TCU coach Gary Patterson is proud that his team prepares for Air Force’s offense year round.
The Horned Frogs coach has spoken often about taking some time in spring ball, training camp and during the season to get used to the Falcons’ attack. That approach has paid off. TCU has defended Air Force better than anyone the past few years.
Boise State, which plays Air Force for the first time Saturday, has taken the opposite approach. Coach Chris Petersen said in July that he didn’t plan to prepare for Air Force’s offense before game week, and he stuck with that. He said the first time the players practiced against an option approach was Monday, and said that was the first time the players have practiced against anything like it.
“We have to do what we do,” Petersen said. “We don’t want to start from scratch and have the kids say, ‘What is this?’”
Boise State’s defense is excellent, and has a big and experienced defensive line that Air Force will likely have trouble with. Perhaps their unfamiliarity won’t be a detriment.
However, many good teams have trouble their first time against the Falcons. Last year, Oklahoma allowed 351 rushing yards to Air Force. The Sooners gave up 133.4 rushing yards per game in their other contests. This season Notre Dame allowed 565 yards to Air Force, including 363 rushing. The Irish has allowed a combined 456 rushing yards in its other five games. Notre Dame would rank 11th in the nation in rushing defense if the Air Force game was discounted. Instead, the Irish ranks 48th currently.
Air Force’s offense is unique because it has some triple-option plays, and it relies heavily on a zone-blocking scheme that takes advantage of anyone out of position. The Falcons also mix in misdirection plays with an efficient passing game. And they use many different formations.
“They have a lot of adjustments and a lot of ways of doing things,” Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild said of the Falcons. “We’ve been playing them every year for however many years so we have a little feel for that, whereas if you haven’t been playing them for as many years as we have maybe you don’t quite have a feel for how they adjust to things.”
When players have a tough time recognizing plays, they hesitate. The Falcons execute at such a high level on offense, they don’t need much of an opening.
“(TCU’s) players are accustomed to our offense,” Air Force receiver Zack Kauth said. “When you have a team that isn’t accustomed to it, I don’t want to say it’s a shock, but it makes them question what they’re doing more, and that gives us an edge.”
Petersen told the Idaho Statesman that the Broncos will see more cut blocking this week than the rest of the season combined, and he will have his players cut block in practice. Petersen hasn’t dismissed the challenge Air Force’s offense presents.
“I wish we didn’t have to play them,” Petersen said. “They’re a hard team to prepare for in all three phases.”