At halftime last Thursday night, with 31 Utah points already on the board, Air Force defensive coordinator Richard Bell issued a wakeup call. He rearranged a few schemes. He stretched his vocal cords. Most of all, he turned his defenders loose. Suddenly, Utah quarterback Brian Johnson’s time to throw evaporated. In the second half of a 38-35 loss, Air Force’s defense stopped the Utes on all but one possession. “We got some pressure on him there in the second half and that was a big factor in us being able to get them off the field,” Bell said. “If we didn’t sack him, we put him in some pressure situations where he had to release the ball quick.” Air Force is hoping to replicate that plan Saturday against Colorado State, whose quarterback, Justin Holland, is a precise enough passer to give the Falcons problems if he’s allowed time to throw. On the other hand, Holland has thrown 15 in- terceptions in nine starts over the past two seasons, a statistic that jumps out at Air Force’s defensive backs, who have just two interceptions this season. “Any good quarterback, and we’ve played a good one every single week, they can pick a defense apart if you let him have all the time he wants,” Falcon back John Taibi said. “CSU always has a great passing attack. They like wide receivers, try to isolate one-on-one coverages, do a lot of double moves on post corners. We just have to do our best in man coverage and try to get pressure if we can.” That could be easier said than done, however, considering Air Force’s defense hadn’t shown much in the pass-rush department until the second half of the Utah game. And much of the pressure in that game was provided by sophomore linebacker John Rabold, who got to Johnson by blitzing from the back side. Air Force, however, doesn’t want to rely on blitzing, especially considering the number of targets the Falcons must cover, including All-Conference receiver David Anderson, Johnny Walker and tight end Kory Sperry. Bell said Air Force has historically had to bring linebackers on the blitz to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but he saw signs in the Utah game that his defensive line can get in the backfield too. “We’re definitely going to start pursuing the ball, getting in his face, make him make bad decisions so our DBs can make some interceptions in this game,” defensive end Gilberto Perez said. “Our coaches are telling us, get to the quarterback, I don’t care how you do it.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0258 or firstname.lastname@example.org NEXT Air Force at Colorado State, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, ESPN, 740/560 AM
Colorado Springs Gazette has disabled the comments for this article.