Hitting All the Right Notes

Air Force finished its three game prelude to the MWC season by defeating the North Texas Mean Green, 34-21. In a contest devoid of competitive balance, the most impressive element of the Falcons' performance didn't lie in Chance Harridge's brilliant three-TD-pass effort.

IN TUNE. Harridge unveiled a three TD pass onslaught in the first half versus UNT to ice the game for the Falcons. Air Force scored twenty-two second quarter points which allowed Fisher DeBerry and his coordinators, Chuck Petersen and Richard Bell, an opportunity to mix and match combinations of players throughout the second half of the game.

It was the Falcons' defensive effort which caught the Mean Green unprepared. The UNT offense was rendered impotent by AFA's success in stopping North Texas at, or behind, the line of scrimmage on a frequent basis. Air Force mixed and disguised its blitz packages so well that North Texas was unable to block effectively the swarm of marauding defenders which harassed it all day.

If there's a shortcoming to the 3-3-5 base defense which Air Force employs it is that of sustaining a consistent pass rush and generating enough pressure at the point of attack to disrupt an opponent's game plan. Air Force held UNT to 45 yards rushing and the UNT passing attack didn't mount a threat until well after the game was in hand and AFA was playing a mix and match selection of defenders.

AFA's defensive line, in combination with a variety of blitzing backers, held North Texas in check throughout the game. If Saturday's performance was a precursor to the defense's efforts for the remainder of the season, then the Falcons should be ecstatic about their chances to contend for a Mountain West Conference title.

COAST TO COAST. If Saturday's game is any indication, North Texas will sorely miss former defensive coordinator Gary DeLoach--now coaching the secondary at UCLA. The Mean Green may have talent on defense, but that squad lacked focus against Air Force. Having talent is important, having someone to orchestrate said talent is even moreso. Air Force decimated UNT for 427 yards on offense showing just how much DeLoach is missed.

TCU is still in the top twenty-five in all the major polls, but staying there may prove to be tougher than getting there. Staring QB Tye Gunn will miss three to five weeks with a separated shoulder while RB Ricky Madison is done for the season because of a torn ligament in his right knee. The Horned Frogs will be at home this weekend to face Vanderbilt.

Wake Forest, coached by former AFA assistant Jim Grobe, had a short stay in the top twenty-five after losing to Purdue, 16-10. The Demon Deacons play at home against East Carolina in their next game.

OLD MAN RIVERS. Don't blame Philip Rivers. North Carolina State's dazzling QB set Atlantic Coast Conference career records for passing yards, TDs and completions over the weekend, but it wasn't quite enough as the Wolfpack fell to Ohio State, 44-38, in triple overtime.

DISAPPOINTMENT. It was a shame to see Michigan beat Notre Dame, 38-0. Fans far and wide were hoping for a score twice that one-sided. Maybe Michigan State can deliver this weekend.

LOOKING BACKWARD AND FORWARD. Northwestern, AFA's opponent last weekend, lost at home to Miami of Ohio, 44-14. This weekend Miami goes to Fort Collins to play the CSU Rams. BYU, which hosts AFA next weekend, escaped Albuquerque with a 10-7 win over the New Mexico Lobos. The Cougars face Stanford this weekend.

EMBARRASSING. LSU versus Western Illinois. Florida against Florida A & M. Kansas State plays Massachusetts. Oklahoma State faces Southwest Missouri State. Some teams have no shame when it comes to scheduling sacrificial lambs for the non-conference portion of their slate of games. Ticket buying fans deserve more than paying hard earn money to see Big State Tech blast Who Are U. by fifty-six points. Among the coming weekend's nail-biters are: Minnesota dismantling Louisiana-Lafayette; Louisville destroying UTEP; Oklahoma State abusing SMU and Missouri overwhelming Middle Tennessee. At least in boxing some mismatches are stopped. However, college football dictates that all insulting devastations be allowed to run their full sixty minutes.

SHOWING IMPROVEMENT. MWC teams have struggled in non-conference games since the formation of the league. The members of the league are showing signs of progress this season. The eight constiuents of the MWC have posted an overall record of 14-8(.636) while going 8-8(.500) versus division 1-A competition and 6-0 when facing division 1-AA teams.

THE HAVE NOTS. Your favorite college team has an opening or two on its future schedules for a non-conference game and you're wondering by whom that opening will be filled. Here are some likely suspects, er, prospects. Army, Buffalo, East Carolina, Idaho, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee, North Carolina, Rice, SMU, Temple, UTEP and Utah State have yet to win a game this year. Look for one of them to serve as a doormat for your favorite team soon.

CONFERENCE CALL. Brigham Young posted the first win in Mountain West Conference play this season when it edged New Mexico, 10-7, on Saturday night in Alumni Stadium. BYU totaled 348 yards on offense, but punted ten times for 410 yards. New Mexico amassed 331 yards on offense and punted ten times for 390 yards. Call it chorus line football: one, two, three, kick!

The game signals that BYU should be taken seriously as a contender in the MWC title chase this year. The result doesn't eliminate New Mexico from the race, but certainly diminishes the Lobos' chances of winning a league championship.

The Cougars lost QB Matt Berry to injury for the second half of the game and he's expected to miss several weeks of action.

CSU barely broke a sweat in pounding Weber State, 31-7, on Sonny Lubick Field, at Hughes Stadium, in Fort Collins. The Rams established a 14-0 halftime lead, ran that to 28-0 midway through the third quarter and coasted home to an easy victory. Rahsaan Sanders and Marcus Houston led the way with over 200 yards rushing and a pair of TDs between them. The Rams host Miami of Ohio this week.

Utah continues to look impressive in the early part of its first season under the direction of head coach Urban Meyer. RB Brandon Warfield ran authoritatively late in the fourth quarter as the Utes scored a key TD with 1:06 to play and defeated the Cal Bears, 31-24, in Rice-Eccles Stadium. Warfield was held under 100 yards rushing for the first time this season, but was the dominant figure in the game on the Utes' winning drive.

The Utes' starting QB, Brett Elliot, suffered a broken hand against Texas A & M and was replaced in the lineup by Alex Smith. Smith engineered Utah's game winning march over Cal.

UNLV provided the MWC's marquee win of the weekend with its stunning, 23-5, victory over Wisconsin in Madison. The Rebels' defense just plain stole this one as the Badgers shut down UNLV's offense. The Rebels managed a scant 187 yards on offense. On defense the Rebels forced 5 turnovers, returned a fumble 55 yards for a TD and held Wisconsin to 52 yards on the ground.

The game serves as a demonstration of UNLV's mystifyingly, erratic play under John Robinson. One week the team is torched by the Kansas Jayhawks, while the next week they go on the road and beat a nationally ranked team. Which Rebels' team shows up to play Hawaii this week is anyone's guess.

What do UTEP and Ohio State's football teams have in common? Neither scored a TD against San Diego State this season. The Aztecs posted a shutout, 34-0, over the Miners and raised their record to 2-1 on the season. The Aztecs forced six turnovers, DB Jacob Elimimian returned an interception 85 yards for a score and RB Lynell Hamilton ran for 107 yards in a convincing win by SDS.

There's nothing but Cougars everywhere they look. New Mexico, smarting after a conference opening loss at home to BYU, hits the road for what will be a tough contest. The Lobos head to Pullman to face the Washington State Cougars. WSU was in Boulder over the weekend and flattened the previously, nationally ranked, number 17, CU Buffs by a, 47-26, score.

Wyoming drives down I-25 this week to face Front Range rival Air Force in the MWC opener for both teams. The Cowboys scored two late TDs against Kansas on Saturday to close the final score in that game to a misleadingly close, 42-35. QB Casey Bramlet is still throwing the ball everywhere in sight as he hurled four more TDs against the Jayhawks in trying to rally Wyoming to a miraculous comeback.

If Wyoming could provide some diversity on offense for Bramlet, the Cowpokes might be able to post a win or two over the course of their conference schedule. Through the first three games of the year Wyoming has gained only 295 yards on the ground. As it is, Wyoming has no choice but to let Bramlet hoist passes throughout the game.

Air Force enters the fourth week of play in a virtual tie with Michigan for the lead in rushing yards per game. The Falcons are second in the country averaging 307 yards a game--exactly the figure they achieved when they led the nation in ground yardage in 2002.

Air Force will face a Wyoming team which ranks 105th of 117 teams in division 1-A football when it comes to rushing defense. AFA controls the ball well and for lengthy periods of time with its ground based option attack. Wyoming can't stop anyone from running the ball. The Cowboys seem to be heading for a vicious cycle in which they'll be subjected to AFA's punishing and effective ground assault only to have to implore Casey Bramlet to throw the ball to keep Wyoming in the game. Remember: Air Force averages 307 yards rushing per game. Wyoming has rushed for 295 all season.

Fisher DeBerry will have his team's full attention this week when the it begins preparations to face the Cowboys, a team which embarrassed AFA, 34-26, in Laramie last season, sending the Falcons' year into a tailspin from which the team did not fully recover. Wyoming's head coach, Joe Glenn, is in for an inhospitable welcoming to the Mountain West Conference as Air Force will show that falcons are, indeed, birds of prey.

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