San Diego State Aztecs (3-0) vs Air Force Falcons (1-1)
Saturday, September 23, 2017
4:00 PM PST/CBSSN TV
Falcon Stadium/Colorado Springs, Colorado
“Overconfidence precedes carelessness.”
– Toba Beta
A trap game is defined as a game played before or after a tough opponent. The Aztecs (3-0) travel to Colorado Springs to take on the Air Force Falcons (1-1) to open the 2017 Mountain West schedule.
San Diego State, is coming off of two back to back victories over Pac-12 teams, including a victory over previously #19 ranked Stanford. The Aztecs have had let downs after big wins before, as recently as last year when they lost to South Alabama after a victory at home over Cal. On the surface, this looks like every bit of a trap game, however Rocky Long and his staff say otherwise.
Rocky Long will not let this team fall into this trap and will have his team focused on what he says is “The most important game to this point.” He goes on to say, “It’s nice to be ranked, but being ranked means nothing until the end of the season.” The goal for the Aztecs this year has been to win a conference championship and that starts this week.
The last time these two faced each other was in the 2015 Sports Authority Mountain West Football Championship that the Aztecs won 27-24. San Diego State did not take a lead in that game until 14:22 to go in the fourth quarter, on a 28-yard Rashaad Penny touchdown run. The Aztecs finished with 436 total yards versus 340 for the Falcons. Air Force leads the series 19-15 overall, but the Aztecs have won six straight and 10 of the last 14.
This will be the second week in a row that the Falcons played a nationally ranked team. Air Force played at #7 Michigan (L 29-13) September 16. Michigan was heavily favored, but found themselves with a slight lead going into the fourth quarter, 19-13. The Wolverines scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth to seal the victory. The Falcons lone victory this year was a 62-0 thrashing of the Virginia Military Institute.
The Academy is 48-15 at home under head coach Troy Calhoun. The Falcons have won 18 of their last 19 at home dating back to 2014 and will be a tough match up for the Aztecs on the road. Falcon Stadium is 7,258 feet above sea level, giving them another advantage playing at home. The Falcons famed triple option offense will be led by Junior QB Arion Worthman. Worthman has completed 47.4% of his passes this year for 246 yards with an average of 12.42 yards per attempt, 3 for touchdowns. He has run for a touchdown as well and has 93 yards rushing through the first two games. The Air Force run first attack will feature 5’-9” 190lb senior running back Timothy McVey. McVey has 160 yards on the ground with one TD, averaging a hefty 7.6 yards per attempt. Long’s 3-3-5 defense will be tested but could provide fits for the Air Force blockers. Look for the Aztecs to play a few different quarter coverages. They will use movement and run blitzes up front to create confusion and bring in a safety for run support.
The Falcons are accustomed to seeing the Aztec’s rushing attack and will be focused on stopping the run game and force State to make plays in the air. Rocky Long stated, “This will be the first team our offense has faced that will play straight man coverage and blitz everybody from every direction and at different times and they have a good feel for what we do on offense…. there will be a lot of run stunts, a lot of run blitzes that will make it difficult for us to control the football.” Senior running back Rashaad Penny (5-11, 220 lbs) is leading the nation in rushing with 588 yards, with an 8.3 average and four touchdowns. He is currently number six on the Heismann Watch List and will be looking to climb up the ranks with a solid performance on the road.
San Diego State’s offensive line is young. There were a lot of questions about the line since the departure of Nico Siragusa and its youthfulness. Those questions were quickly silenced after a stellar start to the season and a lot of the team’s success can be accredited to their solid play thus far. The beauty of the Aztec offense is that they play straight up. Everyone knows that they are going to run and they challenge you to line up your best against their best and may the best team win. Penny has carried this team so far but we’ve seen gutty play from Junior quarterback Christian Chapman as well. He’s completed 67.6% of his passes for 480 yards, four TD’s with just one interception. Chapman is coming off his best performance of the season, orchestrating a fourth quarter comeback with a touchdown pass to TE David Wells with a little over a minute left to go in the game against Stanford. If the Falcons sleep on Chapman, he’ll make them regret their actions with timely passing and play action.
This game to those unaccustomed to Mountain West Football may consider this a trap game. Rocky Long, his staff and returning players know better than to take this game lightly. They won’t be overconfident. They’ll be grounded and ready to take of business. Air Force will have a lot going for them at home. The triple option, altitude and McVey will be everything the Aztecs can handle. This year, unlike years past, there’s a difference. San Diego State no longer plays second fiddle. They are football in San Diego and have provided a much-needed relief to those who still suffer from Dean Spanos’ transgressions. There is a lot on the line, including a possible campus expansion and new stadium. The community has rallied around this team and there’s an excitement in the air. The players and coaches can feel it. They won’t disappoint.