Wyoming Boise St Football

Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir, left, runs with the ball as Wyoming linebacker Logan Wilson (30) dives to attempt to make the tackle during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won 20-17. (AP Photo/Steve Conner)

A magic number has existed this year for Air Force.

When the Falcons average more than 5.5 yards per play on offense, they are 8-0 and have outscored opponents by an average of 22 points per game.

When they’ve averaged fewer than 5.5, they are 1-2 and have been outscored by 5.3 per game.

Naturally, given Air Force’s ground-based offense, the running game has factored heavily in those numbers. In those eight dominant games, the Falcons have averaged 5.6 yards per carry. In the other three — against Boise State, Navy and Army — they’ve averaged 4.5.

Again, 5.5 emerges as the magic number for the Falcons (9-2, 6-1 Mountain West).

“It starts with us up front,” said Air Force senior tackle Scott Hattok. “It always has, always will. If we can’t get our job done, we’re going to struggle in the backfield. So if we can stay on our game, make sure we’re assignment sound and ready to come off the ball, then we can get the ball moving and we’ll be successful. We know that. It’s our job to get the ball moving, and we take pride in that.”

Wyoming will have some say in that when the teams meet at noon Saturday at Falcon Stadium.

The Cowboys (7-4, 4-3) rank seventh in the nation in rushing defense, making them the stingiest unit the Falcons will play this year. Wyoming has limited opponents to 2.69 yards per carry and 93.7 yards per game this season.

“They’ve been really, really good,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said.

The group is led by linebacker Logan Wilson, who on Tuesday was named one of six finalists for the Butkus Award.

Complicating issues for Air Force is an injury last week to fullback Timothy (Duval) Jackson, who ranks second on the team with 745 rushing yards and leads the fullbacks with 6.1 yards per carry. In the five games this season when Air Force has posted its lowest yards per carry, Jackson has averaged six carries. In its top five games, he has averaged 18.4 carries.

He had just one carry at New Mexico before exiting with the undisclosed injury, with senior Taven Birdow picking up the slack with 110 rushing yards. But the team still averaged just 4.73 yards per carry, its third-lowest mark of the season. The passing game rendered that moot with four long touchdowns.

Birdow said the fullbacks are fully aware of their role in making the offense go.

“That’s the foundation of what we do,” he said.

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