Game Recap: Air Force Falcons 35, BYU Cougars 14

The Brigham Young Cougars came out strong to lead 14-7 after one period of play. Then the wheels came off. Air Force tied the game at 14 early in the second quarter. A Riley Nelson fumble and a Jake Heaps interception on back-to-back possessions in the middle of the second quarter gave Air Force all the momentum. Before these two turnovers, BYU had 216 yards of total offense. The Cougars only gained 93 yards in the last 35 minutes of play.

The ineffectiveness of the offense and poor punting in the second half is to blame for the loss. The defense didn't play a perfect game and has to improve, but they did make Air Force punt to start the second half and then intercepted a pass on Air Force's next possession. If the offense had scored on either of its first two possessions of the second half, then this would have been a different game. When Riley Stephenson shanked two consecutive punts (1 yard and 12 yards) to start the fourth quarter, BYU was officially out of the game.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Shane Hunter's interception with 7:25 to play in the 3rd quarter.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: J.J. Di Luigi, 7 rushes, 103 yards, 1 TD; 3 receptions, 25 yards

As for what I was watching for, here is what I saw:

  1. What surprises will Air Force have? Air Force did use some different formations to run its traditional option offense, which could explain some of the Falcons' success. Other than that, Air Force did not do anything out of the ordinary.
  2. Are BYU's young tight ends ready? No. They were pretty much nonexistent. Mike Muehlmann had the only reception for this position for 13 yards.
  3. Will the quarterback rotation be any different? After rotating Nelson and Heaps every series in the first half, Nelson took all the snaps in the second half. That was a bad coaching decision. Nelson was just as much to blame for the offense slowing down in the second quarter. Then, even after Nelson was completely ineffective to start the second half, Heaps didn't get another opportunity to do something. This disruption to the quarterback rotation might have made the situtation worse. When the coaches decided that something different had to be done with the quarterbacks, that sent a message to the players that something is wrong and BYU was going to have to do something unusual to win.
  4. Will the wide receivers have a breakout game? No. The passing game was atrocious. The wide outs only had 4 of the 10 receptions for 45 of the team's 88 passing yards. When BYU was making one final push for a comeback, O'Neill Chambers dropped a pass in the end zone.
  5. Will BYU avoid injuries? Several players were shaken up during the game: McKay Jacobson, Andrew Rich, Steven Thomas, Romney Fuga, and Matt Reynolds. They all appear to be fine, but linebacker Brandon Ogletree did not. He spent the second half on the sideline in his warm ups. No word yet on whether he will be back next week.

Here are some other things I saw:

  • BYU needs a pass game. As if history hasn't made it clear enough, today's game should. Even with a 100 yard rusher and a quarterback gaining 95 yards on the ground, BYU only scored 14 points. Turnovers did have something to do with it, but BYU could have overcome those turnovers if the passing game was the offensive focus. BYU only had 3 yards passing in the second quarter and 4 yards in the third quarter. That is not acceptable at Quarterback U.
  • Di Luigi's fumble at the goal line hurt, but it was not crippling. BYU came back with a touchdown on its next drive, but it was the other two turnovers that really did BYU in. It is impossible to say how a 21-7 first quarter lead would have changed the game. Assuming that BYU still self destructs in the second quarter, the 7 extra points would not have made much of a difference.
  • Wind was a factor in the kicking game. During the Las Vegas bowl last year, Riley Stephenson was able to effectively punt into the wind. Why not today? With the wind in his face during the fourth quarter, Stephenson recorded 13 yards total on TWO punts.
NEXT: at Florida State
DATE: September 18, 2010
TIME: 1:30 PM (MDT)