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2014 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Preview

Air Force (9-3, 5-3 Mountain West) vs. Western Michigan (8-4, 6-2 MAC)

Date: Saturday, December 20
Time: 5:45 p.m. (EST)
Location: Boise, ID
Stadium: Albertsons Stadium (36,387)
Television: ESPN
Series Record: First meeting

This match-up features two programs that made enormous turnarounds from last season, as these schools won a combined three games in 2013.

Air Force, which suffered a dismal 2-10 year in ’13—easily the worst in Troy Calhoun’s eight-year run as head coach, won nine games for the first time since 2010 and captured victories over Boise State and Colorado State.

Meanwhile, after P.J. Fleck managed just one victory in his debut at Western Michigan, the Broncos won eight games this year and challenged Northern Illinois and Toledo in the MAC’s West division.

Senior quarterback Kale Pearson leads the Falcons’ triple option attack that produces more than 30 points and nearly 430 yards per contest—including 275 on the ground. Pearson, who stands 5’9” and 175 pounds, has run for 646 yards and six touchdowns. Sophomore Jacobi Owens leads the AFA in rushing 1,054 yards and is averaging 5.2 yards per attempt.

Pearson and the Falcons don’t put it in the air much, but when they do, they do so effectively. For the year, he has completed nearly 60 percent of his 162 attempts while throwing for over 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns (compared to just three interceptions).
Jalen Robinette (40-716-4) and Garrett Brown (29-421-6) are Pearson’s top targets.

They will go against a WMU defense that allows 23.8 points and 372 yards per game (47th nationally). The Broncos are ninth in red zone defense, as opponents have come up empty nearly half the time (22 scores in 42 possessions).

Offensively, P.J. Fleck’s club has been potent as WMU produces nearly 35 points and 450 yards. The Broncos have demonstrated excellent balance, as they possess a 1,500-yard rusher in freshman running back Jarvion Franklin (1,525 yds, 5.2 ypc, 24 TD) and a 3,000 yard passer in Zach Terrell (70% comp; 3,146 yds; 23 TD 10 INT)

When Terrell and WMU put it in the air, there is a high probability that sophomores Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis will be on the receiving end. Braverman leads the team with 79 receptions while Davis has 70 catches for 1,232 yards and 12 scores.

The Broncos will go against an Air Force defense that allows 24 points and just under 400 yards.

Senior linebacker Jordan Pierce leads the team in tackles (102), tackles for loss (16.0) and sacks (5.0). Sophomore Weston Steelhammer has a team-leading five interceptions.

The Falcons will need to be wary of Broncos’ redshirt freshman kick returner Darius Phillips, who averages 26.4 yards per return and took one back 93 yards for a score.

WMU has outscored its opponents by more than 100 points this season. The Broncos will need another fast start against Air Force, as it will be tough to play from behind against the Falcons’ triple option attack that can chew up an abundance of clock.
With the game being in Idaho, the weather could certainly be a factor, but both teams do play in similar climates throughout the season.

The Broncos have made tremendous strides in a short time, but the Falcons will win a competitive game in Boise.

Prediction: Air Force 37 - Western Michigan 24


By Thomas Rosenbaum
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