Air Force announced that its Week 2 game against TCU on Sept. 10 will kick off at 1:30 p.m. The game will be televised on Versus, and will be one of the more interesting and anticipated games in recent Air Force football history.
Air Force comes into the season with the highest expectations of Troy Calhoun’s tenure, which dates back to 2007. TCU has not lost a regular season game since Nov. 6, 2008 at Utah. The Horned Frogs’ last loss came at the Fiesta Bowl at the end of the 2009 season against Boise State. Yet, this won’t be the same TCU team. According to Phil Steele, TCU is tied for 117th in the nation with just 10 returning starters (4 offense, 4 defense, 2 special teams) and loses four-year starter Andy Dalton at quarterback. TCU will be breaking in a brand new team when it comes to Air Force so early in the season.
And considering Air Force’s Sept. 3 opener is against FCS opponent South Dakota, the showdown against TCU will be the first major event for Falcons football in 2011.
This has been out a little while but figured I’d post it now – Phil Steele likes Air Force a bit. Steele writes the best college football preview magazine out there, so when he ranked Air Force No. 30, it’s something to take note of. Steele has some interesting things to say about Air Force. I’m not going to spoil the entire preview, which can be found in PDF form right here, but two interesting nuggets – Steele says the 77 percent of letterwinners that return for Air Force this year is the most a service academy has had in the last seven years. He also points to the TCU game early in the season and says, “If they win that game or their bowl this team has the potential for their first 10 win season since 1998.”
I figure we’ll see plenty of this as college football magazines start hitting the shelves. Air Force should be a popular pick to finish high in the Mountain West and perhaps sneak into the bottom of the Top 25 in the preseason.
Air Force finished first among Mountain West football teams with a Academic Progress Rate score of 978 for the 2009-10 school year, edging out TCU at 972 and Utah’s score of 956. Last week, Air Force football, women’s cross country, wrestling and women’s track received Division I Academic Performance Public Recognition Awards.
Football coach Troy Calhoun should be happy with topping the Mountain West, although knowing Calhoun and how seriously he takes the APR, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was upset that the Falcons’ score dipped a bit. Air Force football’s APR scores were 983 and 988 the past two years.
If you’ve always wanted the chance to vote on Air Force’s football uniforms, you’re in luck. The Upset Blog is rating college football uniforms, and up first, here is the Air Force entry. They offer their own grades and explanations – some positive, some negative. The lightning bolt gets good reviews while other parts of the uniform are panned.
After you vote, feel free to share what I’m sure will be your unbiased thoughts in the comments.
Air Force athletics has its annual awards ceremony today, and the school announced the winners of the major awards. Here is that part of the press release:
“Senior hockey player Jacques Lamoureux and senior tennis player Christen Monreal were named male and female athlete of the year, respectively. Senior swimming Eric Robinson was named the scholar-athlete of the year, while senior football player Reggie Rembert was awarded the athletic excellence award. Senior fencer Daniel Trapani took home the athletic leadership award and senior track and field star Justin Tyner won the outstanding athletic achievement award.”
Although Air Force baseball has five seniors who graduate this week, there is some young talent that will return next year, most notably two sophomores who were honored by the Mountain West in its postseason all-conference teams.
Sophomore catcher Garrett Custons was named to the first team. Custons’ .330 average led the Falcons. He also led the team with 13 steals, and had six home runs and 23 RBI.
Sophomore pitcher Sean Carley was named to the All-Mountain West second team. He led Air Force with a 3.94 ERA and had three of the team’s four complete games.
Air Force senior outfielder Nathan Carter still hadn’t fully grasped that he will be in the NCAA baseball record book for a while, after getting the 33rd triple of his career on Thursday against BYU to set the Division I career mark. He should get used to it – the old record of 32 (set by Indiana State’s Bob Zeihen) had stood since 1988.
“It’s kind of shocking,” Carter said. “I didn’t think about it until a couple weeks ago when someone told me. It’s a great accomplishment.”
Carter said he would be more excited to set the record had Air Force won more games this season, but his teammates recognized the moment, and greeted the Falcons’ captain with hugs after he set the record.
Carter said he has hit so many triples in part because of his approach. He said when he hits the ball in the gap, he takes a long route between first and second base, allowing him to get a good read on whether he can make it to third, and then he can take a sharp angle around second base when he decides to go for it. Also, his mental approach leads to a few extra triples.
“Right off the bat, I’m thinking triple the whole way,” Carter said.
That’s what happened when he hit the ball down the left field line in the third inning against the Cougars. He saw the outfielder picking the ball up at the wall and knew it would be a close play if he wanted to go for the record.
“I saw him grab it, I was rounding second like, ‘Do I do it?’” Carter said. “I just took off. Thankfully I made it.”
For some reason, Air Force outfielder Nathan Carter just has a knack for hitting triples. He led the NCAA with 10 triples as a freshman. He was Air Force’s all-time leader in triples by the time his junior year was done. And in game one of a doubleheader against BYU today, Carter hit his 33rd career triple, breaking the NCAA record that had been held by Indiana State’s Bob Zeihen since 1988. Carter had to break the record this weekend, because this is the final weekend of the regular season and the Falcons didn’t qualify for the Mountain West Tournament.
Carter, a 23rd round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school in 2007, is Air Force’s only senior this season who played all four years. His four senior teammates took a year off before returning to play their final season (I’ll have a story on them in the next few days).
I wanted to follow up today with some comments and thoughts from people about Fisher DeBerry, who was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame yesterday, and look at what made him a special coach at Air Force.
The foundation of DeBerry’s success was in his offensive mind. When he came to Air Force, he was a top Xs and Os man who reinvented the way service academy football is played. All three service academy teams run some form of the option now (Georgia Tech, led by former Navy coach Paul Johnson, is the other FBS team to use the option as a staple of its offense), and all three teams made bowl games last year despite recruiting disadvantages.
DeBerry’s success at Air Force paved the way.
“People couldn’t stop the triple option,” longtime Air Force associate athletic director Jim Bowman said. “The players weren’t the biggest guys or the fastest guys, but they were the kind of people that could run the option.”
As years went on DeBerry relied on his assistants, who he thanked repeatedly on Tuesday, and became less of an offensive Xs and Os guru and more of a manager of the Air Force program, which he did very well. His personality fit with the academy.
“He always knew more than jsut what the gameplan was for the week,” former Air Force quarterback Beau Morgan said. “I can think of many times when my family, or one of my teammate’s families were in town, and he knew every brother and sister and what they were involved in, and called them by name.
“Winning was important, and that was a reason we were so competitive. Even though the program was built around winning, it was not a win at all costs attitude. I credit all that to Fisher.”
Dick Enga was tight ends coach under Ken Hatfield, then was there through all of DeBerry’s years with the Falcons. He said DeBerry’s enthusiasm and work ethic made for an easy transition from Hatfield. Enga also talked about DeBerry’s kindness and genuine nature.
“As a parent, you sure as heck wanted your kid to go play for a man like that,” Enga said.
Getting talented players is the lifeblood of a college coach’s livelihood, and DeBerry did it well.
“I felt he was an incredible recruiter,” Morgan said. “He had a presence when he came into the house that ‘I want to go play for that guy.’”
Morgan said he was interested in Air Force because he admired former Falcons quarterback Dee Dowis.
“Before Fisher left my house, he said ‘Beau, why don’t you come up here and make people forget about Dee Dowis?’” Morgan said. “He had a way to make you believe he needed you at the academy.”
DeBerry grew into understanding how to deal with the military side of the cadets’ lives, when to pull back or when to push. Morgan said he had a great way of letting his players be individuals without getting away from the team concept. He also said he could be stern, but never belittled players and most of his critical talks came behind closed doors.
“He had a great ability to manage the whole organizational dynamic,” Morgan said.