BITTERSWEET. The harsh realization that the end of their competitive football careers is at hand, probably has not landed with full force in the minds of Air Force seniors. Games with Army, UNLV and San Diego State remain on the regular season schedule. More than likely, a bowl game in Las Vegas, San Francisco or Seattle will bring a fitting end to their individual and collective pursuits on the gridiron.
Paul Mayo, Bryan Blew, Wes Crawley, Leotis Palmer, John Welsh, Joel Buelow, Tom Heier, Don Clark, Jon Hicks, Matt McCraney, Scott Meyer, Wayne Southam, Nate Olsen, Ricky Amezaga and Eric Thompson are the seniors on Fisher DeBerry's nineteenth team at the Air Force Academy. As with any athletic career there have been moments of failure and disappointment which have been ushered swiftly to the background with the arrival of triumphant achievement and success.
Soon enough the performances of the class of 2003 will be consigned fondly to memory banks, where they will grow in legend and prowess with the passage of time, only to come spilling forth at reunions of these brothers-in-arms as they recall, with acquiesced grandeur, their collective conquests so many years ago.
Before memories fade, tales grown taller and embellishments playfully depict scenarios which never occurred, here is an abbreviated look at the feats of the class of 2003 as the current season enters the homestretch.
A MATTER OF RECORD. The class of 2003 enters this week's game against Army having posted an overall record of 27-17(.614) in forty-four games. The seniors have been part of teams which have gone 16-6(.727) at home, highlighted by wins over BYU in 2000 and the current season, as well as the memorable 44-40 win over CSU in the Snow Bowl game of their sophomore year. The seniors are members of teams which have compiled an 11-11(.500) record on the road. Among the eleven victories are a bowl game win over Fresno State in the Silicon Valley Classic to cap a 9-3 record in 2000, and a victory this season over a then nationally ranked California team in Berkeley. In an ironic turn of events, the first road win this year's senior class posted may have been its most significant. The game was played on September 19, 1999, in Seattle against the Washington Huskies. Air Force won the game 31-21 to defeat the Huskies for the second time in less than a year and with the victory laid claim to the nation's longest winning streak at that point in time, at eleven games. The streak was snapped one week later in Falcon Stadium by Wyoming.
This year's senior class has the opportunity to become the third consecutive one to graduate from the academy without ever having lost a game in Commander-in-Chief's trophy competition. The seniors are an unblemished 4-0 versus Navy and 3-0 against Army. The team travels to West Point this week to face the Black Knights as Air Force tries to secure its sixth consecutive, outright CIC title.
The final game on the regular season schedule will find the Falcons playing at home against San Diego State. This year's seniors have forged a spotless 3-0 record when playing the Aztecs. The seniors could finish their careers with a composite 12-0 record against Army, Navy and San Diego State. The game matching Air Force and SDS may assume added importance for the Falcons as it could determine in which bowl game Fisher DeBerry's team will play in December.
BOWL UPDATE. Air Force already has won the requisite number of games to become bowl eligible in the coming post season. It's highly unlikely Air Force will win the MWC title and play in the Liberty Bowl. A more credible scenario has the Falcons landing a berth in the Las Vegas, San Francisco or Seattle Bowl. Here is a look at teams the Falcons may face in one of the aforementioned games.
The San Francisco Bowl would match Air Force with the fifth place finisher from the Big East. Syracuse and Temple are currently tied for fifth place in the conference. Boston College, fresh from its upset of Notre Dame last week, is 0-3 in the Big East, but by virtue of some late season wins could wind up as the BE's representative in San Francisco.
A SOUR NOTE. Air Force fans are heartened by the team's recent success against longtime conference foe Brigham Young. While BYU maintains a healthy 13-4 advantage over AFA in the Fisher DeBerry era, the Falcons have won four of the past six meetings between the teams. There may be signs that this series is turning into a competitive one.
And then there is the state of affairs between AFA and Colorado State. Fisher DeBerry assumed the head coaching position in 1984 for the Falcons. In his first nine meetings against CSU he posted a sparkling 7-