A TIME TESTED MANTRA. Falcons' fans can recite Fisher's credo by heart: win the CIC trophy, win a conference title and go to and win a bowl game. These are the three goals DeBerry sets before his team each fall. The consistency with which AFA teams have succeeded in fulfilling their coach's aspirations, while sating their fans' expectations, would make any division 1-A school envious.
From the time Fisher DeBerry joined Ken Hatfield's staff for the 1981 season to the present, he has been a part of 42 CIC games. In those games AFA has posted a record of 35-7 (.833). Air Force has gone 17-4 (.810) against Army. AFA has gone 18-3 (.857) against Navy. The "house" in Vegas doesn't win as often as Fisher does in CIC games, and he plays half of his games on the road. The "house" in Vegas always plays at home. Fisher is 9-1 (.900) at home against Navy since joining the AFA coaching staff. One more thing, Air Force is a perfect 11-0 at home against Army. Take a moment to consider that since Fisher became a coach at the Air Force Academy the Falcons have a posted a 20-1(.952) record in home CIC games. The lone loss was a 20-17 defeat to Navy in 1996. AFA scored late in the game to tie the contest at 17-17. On the ensuing kickoff, with less than two minutes to play, Navy had a terrific return. The Middies drove into field goal range and with nine seconds remaining PK Tom Vanderhorst booted the game winning kick.
NICE TO SEE YA. Nine and one against the Midshipmen, eh? Navy head coach Paul Johnson will be delighted to hear the Middies have enjoyed so much success in Falcon Stadium since Fisher has taken up residence in Colorado Springs. Nice to have you in town this week Coach Johnson. Glad you could make it. If Air Force is looking for a spark by which to ignite a motivational flame under its posterior this week, it won't need to look long for a source of such inspiration. Talented AFA DB, Jeff Overstreet, was lost for the season in 2001 after being clipped during the Navy game. His absence from the Falcons' defense for the season's final eight games helped opponents hang point totals of: 63(BYU), 52(UNM), 28(CSU), 52(Hawaii) and 37(Utah) on the scoreboard against Air Force.
This year's AFA team, now an impressive 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the MWC continues an inexorable march toward national recognition and the doorstep of potential greatness. Because the MWC has such a wretched record in non-conference games this year, national pollsters have the league's teams on a very short leash when it comes to stubbing their toes against non-conference opponents. If AFA keeps winning, then those privileged few empowered with college football poll votes will have little choice but to cast an increasing number of them in favorable fashion where the Falcons are concerned. If Air Force--or CSU for that matter--loses to what is perceived to be a less talented foe, then that same enfranchised elite will drop Air Force from the polls like the proverbial hot potato. It's the push-pull of being a member of a conference widely believed to be a perennial "have not." If an MWC team wins it receives only incremental recognition. If that same team loses then it's, adios, as far as the polls are concerned.
The timing of this week's game against Navy serves to reveal a quintessentially valuable trait Fisher provides his team. Let's remember that the players on this year's Falcon team are kids. Yes, they may be emotionally mature beyond their chronological age, but they are still subject to the vicissitudes of adolescence. They can still lose focus with no more than a moment's notice. Enter Coach DeBerry.
Fisher is a master at speaking nonstop for minutes at a time without saying anything. "Well, we got a real tough baw-well game on our hands this week, yessiree. I tell ya, I don't know where we match up all too well with this bunch coming in he-ah." If there's any heat to be taken this week leading up to the Navy game, Fisher DeBerry, the world's only walking and talking thermal absorption gizmo, will be working overtime. If the spotlight of media attention begins to shine too harshly on this collection of apparently now-ready-for-prime-time-players, then Fisher will deflect the harsh glow directed at the Falcons. More importantly, DeBerry won't let the team's success accumulated in the season's first month be carelessly squandered on the expensive commodity of self-satisfaction. The current five game win streak, perfect 4-0 mark this fall and ongoing quest for national recognition would fall callously by the wayside with a loss against Navy.
To some, DeBerry may still seem the country rube trying to get by on a passel of back-country wiles while in the midst of the highly urbanized landscape of division 1-A football. Those observers haven't been paying attention. A thirty and six record as head coach in CIC games is ample testimony that this field general is no hayseed on the verge of being outflanked.