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Air Force opener: Subplots we'll watch as Falcons face VMI

September 1, 2017 Updated: September 1, 2017 at 2:23 pm
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photo - Air Force defensive back Kyle Floyd runs through a drill during spring practice Thursday, March 2, 2017, at Air Force Academy. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Air Force defensive back Kyle Floyd runs through a drill during spring practice Thursday, March 2, 2017, at Air Force Academy. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

Subplots The Gazette will be tracking during Air Force's noon opener Saturday against VMI:

This could be the one-and-only chance

Look at Air Force’s schedule. Do you see a slam-dunk victory the rest of the season? Me either. This could well be the only chance for the Falcons to create the kind of mop-up-time scenario where young players get the opportunity to make an impression. Last year only two tailbacks carried the ball all season. Only three receivers caught passes. If Air Force can gain separation in this game and empty the bench, the young players that can seize that chance could give themselves a leg up this season and beyond.

Run, run, run. Right?

In 10 openers against FCS teams under Troy Calhoun, Air Force has averaged 65.3 rushing attempts for 424.1 yards. But these games haven’t been entirely vanilla, either. In six of those openers the Falcons threw for at least 100 yards and six times they’ve attempted at least 10 passes. Last year, against Abilene Christian, Air Force threw for 201 yards and three scores. Yes, you’ll see a lot of running. But with Michigan looming in Game 2, don’t be surprised if the Falcons let Arion Worthman and the passing game work through some kinks as well.

Falcons defense making transition to new look

Air Force has sparred against VMI’s offense as run by the scout team, but for the most part it has gone live against only the Falcons’ own triple-option offense. In most years that’s a minor point, as returners have plenty of experience against conventional offenses. But with just one returning starter, this isn’t most year. Most players say it’s an easy transition because playing the option requires such a high level of discipline. “They have to pick it up,” defensive coordinator Steve Russ said. “We have nine teams that will play that way. Hopefully 10.”

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