Air Force leads the nation in rushing (367.4 yards per game) and is second in time of possession (31:31). Head coach Troy Calhoun’s triple-option offense has been mostly unstoppable this season, but Wyoming had an extra week to prepare and did a pretty good job of slowing the Falcons down during the previous meeting in 2019 (held Air Force to 162 yards rushing in 20-6 loss). The Cowboys’ defensive linemen will have to consistently stop the fullback dive and match Air Force’s offensive linemen by playing with low pad level. Not getting frustrated by cut blocks will be key, as will the ability of linebackers Chad Muma and Easton Gibbs reading quarterback Haaziq Daniels. The secondary will have to prevent the Falcons’ runners from getting around the corner and be aware of the play-action. In other words, this is by far the toughest test coordinator Jay Sawvel’s defense has faced this season.
Chambers keeps winning
Sean Chambers isn’t putting up dazzling numbers, but UW only cares about one stat: The team is 13-3 (.813) when he starts at quarterback. Now the Cowboys will see if their unflappable signal-caller, who was injured in the first quarter of the 2018 game and missed the 2019 game against Air Force, can lead them to a win at Falcon Stadium. Entering the Mountain West opener, Chambers is completing 58.2% of his passes for 750 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Two of those turnovers came during UW’s 24-22 victory at UConn two weeks ago. Chambers ranks 75th nationally in passing yards per game (187.5), but that has been enough to give the Pokes, who are averaging 180.5 rushing yards, some balance.
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Chad Muma filled up the stat sheet during UW’s first three games, averaging 11 tackles with three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), a fumble recovery and a blocked field goal. But UConn was able to limit the Cowboys’ star linebacker to three tackles by running plays away from him and double-teaming him in the blocking scheme. UW will need Muma to return to his dominant form and carry out his assignments against Air Force’s triple-option attack. Logan Wilson averaged nine tackles in the previous two meetings with the Falcons and made the game-clinching interception in the Pokes’ 2018 win.
This is obviously a storyline in every game, but the team that can create a timely turnover and/or avoid the costly mistake will almost certainly win this game. Air Force and Wyoming are tied for 13th nationally in turnover margin. The Falcons are plus-five through five games, and the Pokes are plus-four through four games. Gaining an extra possession or two will be critical for the visitors. Air Force scored on all four possession and held New Mexico to 46 yards to take a 24-0 lead at halftime last week before coasting to a 38-10 victory in Albuquerque.
Air Force only officially views Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy combatants Army and Navy as rivals. The Falcons also play for a traveling trophy against Colorado State. But Wyoming’s coaches and players are passionate about this Front Range series and are desperate to get back in the win column after losing 20-6 in 2019 and having Air Force cancel last year’s game in Laramie due to COVID-19. It was the first time the teams did not play since 1979. The Falcons reportedly wanted to leave the Mountain West for the American Athletic Conference, a move that was rebuffed when Boise State, CSU and San Diego State decided to stay put for the time being and perhaps adds an extra level of spice to the rivalry for the Cowboys.