Another lopsided loss leaves Air Force re-evaluating 'every aspect of the way we operate'

September 22, 2013 Updated: September 22, 2013 at 6:35 pm
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photo - Wyoming Quarterback Brett Smith (16) carries the ball while Air Force defensive back Steffon Batts (23), line backers Reggie Barnes (18) and Joey Nichol (49) try to stop his forward movement during a Mountain West college football game between the Air Force Falcons and the Wyoming Cowboys at Falcon Stadium in Air Force Academy, Colorado on Saturday, September 21, 2013. (Kent Nishimura/The Gazette)
Wyoming Quarterback Brett Smith (16) carries the ball while Air Force defensive back Steffon Batts (23), line backers Reggie Barnes (18) and Joey Nichol (49) try to stop his forward movement during a Mountain West college football game between the Air Force Falcons and the Wyoming Cowboys at Falcon Stadium in Air Force Academy, Colorado on Saturday, September 21, 2013. (Kent Nishimura/The Gazette) 

Troy Calhoun ruled out nothing other than the status quo for his "overwhelmed" team.

Air Force's coach was asked about schemes and potential changes to his lineup or coaching staff after yet another game in which his defense was powerless to stop a conference opponent.

While he recognized that something must be fixed, he offered nothing specific.

"You have to re-evaluate every aspect of the way we operate," Calhoun said. "Absolutely."

This time it was Wyoming completing 35-of-41 passes and piling up 622 yards of total offense in a 56-23 victory. It was a virtual carbon copy of the previous game against Boise State, and the game before that against Utah State.

Calhoun's nonspecific rhetoric is clearly running thin with an Air Force fan base that largely abandoned Falcon Stadium after two more embarrassing quarters during a game that ended 4 minutes before midnight.

The players, however, still seem to buy into a system that has permitted five straight major college opponents to gain more than 500 yards of total offense, a span in which the Falcons are winless and have been outscored 231-92.

"When we do it right, we get off the field," cornerback Steffon Batts said. "When we don't, they convert."

With the exception of a few turnovers deep in Falcons territory, Air Force's defense hasn't gotten off the field in a meaningful situation since a first-quarter sack against Utah State led to a punt.

Boise State never punted and Wyoming didn't punt in the first half as it built a 42-17 lead.

"It's pure execution," safety Christian Spears said. "The effort's there, the attitude is there but when you get on the field and the plays get going and the adversity comes, you have to step up and play your role. You can't get out of the game. You can't do your own thing. I feel like we're not communicating enough on the field as a defense and all those things are getting us exposed right now."

The past three quarterbacks to face Air Force have seen their completion percentage jump to 85 percent against the Falcons versus 64 percent against opponents before and after Air Force.

That trio also ran for 281 yards.

Clearly those quarterbacks - Utah State's Chuckie Keeton, Boise State's Joe Southwick and Wyoming's Brett Smith - are quality players, but the numbers suggest they are made great by playing Air Force.

"I didn't feel like he was Peyton Manning out there or anything," Batts said of Smith.

The players were quick to point the finger at themselves as the reason for the coverage breakdowns they said resulted from poor execution. At some point the question has to be asked if a different scheme might better suit this team, perhaps leading to fewer execution issues or better masking them when they do occur.

Perhaps such a scheme or approach doesn't exist, and perhaps it's the least of the Falcons' concerns as Calhoun was left lamenting how Wyoming overwhelmed his team in the open field with its speed and physically up front.

Defensive coordinator Charlton Warren and co-defensive coordinator Steve Russ were not available, per Calhoun's media policy prohibiting assistants from giving interviews during the season.

So, once again, it's back to the drawing board for the Falcons as they prepare for a quarterback in Nevada's Cody Fajardo who possesses that same ability to undress defenses with his arm or legs.

"You just look across the board," Calhoun said. "There's an immense amount of improvement that has to be made. It's got to happen."

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