Air Force travels to Wyoming for Mountain West opener
Sept. 1, 2014
TELEVISION: ESPNU. Mike Corey (play-by-play), David Diaz-Infante (analyst)
RADIO: KVOR AM 740 in Colorado Springs, CO; The Fan 104.3 in Denver; goairforcefalcons.com. Jim Arthur (play-by-play), Jesse Kurtz (analyst)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Air Force is seeking its 100th win as a member of the Mountain West ... team is 99-86 since 1999. Air Force and Wyoming are tied for sixth nationally with the most states represented on its roster with 22. AFA has lost three straight Mountain West openers after setting a conference record with 11 straight wins. Air Force is looking to go 2-0 for the first time since 2010. The Falcon have opened 2-0 under Troy Calhoun three times (2007, 2008, 2010) and went on to win nine, eight and nine games, respectively, those seasons. The Falcons are leading the nation in rushing for the first time since week five of 2012 when the team averaged 396.3 yards per game. Air Force is leading the nation in rushing after the season opener for the first time since 2012 ... that year the team opened with a 484-yard effort vs. Idaho State. Wyoming leads the MW in rushing defense (42.0) and Air Force is second (63.0). Wyoming is second in the MW in total defense (253.0) and Air Force is third (263.0). Wyoming, along with Colorado State, ranks as the oldest rival for Air Force....this week is the 53rd meeting.
Air Force leads the overall series 27-22-3, including an 18-15 mark in conference games. The Falcons are 11-11-2 in Laramie, 15-11-1 at home and 1-0 in neutral site games. Air Force defeated Wyoming, 28-27, in the last meeting in Laramie. Wyoming won last year's meeting, 56-23, in Falcon Stadium. Prior to Air Force's five-game streak from 2006-10, no team had won more than three straight in the series. Six of the last nine games in the series have been decided by one possession. The teams first played Nov. 2, 1957, to a 7-7 tie in Laramie.
THE LAST MEETING (9/21/13): Wyoming defeated Air Force, 56-23, in Falcon Stadium. Quarterback Brett Smith led the Cowboys offense with 138 yards rushing and a touchdown on 16 carries. Smith hit 35-of-41 passes for 373 yards and four touchdowns as the Cowboys extended the road team's winning streak in the series to three games. The team's exchanged touchdowns on their opening drives and Will Conant added a 33-yard field goal to give the Falcons a 10-7 lead. The Cowboys took the lead for good, 14-10, with Smith hit Dominic Rufran on a 61-yard TD pass to make it 14-10. Wyoming extended the lead to 42-17 at the half. Shaun Wick scored on a three-yard run in the third quarter to give Wyoming a 49-17 lead. The teams exchanged fourth-quarter touchdowns to make up the final margin. The Cowboys finished with 622 total yards, including 373 passing. Air Force finished with 473 total yards, including 346 rushing. Jon Lee led the Falcons with 82 yards on eight carries. Jaleel Awini chipped in with 68 yards and a touchdown rushing and hit 11-of-18 passes for 89 yards.
THE LAST TIME IN LARAMIE: Air Force overcame a 13-point second half deficit to defeat Wyoming, 28-27, in Laramie. The Cowboys opened the scoring with a nine-yard TD run by Shaun Wick to take a 6-0 lead in the first quarter. Air Force answered on the next drive with a Connor Dietz 41 yard touchdown pass to Dontae Strickland to take a 7-6 lead. Wyoming added a touchdown pass from Jason Thompson and a two-point conversion and a D.J. May touchdown run to take a 21-7 lead. Ty MacArthur and Dietz hooked up on a 46-yard scoring pass to cut the lead to 21-14, but the Cowboys tacked on a field goal on the last play of the first half to take a 24-14 halftime lead. Wyoming opened the second half with a field goal on its first drive to extend the lead to 27-14. Jon Lee scored on a two-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 27-21 late in the third quarter. Kale Pearson, who entered the game for Dietz after he lost his helmet and was injured, scored a touchdown on a five-yard run with 7:45 left to give Air Force the lead. The defense held Wyoming on its next drive and the offense was able to run out the clock for the win. Air Force held the ball for 12:12 of the fourth quarter and limited Wyoming to just seven plays and 19 yards. The Falcons finished with 371 total yards, including 230 rushing. Connor Dietz led the way with a season-best 92 yards rushing and hit seven-of-nine passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns. The defense was led by Austin Niklas, who had a game-high 14 tackles. Steffon Batts and James Chambers added 10 tackles each while Alex Means chipped in with nine.
WYOMING NOTES: This season marks the first year for the Cowboys under the direction of Craig Bohl, who was the head coach at North Dakota State from 2003-13 ... Bohl was a remarkable 104-32 at NDSU including three-straight national championships from 2011-13 ... Bohl was an assistant coach at Nebraska and a member of the Cornhusker's national championship teams in 1995 and 1997 ... The Cowboys opened the Bohl-era with a 17-12 victory over Montana last week ... The Cowboys lead the nation in fewest penalties per game, collecting just one for four yards last week ... Shaun Wick led the Cowboys last week with 22 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown ... D.J. May added 13 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown ... The Cowboys only gave up 253 total yards and the defensive effort was led by Mark Nzeocha, who had 12 total tackles, a sack and three pass breakups ... Wyoming controlled the ball vs. Montana, notching a 34:54 mark in time of possession.
MOUNTAIN WEST OPENERS
Air Force is 11-4 in Mountain West openers dating back to 1999, including a 5-1 mark on the road. Air Force has lost three straight conference openers following a MW-record 11-game winning streak. TCU snapped Air Force's 11-game winning streak with a 35-19 victory in 2011 in Falcon Stadium. Air Force is 6-3 at home and 5-1 on the road in MW openers. The Falcons are 23-11 all-time in conference openers dating back to 1980. Air Force has won 15 of the last 19 conference openers overall.
AIR FORCE LAST WEEK: Air Force defeated Nicholls, 44-16, to improve to 8-0 all-time in season openers under head coach Troy Calhoun. The Falcons ran wild, rushing for a nation's-best 539 yards. Sophomore Jacobi Owens led the way with 233 yards on 23 carries to set a school record for rushing yards by a player in his first-career start. Owens averaged 10.1 yards per carry and had three runs of 20 or more yards. The Falcons broke open a 9-9 tie early in the second quarter with touchdown runs from Broam Hart and Devin Rushing to take a 23-9 halftime lead. Owens helped power the first half outbreak collecting 171 of his yards in the first two quarters. The Falcons made it 35 unanswered points with third quarter rushing touchdowns from Shayne Davern and Rushing, while Paco Solano closed the scoring for Air Force with an 11-yard rushing touchdown to make it 44-9 midway through the fourth quarter. Nicholls added a late touchdown to make up the final margin. Rushing added 55 yards rushing while quarterback Kale Pearson chipped in with 46 yards. He also hit three of six passes for 19 yards as Air Force finished with 558 total yards. The defense was led by Connor Healy, who had eight tackles in his first-career start. Weston Steelhammer added two sacks, including one in the end zone for a safety to open the scoring for Air Force. The defense gave up just 263 total yards and had five quarterback sacks.
Air Force's safety in the first quarter was the first since Brandon Reeves vs. Southern Utah, Aug. 30, 2008.
Air Force's 539 yards rushing are the most since the Falcons ran for 595 vs. Tennessee State in 2011. The 539 yards rushing are the 10th most in school history.
Garrett Brown's seven-yard TD run in the first quarter is the first TD run of his career. He had a TD reception last season.
Alex Hansen's blocked PAT in the first quarter was the third blocked PAT of his career. He blocked two PATs last season
Connor Healy's eight tackles are a career high. His previous high was six vs. New Mexico in 2012
Owens is the eighth player to have 200 or more rushing yards in a game. It has happened a total of 16 times. He joins Chad Hall, Dee Dowis, Beau Morgan, Cody Getz, Anthony LaCoste, Andy Smith and Brian Bream.
Owens' 233 rushing yards are the seventh most in school history.
Air Force leads the nation in rushing after week one with a 539-yard effort vs. Nicholls. Air Force scored 35 unanswered points from the second quarter until the final minutes vs. Nicholls. Air Force held the ball for 31:08 vs. Nicholls State. The Falcons averaged 7.4 yards per carry in the season opener. Air Force's 539 rushing yards vs. Nicholls is the 10th most in school history and most since getting 595 vs. Tennessee State in 2011.
Air Force allowed just 263 total yards vs. Nicholls, the fewest since allowing 162 vs. Hawai'i in 2012. The Falcons allowed just 63 yards rushing vs. Nicholls, the fewest since Hawai'i had 37 in 2012. Air Force allowed just 2.1 yards per carry and 4.3 yards per play vs. Nicholls. Air Force forced seven punts and one three-and-out vs. Nicholls. Air Force recorded its first safety since 2008 when Weston Steelhammer had a sack in the end zone. Air Force had five quarterback sacks vs. Nicholls, more than doubling the game-best in 2013 of two. o The five sacks are the most since getting six vs. South Dakota in the 2011 season opener.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
The Falcons are second nationally in net punting with a 51.5 mark. Air Force punted just twice vs. Nicholls State, including a 54 yard punt that was downed inside the 20. The punting game allowed no yards on punt returns, as Nicholls attempted one return for zero yards.
AIR FORCE LEADS THE NATION IN RUSHING: Air Force rushed for a nation's-best 539 yards against Nicholls in the season opener last week. The Falcons lead the nation in rushing after week one with a 539.0 per-game average. Air Force was the only team to top the 500-yard mark and lead second-ranked Nebraska by 41 yards per game. The team averaged 7.4 yards per rush and seven players had a run of 10 yards or longer against Nicholls.
AFA RUSHING ATTACK ONE OF THE BEST: Air Force has consistently been one of the top rushing teams in the country since the 1980s. Air Force has had 41 players top the 1,000-yard mark for their careers. Air Force's 41 career 1,000-yard rushers ranks tied for 14th all-time in FBS history. Oklahoma leads the way with 70, followed by USC with 62 and Nebraska with 60. Army is the only other service academy in the top 20, ranking sixth with 49. The Falcons are the only Mountain West team in the top 20.
AIR FORCE HAS FOURTH LONGEST ACTTIVE SCORING STREAK Air Force has scored in a school record 259 consecutive games. The streak is the fourth longest active streak in the nation. Air Force's streak is the ninth longest in Division I-A history. The Falcons were last shutout by Mississippi, 13-0, in the 1992 Liberty Bowl.
HOME SCHEDULE LOOKS GOOD: The Falcons play six homes this season with five daytime kickoffs. The team plays Nicholls State (Aug. 30) and Nevada (Nov. 15) at noon MT while the Navy (Oct. 4), New Mexico (Oct. 18) and Colorado State (Friday, Nov. 28) games all start at 1:30 p.m. The Colorado State game is the lone non-Saturday home game. Air Force hosts Boise State for the Broncos' first trip to Falcon Stadium Sept. 27 at 5 p.m. in the only night game.
AIR FORCE SECOND NATIONALLY IN NET PUNTING: Air Force is second in the nation in net punting with a 51.5 average. Senior Will Conant punted twice for a 51.5 average with a long punt of 54 yards, which was downed inside the 20. The Falcons allowed just one return for zero yards.
Air Force blocked an extra point in last week's win over Nicholls. Alex Hensen picked up the block, the third blocked PAT of his career (two last year). Air Force has blocked 24 kicks since 2007 under head coach Troy Calhoun. The breakdown: 10 FGs, 12 PATs, 2 Punts Air Force's six blocks last season are the most in a season in the Calhoun era. Air Force's four blocked PATs is the second most in a season in school history (2006). Air Force has blocked 122 kicks since 1990 when the program began tracking them. The breakdown: 53 punts, 37 field goals and 32 PATs. Air Force set a school record with 11 blocks in 1997 (7 punts, 3 FGs, 1 punt). Single season records for each category: Punts (7, 1997), FGs (3, 6 times, 2009), PATs (5, 2006). 2013 blocks: Troy Timmerman (PAT vs. SDSU; PAT vs. UNM); Robert Green (FG vs. Notre Dame); Nick Fitzgerald (FG vs. Army); Alex Hansen (2 PATs vs. UNLV).
AIR FORCE NO. 1 IN FOOTBALL GSR: The Air Force Academy is the top ranked public institution in graduation success rate (GSR) at 93 percent, according to figures released by the NCAA recently. Boise State at 91 percent ranks second while Army at 89 percent rounds out the top three public institutions. The Falcons rank fifth overall behind four private schools. Northwestern is first overall at 97 percent, followed by Rice (95 percent) and Boston College and Notre Dame at 94 percent. The overall graduation rate for college football was 71 percent.
CALHOUN AMONG THE BEST IN COACHES APR: Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun has a 996 coaches APR which is the best in the Mountain West Conference. Matt Wells of Utah State is second with a 993 followed by Bob Davie at New Mexico with a 982. Air Force's team APR in the last four-year period was 976 which ranked 17th nationally.
AIR FORCE POSTS SINGLE YEAR APR OF 997: The Air Force football team continues to be among the leaders in the Mountain West Conference and nation in Academic Performance Rate numbers. This season the Falcons posted a single-year APR of 997. Air Force posted a 976 over the last four years which ranks among the nation's top 20 for the seventh consecutive season. The Air Force football APRs for the seven most recent years have been 976 in 2008, 983 in 2009, an astounding 988 in 2010, 978 in 2011, 980 in 2012, 974 in 2013 and 976 in 2014. In addition to being the nation's best in regards to the NCAA's APR, over 98 percent of Air Force football team members who participated in a game in either their junior or senior seasons under Head Coach Troy Calhoun's guidance graduated from the Academy. The APR provides a real-time look at a team's academic success each semester by tracking the academic progress of each student-athlete. The APR accounts for eligibility, retention and graduation and provides a measure of each team's academic performance.
AIR FORCE VS. NON-CONFERENCE FOES UNDER CALHOUN: Air Force is 21-16 against non-conference foes under head coach Troy Calhoun. The Falcons are 14-3 at home, 4-9 on the road and 3-4 in neutral site games. Air Force was 2-2 last season.
AIR FORCE AT HOME: Air Force is 31-14 in Falcon Stadium under head coach Troy Calhoun, including a 1-0 mark in 2014. The Falcons were 2-5 last season. Air Force finished 5-1 at home in 2012 which ties as the fourth best mark in school history and the third time under Calhoun the team has accomplished it. The Falcons posted just the third undefeated home mark (6-0) in school history in 2007. Air Force combined for 10 wins at home in 2009 and 2010 which is the third most in two seasons in school history.
FALCONS EXCELLING IN THE CLASSROOM: The Air Force football team had 29 team members earn academic honors and 53 earn military performance honors for the spring 2014 semester. Cadets must earn a 3.0 military performance average (MPA) and 3.0 grade point average (GPA) to earn the honors.
HART A NOMINEE FOR GOOD WORKS TEAM: Air Force senior fullback Broam Hart is one of a record 182 nominees from across the country nominated for the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team. The nominees represent the sport's finest in the areas of volunteerism and leadership among their peers. For 23 years the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® has served as one of the most coveted and prestigious off-the-field honors in college football. The award recognizes players whose charitable involvement and community service contributions stand out among all other student-athletes participating in the sport. Hart has been active in his local and hometown communities, serving as a preacher at West Mansfield Church in his hometown of Alvarado, Texas. He's also served locally as a Sunday school teacher in Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak Church. Hart has been a volunteer locally at the Marion House in Colorado Springs serving meals to the homeless and helped with cleanups efforts this summer at the Waldo Canyon burn site. He has also been active at local schools reading to classes and serving as a speaker at career day. In addition to his community efforts, Hart has been active at the Academy helping to film the Cadet-Athletes Against Sexual Violence (CAASV) video. He is a member of the Air Force football leadership council and was instrumental in leading the football team as it participated in an accelerated training program against sexual violence. Hart was second on the team in rushing last season with 469 yards and tied for the team lead in rushing touchdowns with six. He recorded his first-career 100-yard rushing game in the season opener with 101 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns to lead Air Force past Colgate, 38-13.
CONANT ON GROZA WATCH LIST: Air Force senior Will Conant is one of 30 players nationwide to be named to the 2014 Lou Groza Collegiate Placekicker Award Watch List, as announced by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission. Conant hit 32-of-33 PATs and 11-of-13 field goal attempts last season. He ranked third in the conference in field goal percentage with an 84.6 mark which is the fourth-best in school history and best since Joey Ashcroft hit 88.8 percent (16-18) in 2002. Conant is one of two kickers in Air Force history to hit three times from 50-plus yards in a season. He hit three 52-yard kicks last season (Colgate, San Diego State, New Mexico), matching Ryan Harrison's three 50-plus field goals in 2007. Conant's three 50-plus field goals already rank him third in school history in career 50-yard field goals. Conant had a very successful debut game vs. Colgate, hitting all four PATs and nailed his first-career field goal attempt, a 52-yard boot. Conant is just the 11th kicker in school history to hit a field goal of 50-plus yards. The 52-yard effort was the longest by a Falcon since Ryan Harrison vs. Army in 2007. His last five field goals came from 45, 48, 52, 47 and 52 yards.
HUSAR ON RIMINGTON WATCH LIST: Air Force senior Michael Husar, Jr. is one of 66 players nationwide named to the Fall Rimington Trophy Watch List. The Rimington Trophy is presented annually to the Most Outstanding Center in NCAA Division I-A College Football. Since its inception, the Rimington Trophy has raised over $2.5 million for the cystic fibrosis community. The 14-year old award is overseen by the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which is committed to finding a cure for cystic fibrosis and has raised over $100 million for CF Research. Dave Rimington, the award's namesake, was a consensus first-team All-America center at the University of Nebraska in 1981 and 1982, during which time he became the John Outland Trophy's only double winner as the nation's finest college interior lineman. For more on the Rimington Trophy and a list of past recipients, visit www.rimingtontrophy.com. Husar, Jr. returned from season-ending knee injury to lead the Air Force offensive line last season. He played and started in all 12 games in 2013 and led the team in knockdown blocks with 70, the first center in the Calhoun era to do so. He worked with four different starting quarterbacks and anchored an offensive line that allowed just nine quarterback sacks which ranked second in the conference and seventh nationally. The offensive line helped Air Force rank second in the conference and 11th nationally in rushing with a 272.5 per-game. Husar, Jr. is a biology major and member of cadet squadron 4. A member of the dean's and commandant's lists, Husar, Jr. will be entering space operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base following graduation.
OWENS MAKES REMARKABLE DEBUT: Sophomore tailback Jacobi Owens had one of the most successful debuts in school history vs. Nicholls State. A junior varsity player as a freshman, the Las Vegas, Nev., native rushed for 233 yards on 23 carries to set a record for most yards player in his first-career start. Owens averaged 10.1 yards per carry and had three runs of 20 or more yards. His 233 yards are the seventh most in school history and second most by a sophomore. Only Air Force Hall of Famer Dee Dowis rushed for more as a sophomore with 241 yards vs. Utah in 1987. Owens ranks fourth nationally in rushing this week.
CONANT ADDS PUNTING TO LIST OF DUTES: Senior Will Conant truly is a specialist. Kickers are listed as specialists on the roster and the senior place kicker has added punting to his duties in 2014. The Groza Award watch-lister punted twice for a 51.5 average with a long punt of 54 yards which was downed inside the 20. Conant would rank third nationally in punting, but lacks enough punts to qualify for the national statistics. Conant was perfect in his kicking duties, hitting all five PATs he attempted. He did not attempt any field goals. He is Air Force's all-time leader in field goal percentage with an .846 mark, hitting 11-of-13 career field goals. He also ranks sixth in PAT percentage with a .974, hitting 37-of-38 in his career.
STEELHAMMER NOTCHES SAFETY, AMONG NATIONAL LEADERS IN SACKS: Sophomore Weston Steelhammer had a great day in Air Force's win over Nicholls. The sophomore safety recorded two sacks, including one in the end zone for a safety to score Air Force's first points of the season. The safety made it 2-0 and the Falcons scored on their next offensive possession to open up a 9-0 lead. Steelhammer is the first Falcon with a safety since Brandon Reeves vs. Southern Utah on Aug. 30, 2008. Steelhammer is tied for fourth nationally in sacks with 2.0.
HEALY LEADS DEFENSE IN FIRST-CAREER START: Junior Connor Healy led a balanced defensive attack vs. Nicholls. Healy recorded eight total sacks, including four unassisted, in his first-career start. Healy led the Falcons in tackles in a game for the first time in his career.
AIR FORCE LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: The Air Force football team has a leadership council which is responsible for giving the players a voice with the coaching staff and athletic administration. The group has talked with the director of athletics multiple times. In addition, the group has talked with Superintendent/President Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson. The group, voted on by the team, is also responsible for helping to set the standard of conduct for the team on and off the field. The members by class include Seniors: Will Conant, Justin DeCoud, Harrison Elliott, Nick Fitzgerald, Broam Hart, Colton Huntsman, Michael Husar, Jr., Jon Lee, Joey Nichol, Kale Pearson, Christian Spears, Troy Timmerman Juniors: Garrett Griffin, Alex Hansen, Connor Healy, Andrew Ruechel, Dexter Walker Sophomores: David Harris, Jalen Robinette, Nate Romine, Weston Steelhammer.
AIR FORCE INDIVIDUAL HONORS IN 2014
28 Jacobi Owens -- College Football Performance Awards honorable mention national running back of the week vs. Nicholls.
30 Will Conant -- One of 30 players nationwide to be named to the 2014 Lou Groza Collegiate Placekicker Award Watch List.
32 Broam Hart -- One of a record 182 nominees from across the country nominated for the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team for volunteerism and leadership among their peers.
65 Michael Husar, Jr. -- One of 66 nationwide players named to the Fall Rimington Trophy Watch List presented annually to the nation's most outstanding center.