Stevens: Lobos Have No Option But To Stop The Air Force Option

Oct. 17, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Football - Mountain West Conference - at Air Force Falcons

When/Where: 5 p.m. (MT) Saturday - Falcons Stadium - Colorado Springs
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB, Lobo Radio Network; ROOT Sports TV Network GameTracker, Game Story, Statistics

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

It sounds and looks simple enough whether it is coming out of the New Mexico shotgun or the Air Force Falcons' tighter offensive set.

To simplify: The triple option is dive, quarterback keeper, or pitch. But it's also a simple offense that when executed to perfection gives the attacking team an advantage in numbers.

The option's goal is to have more blockers than there are defenders. If your blockers hit their blocks - or if the defense guesses wrong - the triple option will run up and down the field.

The Lobos do it well. The Falcons do it better because it has been their root attack for years. The Falcons have won the Mountain West rushing title for 13 straight years. The Falcons have been in the top 10 nationally in rushing every year since 1986 and are No. 2 in 2012.

The Air Force triple option is simple enough to understand - tougher to stop. Coach Troy Calhoun also likes to use his option to set up big passing plays. The Falcons' first two scorers in their 28-27 win at Wyoming came off passes of 41 and 46 yards.

The Falcons go to the air for simple reasons. It stops defenses from solely concentrating on the option. It often results in a big play because it's almost impossible for a defense not to be thinking run, run, run.

At the core, the Falcons' attack is pure triple option out of a no-huddle look and executed at a speed that scout teams can't simulate. And there is that occasional, nasty, play-action pass that often finds a Falcon receiver streaking over the middle with no defenders close by.

If the Falcons occasionally stumble onto a quarterback who can run and pass, the offense goes to another level in forcing defenses to execute responsibilities at a high level. In 2012, the Falcons have a passer. Connor Dietz

Dietz could have fallen out of the mold for what Air Force wants from its quarterback. Dietz doesn't make many mistakes through the air. He threw one interception in 2011 and is 38-65-0 going into the UNM game. He hits at a 58.5 percent rate for 107.8 yards per game. Those numbers are exactly what Air Force wants from its quarterback - as long as he can run, too.

Dietz can run. He averages 5.7 yards per carry.

There is a defensive paradox here that the Falcons exploit. Their advantage in numbers out of the option requires "help" defense. If you are a defender providing that help and you guessed wrong, there probably is a hole somewhere for the Falcons to exploit.

Stopping this simple offense can be complicated. It can be even more complicated because Calhoun often adds some pro (NFL) looks that make the offense even more difficult to defend. All this stuff is being executed by smart, disciplined players, who are drilled on and off the football field to perform at a high level of efficiency.

However, the Falcons do not always have an edge in pure athleticism, speed or size. If they did, they might go undefeated every season.

This year the Falcons are 3-3 and 2-1 in Mountain play. A win over New Mexico would be an important push to becoming bowl eligible. Ditto for the 4-3 Lobos.

The Falcons have wins over Idaho State (49-21), Colorado State (42-21) and Wyoming (28-27). They lost at Michigan (31-25), at UNLV (38-35) and vs. Navy (28-21) in overtime. Air Force held a 22-13 lead, but Navy scored with 6:35 to play and ran in a two-point conversion to tie the game and push it into overtime.

When the Falcons' offense is clicking, it moves the football. Air Force had 507 total yards against Navy with 363 coming on the ground. Air Force is No. 2 in the nation in rushing with a 363-yard average per game.

The Falcons have a stud in Cody Getz, who had 204 yards rushing against Navy. Getz is No. 2 in the nation in rushing behind Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson. Getz is special. He is the first Falcon to ever open a season with five straight 100-yard games. He is also the first Falcon with three 200-yard games in a season.

He also is human. He had 218 vs. Idaho State, 222 vs. Colorado State and 204 vs. Navy. He had 41 at Wyoming and left the game with a leg injury. Still, he averages 154.7 yards per game and 7.6 yards per carry. Dietz averages 5.7 yards per carry and Ty MacArthur averages 8.9 per carry.

One Lobo objective for Saturday's game at Air Force is crystal clear: Keep Getz, Dietz and company off the field.

Air Force Notes: Air Force averages 363 yards rushing and 479.8 yards in total offense. ... The Falcons give up 190.8 yards rushing per game and 234 passing. ... Air Force has a rushing TD in 40 straight games. ... Air Force has been to a bowl game for a school-record five straight years. .. Linebacker Austin Niklas is one of the top tacklers in the Mountain West. He had 16 tackles at UNLV. .. Air Force held CSU to seven points in the second half. ... The Air Force option averaged 8.3 yards per rush vs. Idaho State and the Falcons had 626 total yards. ... Air Force ran 90 plays at Michigan, the second most in the Calhoun era (92 vs. SDSU in 2010). .. Air Force has played 20 first-time starters in 2012. ... Wyoming outgained Air Force 447 yards to 371 and the Cowboys had 252 yards rushing, eight more first downs and ran 20 more plays in in a losing effort.

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at