Air Force vs Michigan State: Getting to know the Falcons


Michigan State has had one of the top run-stopping defenses in the nation over the past few seasons, and that hasn’t changed for 2015. The Spartans allow just 70 yards per game on the ground, good for 14th in the nation through two games.

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As for Air Force (2-0), it will test Michigan State heavily with its ground attack as the Falcons average the second-most rush yards per game with 411. Air Force has also added 10 of its 12 offensive touchdowns via the ground game.

Let’s take a look at the offense, defense and special teams to try and get to know the Spartans’ week three opponent.


As you know already, the Falcons are a run-first team that have passed the ball just 18 times this year with junior quarterback Nate Romine, and completed just seven of those for 143 yards.

Luckily, the Spartans’ secondary won’t have to worry about stopping the deep ball since Air Force doesn’t like to pass much, especially since Romine is out with injury and Karson Roberts will be getting his first career start under center.

If Romine does pass at all, which could be limited to about five attempts given MSU’s stingy defense, look for Jalen Robinette to be the main weapon. He finished as an All-Mountain West type of player last year with 43 catches for 806 yards and four scores.

Aug 30, 2014; Colorado Springs, CO, USA; Air Force Falcons running back Jacobi Owens (28) rushes in the first quarter against the Nicholls State Colonels at Falcon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Now, on to the run game. Air Force likes the ground and pound game more than any team in the nation, maybe outside of Georgia Tech. The Falcons will wear down opposing defenses with their many offensive sets dedicated to different, deceptive run plays.

Right now, 15 different players have recorded a carry for the Falcons, and four have over 100 yards so far on the season. Jacobi Owens is the top returning rusher from last year and he is second on the team with 121 yards on 20 carries. D.J. Johnson currently leads the pack with 32 carries for 185 yards and four touchdowns.

Don’t sleep on wide receiver Garrett Brown (seven carries, 117 yards, TD) or Romine (22 rushes, 111 yards, TD), either, as both can attack on the ground game as well.

Oh yeah, and the Falcons, like the Spartans, have yet to allow a sack this year.


There’s not much to say about this defense compared to the offensive side of the ball. Air Force returns just four starters from last season’s 10-3 squad and the Falcons have been lightly-tested against Morgan State and San Jose State through two weeks, respectively.

However, Air Force ranks 13th in the country in terms of total yards allowed per game (242.5 yards) while the run defense ranks 29th.

Last year, the Falcons’ rush defense finished a solid 28th in the nation while the secondary struggled, ranking 102nd in terms of passing yards allowed per game. It’s early, but those numbers could be headed for more of the same.

Air Force hasn’t faced an offense quite like Michigan State’s over the past two years, so this one could get ugly as Connor Cook will take advantage of an unproven secondary and the Spartans’ two stud running backs could have a field day as well.

Special Teams

Sep 12, 2015; Colorado Springs, CO, USA; Air Force Falcons wide receiver Tyler Williams (12) runs the ball in the second quarter against the San Jose State Spartans at Falcon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This has been a weak spot for Michigan State all year long. The Spartans have allowed punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns through two weeks and have given up big returns even when scores aren’t allowed.

Fortunately for the Spartans, the Falcons hadn’t returned a kickoff or punt for a touchdown since 2009, but Garrett Brown took a Morgan State punt 75 yards to the house in week one to end that drought.

Tyler Williams is talented enough to return as well, but the Spartans have likely practiced kick and punt coverage (we hope) all week long.

Air Force also lost its starting punter and kicker from a season ago, Will Conant did both, but Brett Dunn averages a solid net average of just over 40 yards per punt.

As for senior kicker Drew Oehrle, he has already shanked an extra points, 11-for-12 on the year, as well as making 1-of-2 field goals — missing his only one from 50-plus yards.

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