Abilene Christian, a recent Division II powerhouse, will play Air Force Aug. 30, 2014, in the Falcons home opener. ACU just moved to the NCAA’s Bowl Subdivision – formerly known as 1-AA – for the 2013 season.
Last season, Air Force’s offense averaged 27.4 points and rushed for 4,111 yards in 13 games.
The Falcons still finished with a losing record.
Troy Calhoun’s revival of the Air Force football program has stalled in the past two seasons. The Falcons have finished 13-13 and struggled, mightily, to defeat quality opponents.
The defense has surrendered more than 30 points 12 times in the past two seasons. Last season, opposing passers stood in the pocket, feeling safe as they searched for receivers. That’s the reason why those opposing passers completed 68 percent of their passes against Air Force’s defense.
Look, I’m all for short players competing in the National Basketball Association. The relaxation of the once-strict no-zone rules in the NBA allowed short players to thrive in the league. In the old days, Nate Robinson would have been isolated every time an opponent had the ball. Now, NBA coaches can employ whatever defense they want, which means undersized players are not constantly attacked.
Earl Boykins, all 5-foot-4 of him, would have lasted a couple games in the old NBA system. With the new defensive rules, he enjoyed a long career and earned a massive stack of cash.
Still, I’m wondering about the Nuggets decision to sign Robinson to play alongside Ty Lawson in the backcourt. If you’re looking for the No. 1 reason why the Golden State Warriors upset the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs, I have it for you:
Lawson is not a strong defender. He’s not even a decent defender. He’s a whiz with the ball in his hands. He struggles to guard anybody of NBA caliber. The main reason? Lawson is short.
Robinson is even shorter. There’s talk of next season’s edition of the Nuggets becoming tougher, edgier and more dangerous in playoffs. Not sure how Robinson does anything to help the Nuggets in any of those categories.
Von Miller’s reputation is about to take a big hit. There will be a price if he receives a four-game suspension from the NFL.
But the price should be light on the field. The Broncos – with or without Miller – will breeze to an AFC West Title. This is not some bold prediction. The AFC West is, once again, weak.
When the Broncos arrive in the playoffs, their best defensive player – Mr. Miller – will have four fewer games of wear on his somewhat slender frame. He will be fresher, faster, tougher and better in the playoffs.
Three of the Broncos first four games are at Mile High. Would not surprise me – at all – to see Miller return to a team that is 4-0 and soaring atop the NFL.
If you asked Charles Barkley if he knows the day of The Second Coming, I’m almost sure Sir Charles would have an answer. The man has an opinion about everything.
Let me say that I was not especially eager to hear Barkley’s view of the Trayvon Martin trial. He has no special insight into the case. I’m thinking there’s a good chance you were not especially eager to hear from Barkley, either. Barkley was a superlative NBA player. He’s not a superlative observer of the American scene. He talks a lot. He doesn’t talk with any special brand of wisdom. And I’m talking about his views on anything and everything, including the NBA.
He offered his opinions on the case anyway.
Barkley talked about the Florida murder trial to CNBC on Thursday. He said jurors did not have the evidence to convict the George Zimmerman in the 2012 killing.
“Well I agree with the verdict,” Barkley said. “I feel sorry that young kid got killed, but they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him. Something clearly went wrong that night — clearly something went wrong — and I feel bad for anybody who loses a kid, but if you looked at the case and you don’t make it — there was some racial profiling, no question about it — but something happened that changed the dynamic of that night.”
“I feel sorry that young kid got killed, but they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him.”
Barkley said his conclusion is “probably not a popular opinion among most people,” but said the evidence pointed to acquittal.
“I just feel bad because I don’t like when race gets out in the media ‘cuz I don’t think the media has a ‘pure heart,’ as I call it,” Barkley continued. “There are very few people who have a pure heart when it comes to race. Racism is wrong in any shape [or] form — there are a lot of black people who are racist, too. I think sometimes when people talk about race, they act like only white people are racist. There are a lot of black people who are racist. And I don’t like when it gets out there in the media because I don’t think the media has clean hands.”
Mike Corbett’s departure from Air Force’s hockey team is a major blow to a thriving program. For years, Corbett served as something more than a mere assistant as something only slightly less than a head coach.
Corbett recently departed the academy to become the head coach at Alabama-Huntsville. (Yes, they play college hockey in Alabama. I was surprised, too.)
He’s a huge loss for the academy.
“We were on the same page and had the same message but the players needed it from a different voice,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore told Gazetteer Joe Paisley. “When Anchorage and Huntsville called me I told them I had given him the keys to the car and he delivered. Better than that, he excelled.”
Corbett spent the 10 years as an assistant at Air Force and was associate head coach this season.
He’s a terrific hire for Huntsville, but let’s be clear: He faces a massive job.
The program was all but deceased in 2011, and the team lost 22 of 25 games this season.
Broncos team president Joe Ellis brought toughness along with a touch of kindness in his response to the drunk driving arrests of director of player personnel Matt Russell and director of pro personnel Tom Heckert.
Russell and Heckert were disciplined, and they needed to be disciplined. Let’s be clear: Drunk driving leaves women and men, girls and boys six feet under.
But Ellis and the Broncos delivered compassion along with the discipline. The duo will be allowed to return to their jobs if they undergo treatment and rehab.
“We’re not inclined to tear down lives even further,” Ellis said. “We’re inclined to help people rebuild themselves.”
Well said, Mr. Ellis.
Air Force fans know all about the skills of Broncos halfback Ronnie Hillman. During Hillman’s too-brief, two-season career at San Diego State,he ripped through the Falcons defense for 363 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He didn’t just pick on Air Force. Hillman gained 3243 yards rushing and scored 36 touchdowns at SDSU.
The Denver Broncos offense looks severely lopsided. The Broncos could become one of the more lethal passing teams in NFL history with Peyton Manning throwing to one of the best collection of receivers in the game. Manning might throw for 50 TDs. Passing dominance is expected.
The surprise could come from Hillman. It’s my expectation that Hillman will deliver a breakout season. He’s fast. He’s bigger and tougher and powerful than you think, packing 195 pounds on his 5-foot-9 frame.
I hear Broncos fans, many of them extremely well informed, talking about Hillman as a 3rd-down back.
I’m talking about him as a every-down back. With defenses frightened of Manning’s arm, Hillman could ramble to 1,300 yards rushing.
I’m biased. I admit it. I was there when Hillman ran through Air Force’s entire defense on a 2010 touchdown run.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun was there, too.
He still remembers, in vivid detail, Hill’s rampage to the end zone. Hillman bolted through the middle of Air Force’s defense in the second quarter and encountered half the Falcons’ roster.
“Four guys literally had great angles,” Calhoun said, “and yet you were reaching. You would be ready to put a face on him, and all of a sudden you’re grabbing air. All of a sudden he’s gone.”
He could get gone again this season for the Broncos.
Air Force basketball coach Dave Pilipovich has a knack for enjoying his job. This is less common than you might think. Coaches have a tendency to find ways to stress about everything. No matter how wonderful the situation, they’re scowling and worrying.
Pilipovich was talking this week about the Falcons convincing home victory over UNLV. The win might have been the highlight of the program’s revival season.
At one point in the game, with the Falcons leading by more than 20 and victory all but assured, Pilipovich turned to Air Force radio play-by-play man Jim Arthur, who was sitting right by the Air Force bench.
“Can you believe this?” Pilipovich asked Arthur, laughing. “Can you believe we’re up by 20 over UNLV?”
Sports movies based on fact are usually only loosely grounded in reality.
“Friday Night Lights” (I’m talking about the movie, not the TV series) turned a superbly reported book into a wildly over-the-top movie that flirted far too often with racism.
“The Express” turned the Ernie Davis story into an excuse to show football violence that compared to combat violence. There is no way Davis, who won the Heisman Trophy before dying far too young, could have survived two quarters of the late hitting he endured in the movie.
“42,” is the story of Jackie Robinson’s first months as the pioneer who busted baseball’s color line. It’s an exciting, though not overblown, examination of a crucial time in sports history and, for that matter, in American history. I had meant to see the movie for weeks. I finally enjoyed this superb show on Saturday.
The movie declines to turn away from Robinson’s struggles, which were very real. He was abused by fans, umpires, opposing managers, and teammates.
But he was helped, too. He found support in his cause. He had comrades. My favorite scene in the movie comes when Robinson is walking down a street in Florida with his wife and a gruff white man approaches them. Robinson understandably expects trouble.
But the white man only wants to offer a simple, plain-spoken statement of support. This is a happy surprise for Robinson.
And for me, too. “42″ is powerful and truthful and subtle.
About David Ramsey
David Ramsey has written sports columns for The Gazette for 10 years. He's visited all 50 states, and he's wise enough to realize Colorado is the best of those 50.
He's a graduate of Denver South High School, Abilene Christian University and Syracuse University, where he earned a master's degree in American History in 2003. He's placed nine times in the national Asssociated Press Sports Editors (APSE) contest, including two first-place finishes. He's covered the Athens, Beijing and London Olympics for The Gazette. He's the father of Ruth, a Rampart High grad, and Luke and Caleb, both grads of Pikes Peak Christian. He's an avid cyclist. He hopes to climb Mount Massive this summer, but he says that every year.
Gazette sports columnist David Ramsey brings you the personal side of sports along with his personal analysis. You can follow him on Twitter @davidlukeramsey
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