Preview: FAU welcomes Air Force to town for a rare trip to the Sunshine State

Air Force (1-0) takes on FAU (0-1) on Saturday afternoon, the first meeting between a pair of programs that started their seasons in distinctly different ways last weekend.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — The land that now is Florida Atlantic’s campus sits on used to be an Army Air Field, one that was especially bustling as a radar training center during World War II.

And now, Air Force is coming for a visit.

For the first time in a half-century, the Falcons are headed to the Sunshine State. Air Force (1-0) takes on FAU (0-1) on Saturday afternoon, the first meeting between a pair of programs that started their seasons in distinctly different ways last weekend. Air Force shut out Stony Brook 38-0, while FAU was routed by Oklahoma 63-14.

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun isn’t reading much into that, noting that the Owls shook off a 1-3 start last season and won their final 10 games.

“In October, November and December there wasn’t a hotter team in football,” Calhoun said. “Just how explosive they were offensively, just when it comes to the way they play defense, to have that number of starters back on defense too, great, great, open-field, I mean big-time playmaking availability … usually that’s a pretty good indicator.”

When it comes to FAU’s best offensive player, running back Devin Singletary, Calhoun offered quite the comparison as to who the player that the Owls call “Motor” matches up with in his estimation.

“Quite frankly, Marshall Faulk, as far as guys we’ve encountered,” Calhoun said.

That’s high praise, but FAU is offering its own version of admiration for the Falcons as well.

The Owls revealed that they spent part of their preseason camp to get ready for Week 2 and the triple-option attack that Air Force — as well as fellow service academies Army and Navy — utilize so effectively, especially because very few opposing defenses see it enough to get fully comfortable about what’s coming.

“When you see a triple-option team on your schedule, you’re always like, ‘oh, gosh,'” FAU defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro said. “Anytime you face a triple-option offense you’re going to have to be really good at beating blocks and tackling and getting off the field. I think it’s crazy — you go from one style of offense in Oklahoma, fast-paced, run-and-gun, to Air Force and one of the biggest rushing offenses in the country. We’ve got our hands full for sure.”

Last week in the win over Stony Brook, the Falcons ran 85 plays, 77 of them being rushes. They also held the ball for two-thirds of the 60 minutes of play.

Navy beat FAU last year with the same sort of rushing scheme that Air Force uses, and that has Owls coach Lane Kiffin’s attention.

“They are very similar,” Kiffin said.

Some things to look for when FAU hosts Air Force:

HOME COOKING

FAU won its final seven home games last season, including the Conference USA title game and the Boca Raton Bowl. And there’s a bit of a difference in elevation between Boca Raton, Florida and Colorado Springs, Colorado; Air Force plays its home games about 7,000 feet above sea level, FAU is basically at sea level.

THE SERIES

FAU is scheduled to complete the home-and-home series at Air Force on Sept. 11, 2021 — which will be exactly 20 years to the day since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

FALCONS IN FLORIDA

Air Force has played in the state of Florida three times before — a 23-20 loss against Florida at Tampa in 1968, a 35-0 defeat to North Carolina in the 1963 Gator Bowl at Jacksonville, and a 23-14 loss at Miami to close the 1960 season.

DOMINANT DEFENSE

Air Force not only churned its way to 333 rushing yards last week, but held Stony Brook to 30 yards on 30 rushing attempts. FAU allowed Oklahoma to gain 316 yards on the ground and a staggering 650 yards in all.

TURNOVER WATCH

FAU knows it must take care of the football every week, and this week in particular. Because the Falcons’ rushing attack often leads to lopsided Air Force edges in time of possession, opponents simply can’t give the ball away too often. Air Force is 16-1 since 2014 when registering at least two takeaways.