Air Force QB Awini a special talent

by DAVID RAMSEY david.ramsey@gazette.com Updated: September 13, 2013 at 11:24 pm • Published: September 13, 2013 | 11:15 pm 0

BOISE - Quarterback Jaleel Awini had just departed a somber Air Force locker room when he uttered what must be the motto for his stumbling football team.

"You've got to have a short memory," he said.

Awini and his Air Force teammates had just suffered through their second beatdown in six days.

This time, the Falcons were stomped by Boise State, 42-20, on a rainy Friday night in Potatoland. It wasn't as bad as the 52-20 throttling by Utah State Sept. 7, but it was extremely close.

But Awini offers hope to his tattered football team. First time I watched Awini throwing fastball passes in practice, I could see he walks through his football life as a different kind of Air Force quarterback.

He could easily play in a pro-style, pass-happy offense elsewhere.

While competing on Boise's hideous blue carpet, Awini showed he possesses the requirements to thrive in Air Force's run-obsessed offense. He ran with elusiveness, courage, speed and toughness on his way to 109 yards.

Awini offers a reason to believe in the future. He's a sophomore with several dozen games remaining in his career.

If he and his teammates can forget their horror shows against Utah State and Boise, this season can still be revived.

Awini should plan to put 35 points on the scoreboard Sept. 21 when the Falcons play Wyoming in a late-night game at Falcon Stadium. Awini and his offensive comrades will need at least 35 if they plan to win.

The Falcons allowed 521 yards, continuing their defensive struggles. In Air Force's last four games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, once known more simply as Division I, the Falcons have allowed 2,204 yards (551 per game) and 175 points.

"Every time they had the ball, they had a drive," coach Troy Calhoun said, accurately, of Boise State's offense.

With Awini at the helm, 35 points against Wyoming is not out of reach. His receivers must quit dropping passes and he must learn to distribute the football with the imagination of a point guard.

He still struggles with the intricacies of the Falcons option attack. It's Awini's job to draw defenders to him and then toss the ball to halfbacks Jon Lee and Anthony LaCoste.

Both of the halfbacks are speedy enough to race to big gains.

Lee and LaCoste crawled to a 27 yards on seven carries against Boise. Awini must distribute the ball with more imagination and authority.

"I do need to pitch it a little bit more," Awini said. "It's tough. . I have to get better on that."

His receivers have to get better, too. Against Utah State, Awini watched a wide array of his pass catchers fail to, well, catch passes. The trend continued in Boise.

"We just got to look them in," said receiver Sam Gagliano, who beat Boise State's defense deep for a 53-yard gain but also suffered a crucial drop.

The Falcons still had a slight chance midway through the fourth quarter. They trailed 35-20 when Awini dropped back and saw Gagliano in the secondary. Awini hurried his throw.

The pass arrived in the arms of Boise defensive back Darian Thompson, ending the Falcons hopes. Awini trotted to the sideline. It was time, he knew, to erase his memory and look forward.

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Twitter: @davidramz

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