AFAFalcons Staff Writer
TOO LONG IN THE MAKING. Air Force had won in some hostile
environs during Fisher DeBerry's twenty year tenure as the head coach of the
Falcons. Most notable among the snake pits in which Air Force had pulled an
upset is Notre Dame Stadium where Air Force beat the Fighting Irish on a couple
of occasions in DeBerry's tenure. But prior to this season, the Falcons had come
up a bone dry 0-7 in Provo with DeBerry at the team's helm.
The Cougars and Falcons struggled to move the ball with any measure of consistency in the first half. Air Force botched a field goal attempt on its first possession, after a miscue on holder Donny Heaton's part, and came away with no points on the drive. While the Cougars did manage to take a 3-0 lead on Matt Payne's 35 yard field goal, BYU struggled to move the ball in the opening half because of the uneven passing performance of QB John Beck.
PK Joey Ashcroft's thirty yard field goal in the second quarter moved Air Force into a, 3-3, tie and closed a low scoring first half.
STOPS AND STARTS. The running of HB Darnell Stephens (16-93 for the day) and a 46 yard completion of an option pass--from Anthony Butler to WR Alec Messerall--were the offensive highlights of the opening two quarters for the Falcons. After the AFA's opening drive of the game, which ended in a field goal attempt gone awry, neither team mounted a serious threat to score a TD in the half. Beck may become a polished QB in time, but on the afternoon he showed the ill effects of having been away from competitive football for several years.
SHORT AND SWEET AFA QB Chance Harridge's total offensive output for the day may have been only 106 yards--eighty-eight of which came through the air--but his first of two TD runs on the day gave the Falcons their initial lead and BYU never regained an advantage on the scoreboard. Harridge scored on an eight yard jaunt in the third quarter and on the final play of the game as time expired.
The defense authored its second sterling performance in two years against a now surprisingly dormant and docile Cougars' attack. The Falcons have yielded only 19 points in their past two meetings with the BYU.
A key strip of the ball from the grasp of BYU RB Marcus Whalen by DB Nate Allen and the subsequent recovery on the play by DL Ryan Carter proved to be the most pivotal of a handful of key efforts by the AFA defense in the second half.
Although it took DeBerry twenty years to post his first win in Provo over BYU his Falcons' squads have now beaten the Cougars in five of the last seven meetings between the teams. The win boosted AFA's record to 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference and puts the Falcons in a strong position to make a concerted run at their first conference title since claiming a Western Athletic Conference championship in 1998.
AN EMERGING FORCE. In last week's game versus Wyoming, HB Darnell Stephens had the best day of his young career when he ran for 91 yards. Against the Cougars he did himself one better by running for 92 yards. Stephens, a junior from Midwest City, Oklahoma, continues to emerge as AFA's most accomplished runner and consistent outside threat this season. While he caught only a single pass for a meager three yard gain, Stephens was the intended receiver on two other Harridge aerials which just missed connecting. Lean, quick and powerful, Stephens has the strength to run inside or outside and has shown brilliant ability to do both. The added dimension of his being a capable receiver enhances his value to the Falcons' efforts to keep opposing defenses on the wrong foot because of AFA's passing game, which continues to become an effective counterpoint to the nation's leading rushing attack.
GAME BALL AWARDS. Even some Falcons' fans weren't duly impressed last season when Air Force dismantled BYU by a 52-9 count in Falcon Stadium. There were some myopic fans who may have seen the event as an aberration which would not be repeated. For the skeptics who discounted the possibility of the Falcons' being able to defuse a historically highDefensive coordinator Richard Bell's troops have held BYU to a total of 19 points--on two TDs and three FGs--in the course of the past two games. Additionally the Falcons' win over BYU marked the team's fourth consecutive road win in the regular season. Bell has infused this year's defense with an indomitable spirit and the ability to help achieve victory in a stadium where Air Force has had as little success as any in which it has played. For his part in the team's momentous win in a most difficult surrounding Richard Bell is awarded a game ball.
Seven consecutive defeats, spanning parts of three decades, to one team in its home stadium, is an unconscionable amount of despair to ask one man to withstand. Victory is a reward, while defeat is a classroom in which the vanquished confront hard lessons. The courage to rise to the challenge of overcoming past failures and disappointments is the mark of character and undaunted, unbowed determination. Fisher DeBerry may have felt on the verge of being struck down, but never let himself be destroyed by a lack of success in Provo over his first nineteen years as the Falcons' head coach. With his team's, 24-10, vanquishing of the BYU Cougars, coach DeBerry was made fully aware of one of life's great truths, that being, that fruit which takes longer to ripen tastes sweeter. As he basks in the well earned and deserved afterglow of perhaps the most rewarding victory of his tenure at the academy, Fisher DeBerry may do so with the game ball he is hereby awarded.