Nov 26, 2021; Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA; Air Force Falcons quarterback Jensen Jones (5) hands the ball off to outside linebacker Jet Harris (33) in the fourth quarter against the UNLV Rebels at Falcon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville braces for Air Force option in First Responder Bowl

The game may be on a Tuesday, but Air Force coach Troy Calhoun is doing his best to structure the week of the First Responder Bowl like a normal game week.

“Today is like a Monday,” Calhoun said Thursday after his first practice in the Dallas area, where the Falcons meet Louisville on Dec. 28. “Then tomorrow (Friday) is a Tuesday and we will proceed from there.”

How Air Force (9-3) proceeds from there will probably depend on how the Cardinals (6-6) react to the Falcons’ triple-option ground game. The Falcons lead FBS in rushing yards per game with 341.4, while Louisville allows 156.7, but rarely faces the option.

Brad Roberts paces Air Force’s rushing attack with 1,279 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards a carry. Quarterback Hazziq Daniels has gained 705 yards and nine scores on 5.0 yards per carry, while Deandre Hughes has contributed 471 (8.6 ypc) and Emmanuel Michel 421 (6.1 ypc).

The Falcons came pretty close to going 12-0 and playing for the Mountain West Conference title. Their three losses were all one-possession defeats, by a total of 17 points. They’re coming off a 48-14 rout of UNLV in their regular-season finale on Nov. 26, when they rushed for 511 yards and did not have to throw a single pass.

Meanwhile, Louisville aims to secure a winning season after dropping its regular-season finale on Nov. 26 to in-state rival Kentucky 52-21. The Cardinals’ rushing defense allowed 362 yards in that one.

“It was a bad night for us,” Louisville coach Scott Satterfield said. “This night does not speak of what we’ve done this season. We’ve been in most every game we’ve played… I think we’re getting better as a football team.”

The Cardinals’ offense revolves around quarterback Malik Cunningham. He has thrown for 2,734 yards and 18 touchdowns and needs just 32 yards to reach 1,000 rushing. Having rushed for 19 touchdowns, he has been responsible for 37 scores.

Cunningham is the only player in the country who has both rushed and passed for more than 15 touchdowns.

This will be the first meeting of the two programs, which are both .500 all-time in bowl games: Louisville is 11-11-1 and Air Force is 13-13-1.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs running back Greg Bell (22) warms up before the game against the San Jose State Spartans at CEFCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

No. 22 San Diego State attempts to ground Air Force

A major reason for San Diego State’s undefeated start this season is its defense’s strong ability to stop the run.

That aspect of the 22nd-ranked Aztecs’ game will be put to a serious test on Saturday, when they try to keep surging host Air Force from recording a fifth consecutive victory in a Mountain West Conference contest in Colorado Springs, Colo.

San Diego State (6-0, 2-0 Mountain West) enters this week’s slate of action as one of 11 unbeaten teams in the FBS, but the Aztecs needed double overtime to win 19-13 at San Jose State last weekend. While the offense struggled to score at least 28 points for the first time this season, the Aztecs’ defense, which allows an average of 16, remained stout.

They did allow a season-high 117 rushing yards to the Spartans, but they still lead the nation giving up just 61.2 yards on the ground per contest. Now, San Diego State faces a potentially greater challenge against Air Force (6-1, 3-1 Mountain West), which has lost eight straight in this series but leads the nation with a triple-option rushing attack that averages a national-leading 336.4 yards.

Running back Brad Roberts enters the week ranked fifth in the nation with 818 rushing yards and has scored eight touchdowns.

“We just have to keep working,” San Diego State coach Brady Hoke said. “We’re excited at where we are at. Air Force is very dominant at the line of scrimmage. They take care of the football. …This is definitely our biggest challenge of the year.”

In addition to the challenge San Diego State faces on the defensive side of the ball, it will have a new starting quarterback Saturday. Lucas Johnson, who began his collegiate career at Georgia Tech, has thrown for 234 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception. After coming on late at San Jose State, Johnson takes over for the struggling Jordan Brookshire (47.7 completion percentage, 560 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) under center this time.

Johnson likely faces a stern task against an Air Force defense that has allowed 48 points and an average of 259.8 yards during the squad’s four-game winning streak. The Falcons gave up just 78 rushing yards during last weekend’s 24-17 win at Boise State.

San Diego State’s Greg Bell has rushed for 561 yards and five touchdowns this season, but he was held to 41 on 19 carries against San Jose State. Still, Air Force understands the overall challenge it faces this weekend in trying to stay hot and take down the top team in the Mountain West.

The Falcons have averaged 184.8 rushing yards during their eight-game losing streak to SDSU, though these teams last met in 2018.

“(San Diego State moves) exceptionally well. They’re large,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “They’re a really, really strong group. No matter what you use — any metric or just based upon the eye of the film — they are outstanding.”

The Falcons have lost four straight games against ranked opponents since beating then-No. 20 Boise State in November 2016.

–Field Level Media

Nov 30, 2019; Colorado Springs, CO, USA; A sticker on the back of an Air Force Falcons helmet pays tribute to Aurora the falcon who was the longest-serving live mascot in the history of the Air Force Academy. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Air Force, Navy to play on 20th anniversary of Sept. 11

Air Force and Navy have altered the date of next year’s game to Sept. 11, a decision that recognizes the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The teams originally were scheduled to play on Oct. 2.

“We will use this nationally televised opportunity to reflect on the meaning of our freedom and the competitive spirit of our nation,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said in a statement. “Two service academies coming together to display our strength of unity and our determination to forever persevere.”

Air Force athletic director Nathan Pine said the decision to change the game is an “appropriate” one.

“This is an appropriate move for our country to have our Service Academies play on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 in celebration of our armed forces,” Pine said. “The game will be a fitting way to showcase the amazing future leaders of character from both academies on national television on this solemn anniversary. I would like to thank everyone involved for their cooperation and willingness to help make this a reality.”

The schools traditionally play on the first Saturday in October.

Navy will kick off its 2021 season at home against Marshall on Sept. 4, while Air Force will host Lafayette on the same day.

–Field Level Media

Nov 2, 2019; Colorado Springs, CO, USA; Air Force Falcons quarterback Donald Hammond III (5) at the line of scrimmage against Army Black Knights defensive lineman Rod Stoddard (93) and linebacker Arik Smith (53) in the fourth quarter at Falcon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Air Force-Army game off amid COVID-19

Air Force and Army will not play their annual football game as scheduled this weekend because of the impact of COVID-19 on the Falcons, multiple outlets reported Thursday.

The game was set to be played in West Point, N.Y.

The Gazette in Colorado Springs reported earlier this week that as many as seven players wouldn’t be available for the game, then reported Thursday that the number grew overnight. It wasn’t clear if any players or other members of the football program had tested positive or if the players’ unavailability was because of contact tracing and mandated quarantines.

The Falcons and Black Knights resumed their annual matchup in 2010. Previously, the teams met each year from 1971-2002.

Air Force won the 2019 edition, 17-13, and holds a 33-14-1 head-to-head record against the Black Knights.

Should the teams want to reschedule the game, the only open date they both have is Dec. 19 — the week after Army plays Navy on Dec. 12 and the week before the Black Knights are scheduled to play in the Independence Bowl.

Navy’s game against Tulsa, scheduled for Saturday, also was called off because of the virus.

On the season, Army is 6-1, playing an easier schedule than normal as its regular slate of games was overhauled due to COVID-19. Air Force, a member of the Mountain West Conference, is 1-2.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA; Boise State Broncos wide receiver CT Thomas (6) makes a catch for a touchdown reception in the first quarter against the Air Force Falcons  at Falcon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Sears powers No. 25 Boise State past Air Force

Jack Sears passed for 280 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for one score during a surprise starting assignment to lead No. 25 Boise State to a 49-30 victory over Air Force on Saturday in Mountain West play on the academy grounds just outside Colorado Springs, Colo.

Sears completed 17 of 20 passes while starting in place of Hank Bachmeier, who didn’t make the trip with the team. Safety JL Skinner also didn’t travel. Boise State confirmed there was a player sidelined due to a COVID-19 positive test but didn’t reveal the identity.

Andrew Van Buren rushed for 70 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries and CT Thomas caught two passes for 101 yards and two scores for the Broncos (2-0, 2-0 MWC). Avery Williams recorded his second career kickoff return for touchdown — and sixth total return score — for Boise State.

Matthew Murla rushed for two touchdowns and Brandon Lewis gained 112 yards and one score for Air Force (1-2, 0-2). Elija Robinson added 90 yards on 10 carries for the Falcons, who picked up 415 of their 484 yards on the ground.

Air Force starting quarterback Haaziq Daniels departed the game in the first quarter with a left shoulder injury. Warren Bryan replaced Daniels and rushed for 87 yards on 19 carries and was 3-of-6 passing for 38 yards.

Boise State totaled 459 yards on just 49 plays. The Falcons ran 73 while controlling the ball for 37:31.

Sears wasted little time in his second career start — the other came for Southern California in 2018.

He dropped back to pass on the first offensive play of the game and chucked a deep throw down the center of the field. Thomas hauled it in at the Falcons’ 30-yard line and raced in for a 75-yard score just 10 seconds into the contest.

Air Force answered with back-to-back touchdowns as Lewis scored on a 7-yard run and Murla scored from the 1 as the Falcons took a 14-7 lead with 3:23 left in the quarter.

Boise State tied the score at 14 on Van Buren’s 4-yard run with 13:14 left in the half before Tevye Schuettpelz-Rohl booted a 31-yard field goal to push Air Force back ahead with 6:53 remaining. Van Buren scored from the 1 with 2:27 left and Sears tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Octavius Evans with 47 seconds left to make the score 28-17 at the break.

Sears connected with Thomas on a 26-yard scoring pass with 54 seconds left in the third quarter to boost the Boise State lead to 18.

Murla scored on a 7-yard run to pull the Falcons within 35-24 with 11:24 remaining. Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a score and Sears scored on a 1-yard sneak as the Broncos closed it out.

–Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2020; Boise, Idaho, USA;  Boise State Broncos quarterback Hank Bachmeier (19) celebrates a touchdown run with teammates during the first half versus the Utah State Aggies at Albertsons Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 Boise State visits Air Force for first road mission

Boise State is a late entrant to the current season but the No. 25 Broncos are intent on making up for lost time.

Boise State opened with a strong performance and looks to notch another impressive victory when it visits Air Force on Saturday at the academy grounds just outside Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Mountain West initially postponed the 2020 conference season due to the COVID-19 pandemic before relenting and beginning conference play last weekend.

Still, the Broncos looked like they were near midseason form last week in trouncing Utah State 42-13.

The opening victory was on the blue turf in Boise. Now the task of preparing for and playing a game gets tougher with the Broncos taking the show on the road.

“It’s a new challenge,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said Monday. “There’s more adversity we’re going to have to face by traveling and having to worry about the things that come with that.”

Boise State beat Air Force 48-38 on its last visit in 2018.

The Falcons (1-1, 0-1 Mountain West) will be playing their third game of the season. Air Force routed Navy 40-7 on Oct. 3 but stumbled last week in a 17-6 loss at San Jose State.

Air Force junior fullback Timothy Jackson doesn’t want the disappointing result to linger.

“Quick mindset,” Jackson told reporters. “We’re on to the next one and thinking about Boise now.”

Based on Boise State’s dominance against Utah State, Air Force could be facing quite a chore, as the Broncos cracked the national rankings.

“That’s where we want to be, and not because of the ranking, but because we’re one of the better teams,” Harsin said. “You always want to be one of the better teams in the country.

“I’m proud of our program. That’s important for Boise State and our brand and all the people that are part of the program. I do appreciate the recognition that we get for getting a chance to be in one of those polls or whatever it is. It’s appreciated. Now we have to keep finding ways to win so we can stay.”

Broncos sophomore quarterback Hank Bachmeier enjoyed a strong season debut by passing for 268 yards and accounting for four touchdowns (three passing, rushing) versus Utah State.

Sophomore running back George Holani rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries and caught a scoring pass. Junior receiver Khalil Shakir caught seven passes for career highs of 123 yards and two touchdowns.

The play of senior outside linebacker Sam Whitney (seven tackles) was one of the highlights of the defense’s performance. He missed the entire 2019 season due to an ACL tear.

Meanwhile, Falcons coach Troy Calhoun (99-70 in 14 seasons) is looking to join College Football Hall of Famer Fisher DeBerry (169-109-1 from 1984 to 2006) as the only coaches to win 100 games at the academy.

Air Force will run, run and run some more against the Broncos and is averaging 287.5 rushing yards a game, fifth most on the country.

Jackson has a team-high 178 rushing yards. He ran for 118 during the rout of Navy but had just 60 against San Jose State.

Sophomore quarterback Haaziq Daniels has passed for 133 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 121 yards and one score.

Senior defensive tackle George Silvanic leads Air Force in tackles (13), tackles for loss (three) and sacks (1.5).

The Falcons are allowing just 12.0 points per game, so it is the offense that needs a jump start against Boise State.

“We’ve just got to be a little more stout,” Calhoun said. “We’ve got to block better, and we’ve got to run better, too.”

–Field Level Media