The Air Force offense is fixed. Mostly.
There were myriad issues Saturday night, and certainly some nitpicking can be done on the offensive side, but the Falcons' offense that had been iffy through the first two games answered any lingering questions about its capabilities against Utah State.
“We can score points,” quarterback Haaziq Daniels said after a 49-45 loss to Utah State at Falcon Stadium. “We can play a lot more efficient than we probably showed last week (against Navy). That was a good thing. There were some really good things that we did well. The o-line did a really good job. Everybody did a good job. We’ve just got to fix our mistakes.”
The offense put up the ninth-most yards (619) against an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision opponent in school history and its most since going for 623 against New Mexico in 2018.
Air Force didn’t reach 500 total yards in a game last year and the high-powered 2019 team, led by quarterback Donald Hammond, receiver Geraud Sanders and tailback Kade Remsberg, topped out at 540.
Granted, added possessions because of Utah State’s quick-strike offense aided the effort, but Air Force’s offense was historically good and looked vastly improved from the team that was slow to put away Football Championship Subdivision opponent Lafayette in the opener and punted seven times while putting up 225 yards against Navy.
On Saturday night Daniels displayed his talents more effectively than he had in his eight previous starts. His 182 passing yards (on 6 of 12 completions) were a career high. His 95 rushing yards (with a touchdown and 7.3 yards per attempt) were 1 yard short of a career best. He hit tight end Kyle Patterson for a 59-yard gain while facing pressure and facing the wind, he completed passes in obvious passing situations and he showed his speed when he slipped to the edge. His numbers would have been a bit better had it not been for a drop on a perfectly placed pass to Patterson, too.
But there were miscues on Daniels’ part. His errant pitch (ruled an incomplete forward pass) inside the 5-yard line forced the Falcons to settle for a field goal in the first quarter. His interception at the goal line thwarted another chance for points. He threw long to a wide-open David Cormier, and he fumbled in the waning moments of the game, ending Air Force’s last chance at a comeback.
“There were a lot of mistakes I shouldn’t have made, as experienced as I am,” Daniels said.
But the problem wasn’t the offense, or at least it certainly wasn’t solely on that side. Only twice — vs. Navy in 2017 and Wyoming in 1988 — has Air Force scored 45 or more points and failed to win.
Air Force’s defense was historically bad Saturday. Utah State’s 628 total yards were the eighth most given up by the Falcons in history.
But, again, looking solely at the offense, things are looking up. The fullbacks combined for 246 yards, which speaks to the play for the new offensive line. Micah Davis continues to look like a budding star. He gained 142 yards from scrimmage on 11 touches and scored two touchdowns.
“I think we can, first, look at the positives,” said fullback Emmanuel Michel, whose breakout night included 133 rushing yards and two touchdowns. “I think our offense is starting to roll. We looked very, very good tonight in comparison to the first game. But there are a lot of corrections to make on our mistakes tonight.”