Friday, September 5, 2008

Cowboys, Falcons ready for MWC opener

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn disagrees with an official last Saturday in the 21-20 win over Ohio.

By Richard Anderson

Last year the Air Force Falcons came out of no where in Troy Calhoun’s first year to finish second in the Mountain West Conference and 9-4 overall.

At second glance, the Falcons turned out to be an experienced team, led by MWC Offensive Player of the Year Chad Hall and veteran quarterback Shaun Carney.

This season, Hall, Carney and 13 other starters are gone and Calhoun will now get his first real test as a head coach.

And a test is exactly what he expects from the Wyoming Cowboys Saturday in the MWC opener for both schools. Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m. at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

Calhoun said the biggest key for his young team Saturday is to just settle in and do what they do best.

“Sometimes you go into different environments, you can so enamored with all the exterior part of it, first and foremost, you don’t take care with what you are doing,” Calhoun said. “We’re going to have see enormous improvements from the first week to the second week.”

Some things never change at Air Force, which was previously coached by longtime mentor Fisher DeBerry. Calhoon, a former Falcon quarterback for DeBerry, fine-tuned the offense to possibly make it even more dangerous under his watch.

The Falcons, who had over 500 yards off offense in the 41-7 win over Southern Utah last week, have certainly caught Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn’s eye.

“It’s a triple option offense, but much more,” Glenn said. “They have a fly-sweep package and what we call a wheel play, where it is a zone play with the fullback or somebody blocking the backside, the defensive end, cutting him and all of the sudden come at him.

“Shea Smith certainly did a nice job of running their offense in the first game. He was their leading rusher and leading passer."

Smith, Carney’s heir apparent, had a good start of his career last week. He finished with 91 yards rushing and 8 of 12 passing for 75 yards.

“He is similar to Carney in that it is their offense,” Glenn said. “It would be hard to gauge him because Carney did it against the best of opponents. I think we all know that Southern Utah is a struggling 1-AA school. I think the jury is still out on whether Shea is as good as Carney; he’s got a ways to go there.”

Calhoun said Smith got off to a good start, but he agrees with Glenn in believing that it is too early to tell what kind of impact he will have this season.

“He was solid, he clearly he played a lot better,” Calhoun said. “It is an initial outing for him, at least in terms of being the starter.”

The Wyoming defense will also be much more of a test for the inexperienced QB.

“We’re going to face a very, very good defense this week,” Calhoun said. “I think it is an enormous credit to the players and to the staff to be a Top 25 defense, which is what they were last year. It’s quite an achievement, to say the least. We’re going to go against an excellent crew.”

The Cowboys, meanwhile, will look to improve offensively and defensively off of last week’s opening 21-20 win over Ohio. Both sides of the ball started somewhat slow but showed improvement in the game.

Sophomore Dax Crum was efficient in his debut, completing 14 of 22 passes for 111 yards and one score -- the game winning 23-yard touchdown pass to junior Donate Morgan in the fourth quarter.

The always quick Air Force defense will present a different challenge for Crum.

“Air Force blitzes quite a bit and we’ll test our quarterback to see if he can handle it,” Glenn said. “His pre-snap read is going to be critical to helping us control blitzes. Dax has worked real hard in identifying on a pre-snap read just exactly what Air Force is going to do.”

Glenn expects to stick with the running game first mentality in an attempt to build a downhill rushing attack. Seniors Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon continue to lead the way.

“It’s just more of the same," Glenn said. “We’ll make a point of trying to run the football this year and trying to get downhill in the running game, along with play-action passing. All the things we did on last Saturday, we’re going to try to build on them this Saturday.”

All-in-all, Glenn is expecting another outstanding game with the Falcons.

“We have our hands full with a very good Air Force team,” he said.

It will be another learning experience for the young Falcons as well, Calhoun added.

“For our first game, we had a bunch of guys who had taste of it. If life is about experiences and living and learning, then we need to learn quickly, especially going up to play in Laramie this weekend,” Calhoun said.

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