Multiple decisions made by Air Force coach Troy Calhoun did not work during Saturday’s 17-14 loss at Army.
First, he opted to defer after the Falcons won the toss. He has done this throughout the season, as Air Force has yet to start on offense. But this seemed the time to avoid letting the opponent start things, considering Army’s clock-eating dominance last year.
Army took a touchback, then marched 75 yards in 21 plays, taking 12:55 off the clock and taking a 7-0 lead.
“You’re going to have to stop them,” Calhoun said. “We didn’t. That was a quality drive.”
Then, with a howling wind at Air Force’s back, Calhoun opted not to take a timeout as the clock expired on the first quarter while facing a third-and-16 play. The Falcons threw incomplete on the first play of the second quarter, into the wind. Then punted. They eventually finished the half without using two of their three timeouts.
“We did (think about it),” Calhoun said of taking a timeout. “You just, sometimes preserving time comes more into play at the end of a half. To try to hold a timeout for those situations.”
Then, Air Force opted to punt on fourth and 2 from the Army 45 in the second quarter. The Midshipmen took over on their 11 and drove 89 yards for a touchdown.
“I think especially early, just need to be firmer early in terms of being able to convert, and at that point in time just thought maybe we could get some field position in the game,” said Calhoun, who has gone for it on fourth down more than any coach in the nation this season.
Finally, with Air Force facing fourth and 3 at the Army 40 with 1:10 remaining in the game, Calhoun opted not to take one of his two remaining timeouts to set up the critical play. Sophomore quarterback Donald Hammond III was then stopped for no gain and Army ran out the clock.
Even Hammond was surprised they didn’t take a timeout.
“Yea, a little bit,” Hammond said. “But coaches know better than me. They have experience, so they know what to call in certain situations.”
Why not take the timeout?
“Because we had a good play,” Calhoun said. “I’ll say this, we had the play we wanted, that we went to and we didn’t get enough.”
Quarterback switch at halftime
Isaiah Sanders started at quarterback for Air Force and went 5-of-7 passing with for 77 yards and an interception while running five times for 21 yards.
But after a scoreless half, he was lifted for sophomore Donald Hammond III.
“Just thought he’d give us a little bit different approach and spark, which he did," Calhoun said.
Hammond went 7-of-15 passing for 120 yards while rushing nine times for 30 yards and a score. In his half, Air Force scored 14 points.
Hammond had earned the starting position over Sanders and Arion Worthman and led the Falcons to a 35-7 victory over Navy before a sprained ankle sidelined him for 2 1/2 games. He said he wasn’t surprised Sanders drew the start.
“I kind of knew all week I wasn’t,” he said. “They had me rotating with Arion with the 2s, so I didn’t feel like they were going to start me at all.
“I wasn’t necessarily surprised. Isaiah had two great games he past two weeks, so you stay with the hot hand. I wasn’t mad or anything.”
Monken understanding of emotional penalties
Army was flagged for four personal fouls in the game, including an unsportsmanlike conduct call, a personal foul and two illegal blocks.
Asked if that was something he wanted to see cleaned up, coach Jeff Monken didn’t think so.
“It was guys trying to play aggressive,” Monken said. “They were aggressive penalties. Most were chop blocks.
“It’s a heated rivalry. It’s a hated rivalry, hated. When you go out there to play you want to beat that team more than you want to beat any team that has ever played this game. There’s going to be emotion.
"You are going to get mad sometimes. What we got to do is control that from the time the ball is snapped to the time the whistle blows. It is a heated, hated rivalry and frankly there’s going to be some emotion and that’s going to happen. I hate for it to get where it becomes a distraction from the game.”