. The Lobos have averaged 41 points against the Falcons in the past three years. The teams have split four shootouts since coach Bob Davie arrived in Albuquerque, with the home team winning each time.

The Lobos have four players this year averaging at least 6.1 yards per carry. Teryon Gipson leads the bunch with 12.9 yards per attempt on 31 carries.

"They will be, position for position for position, the fastest team we play," defensive coordinator Steve Russ said.

What makes New Mexico so different from Army and Navy starts with the alignment. While the service academies operate under center, the Lobos line up with two running backs near the quarterback in the shotgun. While the service academies use that tight formation to create misdirection and confusion, New Mexico runs at the defense. Quickly.

Really, it's the speed that makes the difference. And that's why the Falcons are gearing up for a battle despite New Mexico's struggles this season that include losses to New Mexico State, Rutgers and a 49-7 deficit last week in a 49-21 blowout loss to at home to Boise State.

The Lobos hold the nation's top running attack with 354 yards per game. Air Force's defense ranks No. 2 against the run at 80.2.

"We are very attentive to detail, playing them," linebacker Grant Ross said. "We all know if you miss one assignment, one gap, that can go for a long ways."

The silver lining for Air Force is that New Mexico has had few answers for its offense as well. The Falcons have scored at least 35 points in six of the past seven meetings in this series.

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