The first two games of quarterback Tim Jefferson’s senior season haven’t gone exactly to plan.
Air Force is 1-1, with a lopsided loss to TCU. Jefferson wasn’t to blame for the loss to the Horned Frogs, but he didn’t play well, either. He was taken out late in the third quarter and replaced by backup Connor Dietz. A forearm injury he suffered on the first series of the game was one reason he was removed, but it was performance based as well.
“Obviously there wasn’t much I was doing that was getting the job done,” Jefferson said. “Why not try somebody else? I’m perfectly fine with that. Connor is capable, as we all saw.”
Jefferson threw 15 times, completing nine for just 83 yards. In six attempts, Dietz and receiver Jonathan Warzeka, who surprised TCU on a trick play, threw for 84 yards combined. As a player and as a team, Jefferson was ready to put that game behind him.
“I’m not going to dwell on this one game,” Jefferson said. “I know TCU is a really good team. You have to swallow some pills and put it behind you and move on. We have that month of October, and if we’re dwelling on TCU we might go 0-5.”
Through two games, Jefferson has completed 13-of-24 passes for 179 yards and two interceptions. The lone touchdown, and almost one-third of his yards, came on a short pass that Mikel Hunter took 55 yards for a score against South Dakota. Jefferson was hoping to build off of last year, when he had 1,459 passing yards and 10 touchdowns (to go with 794 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns) but it has been a bit of a slow start for him. He isn’t expected to carry the team in the passing game, but he needs to be effective for Air Force to have some balance.
Jefferson was under the spotlight this year as a fourth-year starter leading a team with high hopes, but said he isn’t pressing.
“I do feel pressure to perform, but at the same time, I’m just trying to have fun,” Jefferson said. “I know this is my last season, and I don’t want it to go down as a disappointment – nobody on the team does. I know if I stress, I’m not going to play as well as I’m capable of.”
The injury Saturday didn’t help. Jefferson banged his left forearm on the first series. He took some hard hits in the third quarter, and then was removed. Falcons coach Troy Calhoun said the team was briefly concerned Jefferson might have had the same injury that knocked out Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt last year, but X-rays showed no fractures. Jefferson was back at practice Monday, but the game was a struggle. He said the injury affected him “quite a bit.”
“My left arm was ineffective, to say the least,” Jefferson said. “I tried to play through it.”
There’s no concern from the team about Jefferson, who is tied for most wins as a starting quarterback in Air Force history. After Saturday’s game, Calhoun defended Jefferson, saying both of his interceptions in the South Dakota game weren’t his fault. Jefferson’s teammates also know what kind of player he is.
“I think there’s a little pressure, but there’s pressure on all of us,” receiver Jonathan Warzeka said. “There are high expectations for us this year, and there’s going to be bumps in the road. We have to get over those bumps and keep pressing on. He’ll be fine.”