Thursday, November 20, 2014

Qualcomm Quagmire

Air Force is at San Diego State Friday night at 730 on KVOR. The Falcons still cling to an outside shot of winning the Mountain Division title. The Aztecs have plenty riding on this game too. They are in a 3 way tie for first in the West Division, and at 5-5, they still are not bowl eligible. Rocky Long is their head Coach and he has seen the Falcons offense for a number of years as head coach of both San Diego State and New Mexico. Long is a defensive coach and his Aztecs have not allowed a team to get more than 400 yards of offense in the last 6 games. That's very impressive. What makes this game more troubling is several things...1) Air Force usually does not play well in San Diego. Qualcomm is almost as old as Falcon Stadium and is only slightly prettier because they have real grass. 2) Donnell Pumphrey. He is one of the top running backs in the west and has given everyone nightmares. He has 7-100 yard rushing games and has rushed for 15 touchdowns. Slippery does not even come close to describing him. It's like trying to catch a comet. Troy Calhoun and Steve Russ have had sleepless nights trying to slow him down. But on the bright side, the Falcons continue to find ways to win. Yes the Aztecs defense is pretty good, but they have not faced the likes of Kale Pearson and company. Expect the Falcons to run bulldozer fullbacks Shayne Davern and DJ Johnson straight at San Diego State. And, with Jacobi Owens very questionable with a foot injury, we will see a lot more of Devin Rushing, and Pearson, who seems to be getting stronger running the ball as the season wears on. And don't forget those wide receivers. Too many teams have, and the Falcons have made them pay. There's a good chance the bad run of games at Qualcomm for Air Force ends Friday Night.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Game for the Ages

I told a lot of people after Air Force Beat Nevada Saturday in overtime 45-38, its the best game I have seen at Falcon Stadium in 20 years. For those of you, and there were a lot of you, who did not brave the cold, you missed probably the game of the year in the conference. Two teams, with a lot to play for, tough, tough conditions, going up and down the field, desperate to get a key stop or make a big play. Those types of games happen few and far between, and it was an honor to be there. And after all the yardage, and scores, there were 4 key plays in the game, and 3 went for Air Force...The first was after Nevada recovered an onside kick, but could not get any points off it and Air Force stopped them on fourth down. The second one actually went against the Falcons when they had to settle for a short field goal instead of getting 6. I thought that might cost Air Force the game. Then the sensational interception by Weston Steelhammer. That might be the catch of the year in the conference as he dove through the snow to grab Cody Fajardo's pass. Air Force could not get a first down on the next 3 plays and only took 33 seconds off the clock. But it was huge because Nevada had to use all 3 of their timeouts, so when they got the ball back they could only settle for a field goal from the AF 4 to tie it. And then in overtime Tackle AJ Ruechel pouncing on Devin Rushings fumble to keep the Falcons drive alive, which led to the winning touchdown from Shayne Davern. Its been that kind of season for Troy Calhouns club. Never pretty, but always finding different ways to win. A classic in every sense of the word. A magical season continues.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tough Stretch

The Air Force Football team has 3 weeks left in its regular season. If they take care of business, and get a little help, they could have 5 games left in the 2014 season. But all that doesn't mean a thing without a win Saturday against Nevada at Falcon Stadium. At 7 and 2 the Falcons have worked hard to be in the position they are in. Nevada is in the Springs Saturday with one of the top QB's in the West, Cody Fajardo, who can hurt you with his arm and his legs. The Falcons should have won in Reno a year ago, but a dropped pass by a wide open wide receiver, and a porous defense were too much to overcome. The Wolfpack lead in the West and control their own destiny so this game is huge for them. For Air Force its a chance to beat a good team with a good record. The Falcons have had few teams like that on the schedule this year. They did knock off Boise State, but lost to Utah State. The game Saturday is the first of 3 against good teams with solid records. The Falcons did what they were supposed to do against inferior teams. They Won. But maybe the true test, and the true memories of this year will be developed in the final 3 weeks. San Diego looms next week and the Falcons don't play well on the West Coast. Then its high flying CSU, ranked 23rd in the A-P poll. 3 tough teams...3 weeks left..Nobody remembers how you start, but they all remember how you finish. Will it be a November to Remember for the Falcons?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Final Push

There's 4 games left in the regular season for the Air Force Football team beginning with Saturdays game at UNLV. I wrote this week about what still lies ahead for the Falcons in this final month of the season. Air Force could win out which could result in a sparkling 10-2 record and a middle of the road bowl game. Or, with help, a 10-2 record could mean a division title and a chance to win the conference Championship. The road to 10-2 starts in Las Vegas. And the Falcons know they cannot take the Rebels lightly. Football is a funny game because there's lots of statistics to suggest how some games should play out. But many times those same games don't follow any script. Take for example Wyomings win last week at Fresno State. The Cowboys have been decimated by injuries and are down to their 3rd string running back Brian Hill. All he did was set a new conference record for all purpose yards as the Cowboys blitzed The Bulldogs 45-17. In Fresno. And honestly, while I thought the Falcons would give Boise State a game, I never thought they would force 7 turnovers and shut them out through the first 3 quarters. And really, who predicted Mississippi St would be #1 in the country in the second week of November? So don't just look blandly past UNLV. They have won this game the last two years. But this, as we all know, is a different Air Force team. They understand who they are, play to their strengths, and bring the lunch pail everyday. Based on records and stats, should Air Force win? Yes...Will they?....We'll find out Saturday beginning at 2 on 740 KVOR.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Not Done Yet

It was a satisfying flight home for the Air Force Football team Saturday Night after defeating Army to win the Commander In Chiefs Trophy and also clinch bowl eligibility. It was, to me, the official stamp the Falcon are back and flying high in College Football. However, the way they dominated that game also reminded me of whats still ahead and what can be accomplished. There's 4 games remaining in the regular season, and I like what Safety Christian Spears said after the game when he reminded everybody the Falcons must now focus on the race for the title in the Mountain Division. While his Coach Troy Calhoun hates to talk about that stuff, Spears is right. Its still a race and if Air Force can get a little help in the next few weeks their season finale against Colorado State could be a title game for the Division Championship. The help they need is for Utah State and Boise State to lose between now and the end of the year. That could, depending on tiebreakers, set up a fascinating winner-take-all showdown at Falcon Stadium November 28th between the Falcons and Colorado State. Now, one more loss and the Falcons can kiss that dream good-bye. But the final 4 games are winnable...UNLV is struggling. You get Nevada at home, although they had a huge win over San Diego State on Saturday. The Aztecs host the Falcons November 21st but have not played well as of late. Its nice to sit and daydream about what-ifs in November. It means you have worked hard to put yourself in position to be a factor late in the season. And while a bowl awaits the Falcons, why can't this season be more than just going to a bowl and winning back the CIC? Why?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Destiny or Danger

Saturday at Michie Stadium at West Point Air Force plays its most important football game in the last several years. They'll meet Army at 930am on 740 KVOR and the stakes could not be much higher. A win, and the Falcons get back the Commander In Chiefs Trophy, and they would be bowl eligible with their 6th victory. Troy Calhoun has downplayed that all this week because that's what Troy Calhoun does. But it does not, should Air Force win, mean the accomplishment would not be significant. The Falcons were dead in the water last year. A soul searching off season and key coaching hires, along with a simpler and hungrier look defensively have Air Force on the brink of reaching a couple of key goals. But there is danger afoot. Army looks like Air Force from last year. I asked their Head Coach Jeff Monken to talk about 1 or 2 areas he would like to see his team get better in and he replied, "Everything." The Black Knights had a team meeting last Monday, and with a bye in their rear view mirror this game Saturday could be construed as a reset, a start to a second season. Because if the Black Knights win they have a shot at the CIC Trophy, and as we all know Navy is down this year. Army, counting Saturday, has 5 games left. But only 2 really count, especially if the Black Knights win. Beat Air Force and Navy and Jeff Monken could lose every game for the next 5 years and receive a 10 year contract extension. Goals are within reach Saturday for the Falcons. But they are also there for the taking for Army.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rest

Troy Calhoun and I have something in common. We both hate byes during the football season. The Falcons have their second of the season this week. We both prefer 12 weeks of non stop football. I guess they are good if you have had a lousy season, but Air Force is 5-2 and I know a lot of Falcons want to keep the momentum going and keep playing. But the off week is here. It might be a good thing, with a chance to get some rest before the final 5 weeks of the season. Injuries do heal faster with time off and winning records. It also gives the coaches a chance to self scout-look back at the first 7 games and see what the Falcons are doing well, and not so well, and adjust from there. Saturdays win over New Mexico showed some grit and resilience by Air Force, traits they will need again before the season is done. And what this season has shown me is the Falcons can win in a variety of ways. Fullbacks had rushed for only 279 yards before the New Mexico game. Saturday they had 136 and 3 touchdowns. Its never pretty, but it doesn't have to be. Run it, Throw it, Stop it, with a great Defense-Air Force has shown its more than capable of finding whatever works and coming out on top. The final 5 games will prove to be an interesting smorgasbord of teams, from struggling Army, to middling Nevada, to surging Colorado State. A win over the Black Knights brings the Commander In Chiefs Trophy back to the Springs and more than likely puts the Falcons in a bowl. After that you play with house money. But for now, time to Rest.