A year ago, Utah totally dominated its game against Air Force statistically, but the Falcons hung tough and the Utes did not pull away until scoring a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Today, Air Force out-played Utah and had an advantage in just about every statistical category … but still lost.
It’s been one of those seasons for the Falcons. In each of their four games against top-flight opponents, they’ve lost in heartbreaking fashion. By seven at Minnesota in a game they seemed to be in control of through most of three quarters. By three in overtime at Navy in a game that will sting Falcon fans for a while. By three to a TCU team that today absolutely destroyed BYU in Provo. And, of course, in overtime today to Utah, 23-16.
“They just keep getting harder and harder. They’re really tough to take,” Air Force quarterback Connor Dietz said. “This one was extremely hard just because everybody gave everything they had and left it on the field. They just keep getting harder and harder to take, so hopefully we won’t have to take any more.”
The Falcons have three straight games in which they should be favored – at Colorado State a week from today and then at home against Army and woeful UNLV. Then comes a trip to Provo to face the Cougars.
An upset of one of the Big Three in the Mountain West Conference would be nice. And if today’s game against TCU is any indication, the Cougars are vulnerable.
More importantly, however, the Falcons can’t slip against the teams they should beat. They’ve done a good job – so far – of not letting heartbreaking losses to good teams keep them down.
But this is four devastating losses now. And, as Dietz said, they’re “getting harder and harder.”
The Falcons coaching staff will have a tough task in trying to get the team back off the mat – again – for next weekend in Fort Collins.
-One of the most athletically impressive plays I’ve seen by an Air Force player since covering the team was made today by Jon Davis.
Davis, the Falcons’ sophomore free safety, came on a blitz with Utah facing a third-and-10 from its own 24-yard line early in the second quarter. Davis came right up the middle on a full sprint and left his feet to disrupt a potential throw. Cain did not throw, but Davis gathered himself in midair and crashed into Cain for a sack. Wow.
Davis also looked pretty good returning a punt 35 yards. Davis was in because Reggie Rembert was out.
-Speaking of Rembert … A bunch of hard hits in today’s game.
Rembert was on the receiving end of two of them, both on kickoff returns in the second half.
It looked on a replay as if Rembert might have been unconscious for a moment before he hit the ground on the first one. And he didn’t return to the game after the second.
-Lot of weird plays too.
First was the fumble that resulted in Utah’s first touchdown. Quarterback Terrance Cain went right on an option, was tackled and lost the ball. Utah’s Eddie Wide, who had been the pitch man on the play, scooped up the ball and raced 44 yards for a touchdown.
But was Cain down before the fumble?
I saw Air Force coach Troy Calhoun looking up at the scoreboard, hoping to see a replay that would let him know if he should challenge the play. But before a replay was shown, the Utes attempted their extra point.
“I never saw one,” Calhoun said of a replay on the scoreboard. “I kept looking up there at the board, and to their credit, at a good place, that’s the way you do it.”
It was hard to tell from the angles we got on the television replays, but it looked to me like Cain was down.
Then there was the tipped punt. Utah was punting from deep in its own territory, and its punter, Sean Sellwood, was clobbered. Air Force avoided a roughing the kicker penalty because refs said the ball was tipped.
Davis said after the game that he got his right hand on it. I believe him, but how the heck did that ball travel like 60 yards in the air after it was tipped? If Davis hadn’t touched it it might have flown out of Rice-Eccles Stadium.
-Senior punter Brandon Geyer is putting together an all-conference kind of season. He continued his strong play today, averaging 41.7 yards on seven punts, and pinning three inside the Utah 20-yard line.
And how about his punt on Air Force’s first possession of the second half? He kicked it from just inside his own 40-yard line, it flew high and deep and appeared as if it would role into the end zone (Utah’s returner thought as much, letting it land and getting out of the way). But the ball landed at about the 4-yard line, bounced pretty much sideways and was downed at the 3.
It was like watching a Tiger Woods pitching wedge hit a green and check up at the flagstick.