November 23, 2009
Air Force’s regular season is complete, and grades are in.
Air Force’s attack was more balanced and better in the final third of the regular season, scoring 17 touchdowns in the last four games after accounting for just four in the five games prior.
But for the season the offense was sub-par. It went 10-plus quarters – including two full games – without scoring a touchdown, and in the Falcons’ five losses it produced just seven touchdowns.
Air Force clearly was at its best offensively with a healthy Tim Jefferson under center.
The meltdown at BYU is all that keeps this grade from being an A-plus.
The Falcons allowed just 15.3 points per game – the fewest since 1998 (13.3) and third-fewest since 1986 – and came up with 28 turnovers. Perhaps even more impressive, opponents averaged just 284.4 yards in 12 games. That’s Air Force’s best mark since – get this – 1966.
Special Teams: B-plus.
Not only did the Falcons average 43.0 yards per punt and make 20 of 27 field goals, their return and coverage units were solid.
Heading into this week’s games, the Falcons rank 21st and 43rd in the nation in punt returns (13.3-yard average) and kickoff returns (22.7), respectively, and 40th and 23rd in punt return yardage defense (7.2) and kickoff return yardage defense (19.6), respectively.
Offensive MVP: FB Jared Tew.
Junior receiver Kevin Fogler led the Falcons in receptions (21), receiving yards (478), yards per catch (22.8) and touchdown catches (five).
But while Fogler made bigger splash plays, Tew was the every-down workhorse for a blue collar attack. He picked up team-highs of 797 yards and seven touchdowns on a whopping 212 carries – 28.5 percent of Air Force’s total rushes.
Defensive MVP: NG Ben Garland.
Candidates galore for this award, including sophomore cornerback Anthony Wright Jr. (team-high four interceptions) and senior inside linebacker John Falgout (team-high 96 tackles).
But Garland, who ate up space and blockers and still managed to make a team-high 10.5 tackles for losses, was the key to the defense’s performance.
Special Teams MVP: P Brandon Geyer.
Steady as a holder and a field position-altering force as a punter. Geyer ranks 28th in the country in punting (43.0 yards per punt), and 17 of his 48 punts pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line.
Top Newcomer: K Erik Soderberg.
Technically a newcomer because he spent almost all of last season on the junior varsity, the sophomore had the unenviable task of replacing standout Ryan Harrison, who made a school season-record 24 field goals last season. But Soderberg, third on the depth chart heading into the preseason, made 20, the second-most in a season at the academy, including clutch kicks to force overtime at Navy and Utah.