The past two editions of the game between the Falcons and Rams have produced some classic moments. Here's a look at some of them in advance of this evening's potential MWC-title-determining contest.
NOT JUST IN WISCONSIN. Lambeau Field may be home to the Green Bay Packers and the most well known frozen tundra in NFL lore, but Falcon Stadium was positively gelid on the night of November 11, 2000, when Air Force topped CSU 44-40, in a game played with a wind-chill factor of minus twenty-five. In spite of the horrendous meteorological conditions, the teams put on an offensive explosion of epic proportion as they combined for 84 points and well over 1,000 yards of total offense.
Ironically, a defensive stop late in the first half proved to be a turning point for AFA. In the thirtieth minute of play, facing a fourth and one at the Air Force three yard line, the Rams handed the ball to Cecil Sapp, who took off around the left side of the CSU offensive line. He was met in the vicinity of the sideline by AFA DB Tony Metters. Metters held his ground, made the tackle and the ball was turned over on downs to the Falcons and AFA's 24-7 first half lead remained intact as the teams headed for the sanctuary of heated locker rooms. The evening was not a total loss for Sapp as he was able to stun the Falcons in the game with an eighty-nine yard TD run, one of the longest ever yielded by Air Force.
The Falcons' option based ground game was nearly unstoppable as Air Force backs ran the ball seventy-four times for four hundred yards. The Air Force fullbacks posted what may have been the highest combined figures at the position in the school's history. Scott Becker went 14/72/1 TD against the Rams and Nate Beard was prolific in compiling 25/149/3 TDs on the night. Becker and Beard posted the astounding totals of 39/221/4 TDs for the game.
A DOUBLE TAKE. The home team has won the past four games in this series which means that last year it was CSU's turn to win and the Rams did just that. The Air Force defense did a terrific job of shutting down the Rams' offense. RB Duan Ruff scored a TD for CSU two minutes and four seconds into the second quarter to stake the Rams to a 14-0 lead. It was the last TD the Falcons' defense allowed in the game even though CSU would score on two other occasions. While AFA's defense contained the CSU offense, the Rams' special teams dominated AFA and crafted a win for Sonny Lubick's squad.
KR/WR Pete Rebstock played havoc with the Falcons all night. His most devastating blow was delivered when he caught an AFA kickoff two or three yards deep in his own endzone and returned it to the Air Force twenty-seven yard line. The ensuing Rams' score was primarily the responsibility of the AFA kickoff coverage team as opposed to the Falcons' defense.
AFA's punt coverage team committed the evening's fatal mistake when it allowed the Gallimore twins--Jason and Justin--to block a punt and return it for a game breaking touchdown late in the contest.
AFA QB Keith Boyea authored the finest game of his career in rushing 35/188/3 TDs against the Rams. Boyea had exactly the same number of rushes as the entire CSU team, but Boyea was more productive in terms of yards gained and TDs scored. He played gallantly in a losing effort as CSU posted a 28-21 victory.
HOW IT MIGHT LOOK. You've consulted your local fortune teller. You've dealt and read a deck of Tarot cards. You've even taken a shot at reading leaves in your tea cup over the breakfast table this morning in an effort to divine some hint as to how this Halloween soiree will manifest itself. Here's a suggestion: take the over.
Here are the point totals produced in the games from 1994 through last season: 58, 47, 83, 24, 57, 62, 84 and 49. No defensive struggles in the bunch. The defensive coordinators may have their therapists with them on the sidelines tonight. The only low scoring game in the last eight years was the unlikely 1997 game in Fort Collins in which the Falcons manhandled the Moses Moreno led CSU team and posted a 24-0 shutout conquest of the Rams. The seven remaining games have been reminiscent of WAC-era shootouts between these animated competitors.
Air Force was lethargic on defense against Wyoming. Casey Bramlet passed successfully throughout the game as AFA's pass rush and pass coverage were ineffective. Falcon back Mark Marsh missed the game with a stinger. Air Force fans can draw their own conclusions as to whether his injury was the cause of the team's languid defensive performance or merely an untimely coincidence. Jeff Overstreet missed a significant amount of playing time in the game and Sean Rodgers and Charles Akinyemi saw more playing time than usual in the secondary in lieu of Marsh and Overstreet. The Falcons will need all hands front and center this evening to contain Bradlee Van Pelt's vastly improved passing game. AFA needs to be markedly better pressuring the passer and defending the pass than was the case versus Wyoming.
The biggest legitimate concern AFA fans have at this juncture in the schedule is whether or not Chance Harridge will display any progress in his ability to pass this season. The Falcons' passing attack is a nondescript afterthought to its game plan rather than an integral means by which the team has shown it can consistently move the ball.
If Air Force continues to struggle in running the ball--which has been the case in the past two games--and cannot pass efficiently and effectively, it will indeed be a long night against Colorado State. Either a dormant fullback game or a slumbering passing attack must awaken in time to help Harridge and the HBs move the ball against the Rams. Air Force must establish some measure of diversity on offense to keep the CSU defense off balance. Expect to see AFA use its outside speed this evening to test an injury riddled CSU secondary. Until and unless the Rams demonstrate they can provide run support from its secondary Air Force should challenge the perimeter of the CSU defense.
The recent history of high scoring games should continue. The teams have averaged exactly 58 points between them over the past eight meetings, with two games producing more than eighty points. Cold weather hasn't been a deterrent to either offense. Either team's ability to force a few series which end with the opponent having to punt on fourth down may inject enough momentum into one squad to turn the game in its favor.
A loss tonight erases all realistic hopes of Air Force winning the MWC title this season. A win launches the Falcons into a flight pattern which heads them toward their first conference championship since 1998. Halloween arrives this evening and with it the witching hour of the Falcons' season which will unmask the tricks and treats awaiting the team over the remainder of the season.