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Air Force football not panicked as it works to make corrections

September 19, 2013 Updated: September 19, 2013 at 7:17 pm
Caption +
Air Force's defensive back Steffon Batts pulls in an interception as fellow defensive back Christian Spears and intended receiver CSU's wide receiver Charles Lovett watch during the fourth quarter of a game at Falcon Stadium at the United States Air Force Academy on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

Steffon Batts has seen rough patches for Air Force in the past, so he's not about to panic.

He recalls last year's deflatingly close loss at Michigan, which was followed by a slip-up at UNLV that put the Falcons at 1-2.

That's where Air Force is again after losses to Utah State and Boise State, so Batts is trying to remain focused on the big picture.

"You can go 1-11 or 10-2," said Batts, a senior cornerback. "It's just a perspective on things. We've got to play football. Those two days are done, time to move on."

To achieve the big picture they want, the Falcons are honing in on the little things.

Boise State completed 17 of 17 passes at or behind the line of scrimmage, so that has been a big focus this week. Defensive backs will play closer to the line of scrimmage, ready to crash through blocks on those short bubble screens. More man-to-man pass coverage will be employed, taking the place of a zone approach.

"You should see a lot more press coverage and disrupting the bubble routes," sophomore cornerback Gavin McHenry said. "And you shouldn't have any more of those little dink and dives for 5 yards or 8 yards every time."

The rest of talk focused on the first man making the tackle, the defensive line getting its hands up to disrupt plays that hit too quick to apply pressure and the overall aggression level seeing an uptick.

But all of those things were points of emphasis before.

"We're going to get it right," linebacker Joey Nichol said. "We're going to get it right, I swear."

Coach Troy Calhoun said wholesale changes won't be seen in the defensive approach, despite a stretch that has seen the past four major college opponents average 44 points and gain more than a mile's work of total offense.

"We had a good number of pressures the other night where we brought five," Calhoun said. "We bring five and the ball comes out instantly, sometimes you can say, 'Do we want to bring five there instead of having an extra defender on the perimeter?' That's part of the way we're going to play, though, too."

Wyoming coach Dave Christensen knows all about Air Force's recent struggles, but he is quick to dismiss them.

"Their schedule started out much tougher than everyone else's," Christensen said. "I think that had something to do with the success the offenses had versus their defense."

While the Aggies and Broncos were picked to finish atop the Mountain West's Mountain Division, the road gets no easier with Wyoming, a trip to Nevada, a trip to Navy and a home game against Notre Dame.

"We've got to come with even more focus," said Batts, who has said he and the few other seniors need to step into a larger role. "We've got nothing but big games ahead of us."

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