BYU has torched Air Force in recent seasons, averaging 41 points in five consecutive victories, dating back to 2004.
And it’s been the Cougars’ passing attack that has provided most of the burn. In the five wins, BYU passers have combined to complete 126-of-176 passes – an astounding 71.6 percent – for 1,642 yards (328.4 per game), 14 touchdowns and four interceptions.
BYU’s aerial attack is fearsome again this season. Heading into Saturday’s game with the Falcons, the Cougars rank first in the Mountain West Conference and 12th nationally with 295.6 passing yards per game.
“They’ve just got all kinds of weapons,” Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said.
Starting with senior quarterback Max Hall. The three-year starter has completed an MWC-best 69.9 percent of his passes and leads the league with 2,857 passing yards and 23 touchdown throws (against 12 interceptions). Ten players have caught 10 or more passes, led by senior tight end Dennis Pitta, who has made 46 receptions for 642 yards and five scores. And they’ve got “monsters up front,” DeRuyter said, with starting offensive linemen who all stand at least 6-foot-3 and weigh an average of 321.2 pounds.
“Max Hall and those boys, they’re really great,” Air Force junior cornerback Reggie Rembert said. “They’ll just spread the field and put seven on you real quick.”
But the potential difference in this year’s game is the Falcons have the most talented and athletic secondary they’ve had in years – cornerbacks Rembert and Anthony Wright Jr., strong safety Chris Thomas, free safety Jon Davis and nickel safety Luke Hyder. Air Force has the nation’s top-ranked pass defense (127.9 yards allowed per game) and has picked off 12 passes while allowing just four touchdown throws.
“I think their secondary has really nice athleticism, really kind of a keen sense for where the ball is going and where it fits into their scheme, and they can kind of bait one throw and then take another one away,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “And so of the years that I’ve been the head coach and even as a defensive coordinator, I think this is Air Force’s best defense, and certainly statistically it proves that out.”
DeRuyter said BYU is a bad matchup for Air Force because “they’ve got a heck of an offense.” But he conceded that “relatively speaking” the Falcons “match up better than we have in the past.”
“I think our kids are playing fast, together and we’re as athletic as we’ve been in a long time,” he said.
Next: Air Force at BYU, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS-College Sports (Comcast 170), 740 AM