The Owls were thrashed by No. 7 Oklahoma this past weekend, giving up 63 points with 42 of those coming in the first half.
Kiffin’s team gets its first opportunity to get back on track with a home-opening matchup against Air Force. While it will be a challenge to completely wipe the stain of last week’s showing, a convincing win back in familiar territory will certainly move the Owls in the right direction.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun’s job is to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Calhoun’s team won only five games in 2017 but began this season with a bang, decimating Stony Brook 38-0.
FAU and Air Force come into this game with two polar opposite starts to the season. How they perform on Saturday will hint at whether Week One was indicative of what’s to come or rather, an aberration.
THE FILE : FAU (0-1, 0-0) vs. Air Force (1-0, 0-0 MW)
AIR FORCE OFFENSE
Kiffin said his team’s biggest problem against Oklahoma was tackling. And Air Force plays a style that will put the Owls’ tackling to the test. The Falcons want to control the clock and pound the football on the ground, running an effective option attack led by quarterback Arion Worthman. They scored at a prolific rate last season despite not having much of a big play threat in their offense, putting up over 30 points a game. Air Force’s offensive unit looks strong once again, doubling Stony Brook in time of possession and picking up four rushing touchdowns in its season opener. The Falcons also spread the ball around, having 14 players credited with at least one carry last weekend.
Offensive Players to Watch:
- 2 Arion Worthman, Sr, QB: He isn’t much of a passer – completing only 50.6 percent of his career attempts – but is dynamic on the ground and executes the Falcons’ option offense to a tee. The 5-foot-11 signal caller was his team’s leading rusher a season ago and looked as electric as ever in the 2018 opener, where he used his legs to pick up 66 yards and a score.
- 34 Cole Fagan, Jr, FB: Fagan is set for a massive uptick in playing time this season after serving as standout Tim McVey’s backup in 2017. He more than tripled his carry total of last season (5) in the Stony Brook game alone, where he toted the ball 18 times for 67 yards and his first career touchdown.
- 28 Joseph Saucier, Jr, RB: Despite being in his third collegiate season, Saucier came into 2018 having never recorded a carry as a Falcon. He more than made up for lost time with an impressive Week One performance. Saucier was his team’s most productive rusher against Stony Brook, gaining 71 yards on an efficient 10 carries. His best play of the game was a 31-yard run where he received a pitch to the right sideline, found daylight down field and embarrassed a would-be tackler with a fake to the inside before getting tripped up.
AIR FORCE DEFENSE
The Air Force defense was one of the country’s worst last season – ranking No. 101 of 130 FBS teams – but turned in a surprise shut out performance in its season opener against FCS opponent Stony Brook. The Falcons run a 3-4 defense, and enter 2018 returning most of their starters from last season. The only major changes on the unit are at inside linebacker, where longtime contributors Grant Ross and Jack Flor have exhausted eligibility. The Falcons suffocated Stony Brook defensively in Week One, holding the Seawolves to only 75 yards of total offense.
Defensive Players to Watch:
- 40 Kyle Johnson, Jr, ILB: Stepping up in absence of the aforementioned Ross and Flor, Johnson had a great debut as a new Falcon’s new full-time starter at inside linebacker. He took an interception to the house in the first quarter against Stony Brook, scoring the Falcons’ first defensive touchdown of the year.
- 22 Garrett Kauppila, Sr, DB: He missed most of the 2017 season with an injury but showed no signs of rust against Stony Brook in his first game back. The rangy safety led his team in both pass breakups (2) and tackles (6) on the afternoon.
- 8 Lakota Wills, So, OLB: Wills made an impact as a freshman last season – rare for an Air Force team that tends to lean on veterans over young players – picking up 47 tackles, with six coming for a loss, A key building block for the Falcons’ defense, he added five tackles and a sack in his team’s crushing victory over Stony Brook.