In the Fisher DeBerry era losing streaks at home have been as rare as a twenty-ninth day in February. The last time Air Force lost consecutive home games was in 1999 when Wyoming topped the Falcons 10-7 and Utah beat AFA in that year's Snow Bowl 21-15.
The most recent occurrence of three consecutive home losses by Air Force came at the beginning of the 1994 campaign. The Falcons lost to CSU 34-21, Brigham Young 45-21 and Northwestern 14-10 to open the season 0-3. Air Force then won seven straight games, and eight of nine, to finish the season with an 8-4 record.
Only once in Fisher DeBerry's eighteen years as AFA's head coach have the Falcons lost their final three home games in a season. In 1992 while posting a 7-5 record, Air Force dropped its final three home games, losing to
CSU 32-28, Utah 20-13 and BYU 28-7.
SENIORITY. Air Force seniors will play their final home game this weekend in Falcon Stadium. While this year's team will carry a rare home losing streak into its contest with the Aztecs, a look at DeBerry's record in final home games of the season during his tenure bodes well for the Falcons' attempt to stop the home losing streak, forge a third straight win and send the seniors out in style. Fisher's teams have gone 11-7 in final home games.
Five of those seven losses were inflicted by BYU. Air Force has taken two bold measures to correct this problem. First, games against BYU have been scheduled earlier in the season and second, the Falcons have started to beat the Cougars on something approaching a regular basis.
The other teams to have beaten AFA in a final home game of the season are CSU (1996) and ND (1995). The bad news is those are the teams which put Air Force in its current plight of a two game losing streak in Falcon Stadium. The good news is the Falcons' opponent this week is San Diego State.
A GROWING CONCERN. Air Force has won its last two games, the offense has scored 49 points in each contest, but the defense is spinning out of control. Falcon defenders have now allowed thirty or more points in each of the past four games. Even in last season's seemingly weekly defensive meltdowns the Falcons never allowed thirty or more points in four consecutive games. The Falcons haven't had a defensive lapse resulting in such an avalanche of points since the final four games of the 1989 season and the first game of the 1995 schedule when the string reached a fifth game.
Soft coverage in the secondary has replaced the aggressive play so prevalent in the first six games of the current season. Pass completions by opposing teams facing third and long situations have increased during the second half of the season. The frequency with which the defense has forced turnovers has waned. The Falcons' offense is going to have days when it plays in uninspired fashion--as was the case against Wyoming--or is overwhelmed by an opposing defense--as was the case against CSU. Air Force cannot be expected to score more than thirty points on an uninterrupted basis. Sooner or later the defense must step up and make a contribution which leads to winning a game.
The play exemplified by the AFA defense against California and Utah is a prime example of the level at which the unit can play. The Utah game turned on the ability of the defense to force fumbles, interceptions and blocked punts upon which, the offense capitalized. The elevated play of the AFA defense in the first six games of the season has been mysteriously absent in the second half of the season and its return is eagerly awaited.
A BIG FINISH. Fisher DeBerry has coached his teams to wins in their final home game of the season in each of the past five years and in seven of the past nine campaigns. San Diego State may be exactly the team against which the Falcons want to compete this weekend. In his tenure as AFA's head coach, Fisher DeBerry has more wins and a higher winning percentage versus the Aztecs than any conference team against which the Falcons have played. Fisher has posted an impressive 12-4 (.750) mark when facing San Diego State. DeBerry is 5-3 (.625) on the road against SDS and a dominant 7-1 (.875) in Falcon Stadium against the Aztecs.
Tom Craft, now completing his first year as head coach at SDS, and his team are not vintage road warriors as their 1-5 (.166) record this fall attests. The Aztecs are 3-8 on the year, heading nowhere for the post-season, have a history of playing notoriously badly in cold weather, may already be anticipating the Thanksgiving break and, as a result, could serve as a perfect component in the Falcons' effort to finish the MWC schedule in second place before heading to the bowl season on a three game winning streak.
ODDS AND (TIGHT) ENDS. The Falcons' two game winning streak raises the team's record to 10-8 (.555) in its last eighteen games, but 9-3 (.750) in its past twelve contests.
Offensive coordinator, Chuck Petersen, and tight ends coach, Dick Enga, must be spending more together and the beneficiary has been tight end Adam Strecker. The six foot-six inch, two hundred forty pound, first year starter at the TE position has caught a TD pass in each of the last three games (CSU, Wyoming and UNLV) and a total of four on the year. The final points AFA scored in the 2001 season came on a reception by TE Kevin Runyon, whose only career TD grab couldn't have come at a better time versus Utah.
AFA TEs have caught five TD passes in the team's past twelve games. It may just be enough to put the "air" back in Air Force.
Of the many possible bowl opponents AFA could face in December one is Georgia Tech in the Seattle Bowl. The Ramblin' Wreck and the Falcons haven't met often on the football field. The first time they did was November 11, 1978, in Falcon Stadium. It was during the sole year of the Bill Parcells' coaching dalliance at Air Force. GT halfback, Eddie Lee Ivery, ran for roughly 376 yards, which was an NCAA record at the time.
San Diego State wide receivers J. R. Tolver and Kassim Osgood have two games left to play this season. Entering Saturday's game with the Falcons in 2002 the pair has combined for 188 receptions for 2,679 yards. An additional 24 receptions and 95 yards on those catches will establish NCAA records in the categories of catches and yardage by a wide receiver duo. The Air Force secondary should be in for a busy day.