LARAMIE – Football teams often experience ups and downs throughout a season.
Air Force can certainly relate.
After a 62-0 pasting of Football Championship Subdivision foe Virginia Military Institute to open the season, the Falcons (4-5 overall, 3-2 Mountain West) lost four consecutive games. The first was a 29-13 loss at then-No. 7-ranked Michigan – a game that was close in the fourth quarter. Two other losses were by a combined seven points, and the other was a 56-38 setback at New Mexico.
Then there was a three-game winning streak, two of which were on the road. Air Force averaged 41.3 points per game during that run.
But that momentum came to a screeching halt last week as Army went on the road and shut out Air Force, 21-0. It was the first time in 306 games going back to the 1992 Liberty Bowl the Falcons didn’t score. It was the first time they were blanked at home since 1980.
“It came down to execution, from the team and down to individuals,” Air Force senior running back Tim McVey said.
“We had mistakes we didn’t need to make. We have to clean them up to be a contender for the Mountain West and for this game.”
The game McVey referred to is tonight’s home contest against the University of Wyoming (6-3, 4-1).
“There have been a lot of ups and downs, but as a football player you have to learn how to handle them,” said McVey, who is tied for the most yards per carry in school history at 7.5, and is seventh in all-purpose yards (3,289).
“Even though it was a tough loss, we have to bounce back and look forward to Wyoming. As a senior, I’m trying to get everyone amped up this week. We have to move forward.”
A factor in the up-and-down play is the loss of 32 seniors from 2016’s 10-win squad. The biggest hit was on defense. The Falcons returned only one starter, and lost 11 of their top 12 tacklers. As a result, they’ve allowed 31.3 points and 394.3 yards per game.
Air Force also lost 62.1 percent of its receiving yards and 47.1 percent of its rushing yards from 2016, but until last week, offense wasn’t the problem. It still leads the MW with 34 points per game, and its triple-option, run-oriented offense is sixth in the country with 322 rushing yards per contest.
“We’re playing a really good, quality program, and even though they have a lot of new players, they are more or less just reloading,” fourth-year UW coach Craig Bohl said. “We’ll be grinding, I will tell you that.”
Army held Air Force to 190 total offensive yards. And even though McVey said mistakes were made, the Falcons didn’t commit a turnover.
“Our run game has to be (re-focused),” coach Troy Calhoun said. “To say it and go out and do it are two different things, especially against a Wyoming defense that is large, agile and uses their hands well to get off blocks.
“We have to be more stout at the point of attack and defeat some blocks.”
But even though the wins and losses have been streaky for Air Force, Calhoun said one thing has remained consistent with his team.
“It’s been pretty steady as far as our daily work,” he said. “That’s what we need to continue to do. Keep grinding and keep pounding away, and if you do that you can make some incremental improvements.”
Most opposing coaches have kind words to say about UW junior quarterback
Josh Allen. Calhoun was no different.
“A tremendous quarterback, perhaps as good a quarterback that’s ever played in this league,” he said. “You think back to Alex Smith when he was at Utah.
“Allen has great, great arm talent, a tremendous body, a ton of experience and a is guy that’s very effective on pre-determined runs. He is every bit as mobile as Andy Dalton was at TCU. It isn’t just being able to throw the ball the furthest, but more about his sense of anticipation and accuracy.”
Robert Gagliardi is the WyoSports senior editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @rpgagliardi.