7. Coaching staff stability
Troy Calhoun is in his 11th season at Air Force, where among his achievements are nine bowl appearances in 10 years. But perhaps his greatest achievement has been to build a staff with some serious staying power.
On offense, offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen and running backs coach/special teams coordinator Ben Miller came aboard with Calhoun. Offensive line coach Steed Lobotzke is a relative newcomer in his third year — and first at that spot — but like Calhoun, Thiessen and Miller, he’s an academy grad and his experience in this coaching family dates to time spent at Ohio and Wake Forest.
On defense, Russ is in his fourth year as the sole defensive coordinator. Through that time he’s had Ron Vanderlinden (inside linebackers), Tim Cross (line), John Rudzinski (secondary) and Matt Weikert (outside linebackers) in their current roles.
Air Force’s staff (not even including 11th-year strength and conditioning coach Matt McGettigan) has logged 68 years at the academy. No staff in the Mountain West has more than 33 years together. Harbaugh and his crew have put in a total of 17 years at Michigan.
That continuity allows the Falcons to game plan and recruit with efficiency. More importantly, with everyone so in tune with their roles within the system, it allows for quick on-the-fly changes when adjustments are necessary.
It’s no accident that five come-from-behind victories have occurred during Air Force’s seven-game winning streak. Three of those involved deficits deep in the second half and another saw the Falcons score the final 42 points in a 45-21 victory over South Alabama in the Arizona Bowl.
The Falcons may not find a way to mount a monumental upset Saturday, but there’s no reason to think this staff won’t have them in position to pull it off.