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2021 First Responder Bowl What To Watch For: Air Force Falcons

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NCAA Football: Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

LOUISVILLE HAS TO BRING THEIR BIG PLAY OFFENSE

UofL has better athletes than Air Force. That’s obvious and there’s no need to pretend that’s not the case. What Air Force has that UofL doesn’t is athletes that execute at a high level. They rarely make mistakes and they do a really good job of making plays when they present themselves. But UofL has to take advantage of its athletic edge.

The Falcons have given up more big plays than most teams in the country and from what I’ve watched, a lot of those plays are just the other team running past the defense. The plays should be there for Louisville and they have to make them when Air Force gives them the opportunity. That includes deep throws and the running backs breaking big runs when they get into the open field.

LOUISVILLE ALSO HAS TO CONTROL THE BALL

While the Cards need to hit the big plays, they can’t fall into the trap of only hitting big plays. Air Force will control the football in this game and UofL has to counter that by extending drives and keeping their defense off the field. The Cards have been abysmal on third downs this year but they have to find a way to remedy that in this game.

I would expect to see a lot of designed runs by Malik Cunningham to stretch out the defense as well as to get him going a bit. They need him to make plays in this game and that will be especially important on third downs. If they can create some long scoring drives, it will go a long way to help the defense and to force the Falcons to adjust on offense.

AIR FORCE WILL THROW THE BALL MORE THAN EXPECTED

Air Force won their last game of the season without throwing a pass. They beat a very bad UNLV team by 30 points and they didn’t even attempt to mask what they were doing on offense. They’ve also run the ball a total of 152 times over their last two games. When you’re good at something, why change.

With all that being said, I think Air Force will look to air it out a bit in this game. The Falcons got into long third downs in some of their other games this year and when they did, they look to throw the ball. The Falcons will also likely expect UofL to score and they know they have to put points on the board. The Falcons can throw the ball pretty well because they tend to have receivers open with the defense expecting the run. While they aren’t consistently good at throwing the ball, they could catch the Cards off guard with a few deep balls.

DON’T GET BLOWN OUT

I actually had this one in for the UK game but didn’t write it because I felt pretty confident UofL would win the game. But UofL has had some embarrassing losses over the last few years and at some point, they have to stop them from happening.

The Cards are the favorite in this game and unless they have some injury or Covid issues that we don’t know about, they should be the more talented team on the field. S they absolutely can’t get blown out if they lose this game. A close loss won’t make anyone happy but losses happen in this sport, especially in bowl games. This program needs something positive to latch onto and a big negative would go over like sour milk. Going into year four of the Scott Satterfield era, being unprepared for a game on both sides of the ball can’t continue to happen.