*Field Goals* - The Lure of Success

SIRENS--those sweet voiced creatures whose dulcet tones lured ancient mariners from their intended destinations and into danger and peril. The Air Force Falcons may be hearing such calls beckoning them even now. But not if Fisher DeBerry can help it.

A season which began when August was on the cusp of becoming September remains yet in infancy. Hastily conceived visions of success lurking in the minds of a maturing football squad may conspire to disrupt the methodical course Fisher has plotted for it to tread.

Preseason pundits unanimously thrust Air Force into the category of also-ran before the season's first pass was thrown, field goal attempted or coin was tossed. James Fisher DeBerry and staff have heard the naysayers all too many times. "No experience returning at QB. The OL is a work in progress. The kicking game is a complete mess. Last year's team ended the season with a crash." Pick your own refrain to the "Air Force Football Blues" fully cognizant that Fisher has been serenaded with it countless times these past eighteen autumns.

Fisher has already said it in interviews this year, "There's something special about this bunch." Sure he's a cockeyed optimist, but after two-decades-plus of being a member of the AFA coaching staff Fisher has more than earned the right to dispel the gloomy forecasts projected for his team by self-anointed football experts.
Air Force has manufactured a healthy 3-0 start to the season for the seventh time in Fisher's nineteen years as the team's head coach. As the Falcons prepare to meet the Utah Utes this weekend, AFA has a chance to begin conference play with a 2-0 record for the 11th time under DeBerry. Quick starts are a way of life for DeBerry's teams.

After a 4-1 start, Air Force escaped a losing season in 2001 thanks to a last game victory over a Utah squad which inexplicably eschewed a last minute FG attempt in Falcon Stadium. The lesson to be learned from that game is that, in fact, the past is prelude. The "Dirty Dozen" incident--a curfew violation which arose while the Falcons were in Hawaii the previous weekend--cost the Falcons the services of twelve players for the Utah game. And yet, with a dozen squad members ordered out of action for the day, Air Force fashioned a victory over Utah, a team which went on to post a bowl win over Southern Cal.

Perhaps all Falcons' fans should have seen the signs at that point, that, in fact, there were members of that team whose very presence, will and drive to win against overwhelming odds would serve the team well in 2002 and beyond.
A month's time ago, a glance at the stretch of games from September 28th through October 31st on this fall's schedule might have produced thoughts of impending doom for this year's team. How quickly an outlook can change.

This year's Utah team may be a bona fide contender for the MWC title, but is by no means a team which Air Force cannot defeat. Fisher can be an excitable coach on the sidelines while throwing his hat to the turf for the umpteenth time in a game. He may even sound joyfully agitated when launching into his post game remarks by saying, "Great gollywonkers that was a terrific college football game we played today!!" Fisher's emotional keel is even enough so that it would never answer to the siren call of attempting to play more than one game at a time. Even as a coach under the cozy blanket of a long term contract Fisher isn't so foolhardy as to look past anyone on the schedule.

Air Force fans however find themselves tethered by no such restriction. They revel in playing games two or three at a time. Last week's win over Cal and the thought of a win over Utah have AFA fans postulating and hypothesizing at a furious pace.
A win this Saturday would give the Falcons a 2-0 start in the MWC and further entrench them in first place. The AFA-Utah game is the only meeting between conference teams this weekend. AFA would move to 2-0 with a win. Utah and New Mexico would be 0-1. No other teams will yet have played a conference game. AFA would be in the posture of being able to play "catch us if you can" more tantalizingly than anyone since the Dave Clark Five almost thirty years ago.
There are 117 schools playing division 1-A football give or take an East Tennessee State. Already teams are dropping from the ranks of the undefeated faster than TV executives can pull bombs from their prime time schedules. Arkansas, Bowling Green, Florida State, Georgia, Kansas State, Kentucky, Miami (Fla.), Minnesota, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oregon State, Penn State, Texas, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin join Air Force as the only undefeated teams in 1-A football entering this week's games.

Army, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee, Ohio University, Rice, SMU, San Diego State, Central Florida and Wyoming are at the other end of the food chain having yet to win a game among them. Have a close look at that list if you're an Air Force fan. Army, San Diego State and Wyoming all remain on the list of games the Falcons will play later this fall. The very thought of that trio causes mouths to water, minds to project and travel agencies to begin reserving hotel rooms for bowl bound Falcons' fans.

Two other AFA opponents--Navy and UNLV--have only a single win each. While Air Force has dashed madly toward success thus far, the majority of its competitors seem to have fallen and they can't get up.

So with winless Army, San Diego State and Wyoming still to be played, along with Navy and UNLV programs that can't seem to get started, the prospects of projected success for the Falcons seem enticingly close.

In the exercise of playing AFA's games two or three at a time the contests with Utah, BYU, Notre Dame and in state rival CSU comprise the obstacles between the Falcons and a potentially lofty perch in the national polls. Three of the four games will be played in Falcon Stadium. The game against Utah this weekend is the only one of the four which Air Force must play on the road.

A victory in Salt Lake this Saturday afternoon will supply Air Force with an authentic chance to forge a memorable season for itself and the team's fans. A win by Air Force over the Utes will cast further ridicule on the lunatic fringe prognostications of seventh and eighth place MWC finishes projected for the Falcons. Securing a 4-0 start likely will boost Air Force into the nation's top twenty-five rankings for the first time since the memorable 1998 season. A win this week will begin to impress upon Air Force fans what Fisher already knows: that this is a special bunch. With a win Fisher and company would hear, ever more clearly, the siren call of success beckoning them to continue their trek toward the threshold of greatness.


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