Game Guide: The Edge

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

Quarterback

The Utes took a huge blow during the Oregon State game when starting quarterback Brian Johnson went down with an injury. Backup Tommy Grady isn’t quite as accurate and definitely isn’t as mobile. The Falcons’ quarterback situation, on the other hand, is better than it has been in a long time. Senior Shaun Carney returns for his fourth year at starting quarterback and is expected to eclipse most school passing records this season. New head coach, Troy Calhoun, has made it clear that he plans on passing the ball more this year.

Edge: Air Force

Running back

After the loss of highly-touted junior running back Matt Asiata, the Utes will probably have trouble establishing a running game. Junior Ray Stowers looked strong throughout fall camp and is expected to start, but may not be enough for a tough Falcon front seven. For Air Force, senior running back Kip McCarthy seems to be a good fit for the new offense, rushing the ball 22 times for 129 yards against South Carolina State last week. McCarthy also showed he has breakout potential, recording a 50-yard run against the Bulldogs.

Edge: Air Force

Wide receivers

Going into this season, Utah’s wide receiving corps was viewed as the team’s strong suit. But with Johnson injured, that unit may be relegated to obscurity. On the other side, the Falcons moved the nimble Chad Hall from running back to wide receiver to give the offense a threat on the outside.

Perhaps the biggest receiving threat on the Air Force offense though is tight end Travis Dekker. Last week, the sure-handed Dekker caught three balls for 64 yards and a touchdown.

Edge: Utah

Offensive Line

The Falcons’ offensive line put together an impressive opening performance against South Carolina State a week ago, allowing the offense to amass 455 total yards on their way to a 34-3 win. They only retained one starter from a year ago. On the other side, Utah returned three starters but had a disappointing opener. The Utes’ offensive line allowed five sacks and Utah as a whole recorded merely 196 total yards.

Edge: Even

Defensive Line

After being ravaged by Oregon State’s Yvenson Bernard a week ago, the Utes’ front four are chomping at the bit for redemption. Senior defensive end Martail Burnett was the only Ute who managed to record a sack against the Beavers. The Falcons are returning merely one starter on the line, but have loads of talent. In their season opener against the Bulldogs, Air Force recorded six sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. Junior Jake Paulson nabbed one and a half sacks to lead the Falcons’ front four.

Edge: Utah

Linebackers

The Falcons return one of the best linebackers in the Mountain West Conference this season in senior Drew Fowler. As a junior, Fowler recorded 123 tackles to lead the conference and rank 11th in the nation. Besides Fowler, the Falcons also start a pair of seniors in John Rabold and Austin Randle. For the Utes, the senior trio of Joe Jiannoni, Kyle Brady and Malakai Mokofisi recorded a combined 12.5 tackles last week.

Edge: Even

Secondary

Although it was playing against a run-happy offense a week ago, the Utes’ secondary showed flashes of greatness. Sophomore cornerback Sean Smith recorded two interceptions but was also beaten deep. As a whole, the Utes held OSU to merely 129 yards through the air. As for the Falcons, senior cornerback Carson Bird recorded an interception last week and Air Force only allowed 90 passing yards.

Edge: Utah

Special Teams

“Sweet” Louie Sakoda made quite a reputation for himself a year ago with his booming punts and accurate kicks. The junior continued booming punts in the season opener, averaging 41.6 yards per kick and landing five of them inside the 20. However, Sakoda’s only field goal attempt of the game, a 45-yarder, fell well short of the goalpost. Like Sakoda, the Falcons’ Ryan Harrison handles both the kicking and punting duties for his team. Against the Bulldogs, Harrison converted on field goal attempts of 48 and 22 yards and also averaged 48.0 yards per punt.

Edge: Even

Coaching

Utah’s coaching staff has its work cut out for it this week in trying to work the offense through backup quarterback Tommy Grady. With him at the helm against Oregon State, the Utes only amassed 73 total yards. On the other side, the Falcons’ first-year head coach Troy Calhoun faces his first real challenge in the Utes. He showed what the Falcons are capable of against a lesser team in South Carolina State, beating the Bulldogs 34-3. Now he has to show that his shiny new offense can stand up against a solid defense.

Edge: Airforce