Air Force's pass rush could get boost from new ideas

September 3, 2012
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With Idaho State threatening to score first against Air Force, the Falcons dialed up a blitz off the edge.

On third down, outside linebacker Jared Jones crept up to the line of scrimmage just before the snap and timed his rush perfectly, blowing past the offensive line for a sack. After losing 8 yards on the sack, Idaho State missed a field goal. The Bengals didn’t score the rest of the first half.

The Falcons said throughout the offseason they would be more aggressive on defense, and that showed in the opener. They had two sacks against a team that mostly lines up in the shotgun and throws quick screens, and six tackles for loss. New defensive coordinator Charlton Warren seems like he will be aggressive and creative in his playcalling, which could help revitalize the Falcons’ pass rush.

“I’ve never been on a defensive unit where everyone is seriously enjoying and loving this scheme,” outside linebacker Alex Means said. “We’re having a lot of fun. We’re not blitzing all the time, but the blitzes we have are exciting to do.”

While there are plenty of factors involved in a year-to-year statistical change for a college football team, the fact is that Air Force’s sack total dipped dramatically when Matt Wallerstedt took coordinator duties from Tim DeRuyter. From 2007-09, DeRuyter’s defenses got 28, 34 and 24 sacks. Under Wallerstedt the Falcons picked up just 14 sacks in 2010 and 18 sacks in 2011.

The change to Warren might not be the simple solution to the Falcons’ pass rushing problems, but his new ideas can’t hurt.

“It worked out great,” Means said. “You saw the first half, we put a goose egg up on the scoreboard and they didn’t know what to do. We were pressuring well.”

The next step for the defense will be putting together a full 60 minutes. Against Idaho State the defense had some good moments. Coach Troy Calhoun praised the way the defense played against the run. In the first half, Idaho State didn’t score. The second half was a bit rougher, with the Falcons allowing three long touchdown drives.  

“It was a tale of two halves there,” Warren said. "The first half is what we want to be about.”  

The defense will get creative with blitzes to keep opponents guessing, but it has to be fundamentally sound. The Falcons let Idaho State quarterback Kevin Yost get out of the pocket and scramble around to make some plays last week. This week Air Force plays at Michigan, which has a sensational and mobile quarterback in Denard Robinson – who will make the Falcons pay if they can’t contain him.

“If we do that against Denard Robinson, he’ll be going down the sideline for 40 yards,” Means said.

Contact Frank Schwab: 476-4891

Twitter @GazetteAirForce

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