Previously: Air Force Offense
LB Grant Ross is Air Force's only returning defensive starter.
Under Troy Calhoun and defensive coordinator Steve Russ, Air Force has devised a defense intended to turn opponents into the polar opposite of Air Force. The Falcon offense, as covered yesterday, is designed to be as efficient as possible, moving the ball in chunks on the ground with only the occasional big-play attempt through the air.
To complement that offense, AF fields a hyper-aggressive defense hell-bent on stopping the run, generating sacks and turnovers, and forcing the offense to rely on big passing plays while under heavy duress.
This makes for some crazy numbers. The Falcons had the #9 rush defense and #99 pass defense by S&P+ last year. They ranked 26th in success rate (a measure of efficiency) and 124th in isoPPP (a measure of explosive plays). They were 15th in preventing plays of 10+ yards (152) and 119th in preventing plays of 20+ yards (76).
I revisited last year's game against Boise State for this post, and BSU's drive chart is a good demonstration of what can happen when this defense is clicking. After BSU broke a big run on their opening drive to set up a short touchdown, AF loaded up the box, brought a ton of heat, and knocked the Broncos off schedule. Their drives:
- 2 plays, 60 yards (56 on one run), touchdown
- 6 plays, 20 yards, punt
- 3 plays, 2 yards, punt
- 3 plays, 5 yards, punt
- 3 plays, 0 yards, punt (blocked for AF TD)
- 4 plays, 10 yards, punt
- 8 plays, 59 yards (43 on one pass), field goal
- 3 plays, 6 yards, punt
- 11 plays, 78 yards (57 on one pass), field goal
- 3 plays, -4 yards, punt
- 1 play, 75-yard touchdown pass
- 6 plays, 89 yards (passes of 39 and 47 yards), fumble on 4th-and-goal
Air Force successfully made Boise State into a big-play-or-bust outfit, and while it got a little hairy at the end, it resulted in a 27-20 upset win.
Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
Yes, that's one returning starter. There's a reason this post focuses entirely on scheme. Since I watched a game from last season and Air Force's week one opponent this year was a very overmatched VMI squad, we didn't hand out any stars or sore spots.
Base Set? Air Force lists themselves as a 3-4 but this is really a 3-3-5, what with the 263-pound nose tackle and 205-pound outside linebacker. They make up for their lack of size by loading the box with eight or nine guys on most snaps:
That's a safety lined up two yards off the LOS to the top of the screen and the free safety is creeping within seven yards at the snap even though he's responsible for the deep middle.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]