Air Force expects turnovers to come in bunches, so when fumble recoveries and interceptions are slowly trickling in, there’s some impatience.
The Falcons have two fumble recoveries and two interceptions in three games. That’s not bad, but they’re coming off a game in which they didn’t force a turnover against Oklahoma, and one big play by the defense could have made a huge difference in the result.
Last year Air Force was plus-22 in turnover margin, and scored 119 points off of 34 turnovers, so it is anxious to make some plays.
“We’re not getting enough,” defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said.
Perhaps the Falcons’ reputation is catching up to it, just a little. Air Force is plus-46 in turnover margin over Troy Calhoun’s four seasons. The Falcons had two cornerbacks, Reggie Rembert and Anthony Wright, named first-team all-Mountain West this preseason. Falcons opponents are well aware that defensive backs are going to try to jump routes, and every defender will try to rip the ball out to create a fumble.
Most of Air Force’s players and coaches didn’t buy that opponents are being more careful with the ball because the Falcons’ defensive plan relies heavily on creating turnovers, but Rembert thought perhaps there was a little something to that theory. He said he doesn’t think there have been as many passes to the outside against Air Force this year.
“I think people are, I guess, starting to know about us and throwing it in the middle of the field,” Rembert said.
Mostly, the Falcons players think the turnovers will come. Wright and Rembert have played well to this point, so there is not much concern they have just one interception between them. Air Force’s opponents have fumbled seven times but the Falcons have recovered just two, and they’re bound to recover a higher percentage if they keep forcing fumbles.
“We’ve got to continue to transfer over the drill work we do with our turnovers,” Wallerstedt said. “We’re going to continue to preach and harp on getting hats on the ball. And we’ve had some hands on some interceptions that we’ve dropped, and had the ball on the ground a couple times and haven’t come away with it. We can’t have missed opportunities.”
The Falcons have always practiced stripping the ball, and will keep keying on that the rest of the season. With a renewed desire to get more turnovers, the Falcons might be even more aggressive than usual.
“A lot of our picks and strips were because we forced the issue, and I don’t know if we’ve done a great job forcing the issue so far this year,” defensive backs coach Charlton Warren said. “We’ve got to turn that around.”