AF's Carney: Blame Me for Last Three Years

Air Force senior quarterback Shaun Carney has garnered a good share of headlines in the locker rooms of his service academy rivals in the past three years. From predicting a blow-out over Army last year to being implicated in some back-and-forth bulletin board material with Navy players, Carney has had a knack for fueling the flames of both rivalries.

But it's very possible that was then, and this, his last year at the helm of the Falcons, is now.  One indication that this is a whole new year for the two-time team captain may have came when he responded to whether or not this was a make-or-break season for him.


"I've got a chip on my shoulder because we've had three consecutive losing seasons and I blame that on myself," said Carney.  "It's really frustrating.  But now we have a great opportunity in front of us to go out there and prove ourselves all over again. We are determined to getting the program back on the right track."


It was clear that what makes this opportunity indeed ‘great' for Carney and senior linebacker Drew Fowler is the arrival of first-year head coach Troy Calhoun.


According to Fowler, Calhoun has brought a calm, workmanlike approach as well as a taste of the NFL to the Colorado Springs campus.


"He's very down-to-earth.  When it's time to put your game face on, he does it real well.  When we step on the grass, he's all business," said Fowler.  He's also brought (a bit) of the NFL down to us - like with the tempo of practice."


Carney echoed Fowler's sentiments, saying about Calhoun, "He's charismatic.  He is a player's coach.  He is focused on all the good things we do."


Most of the excitement this year for the Falcons centers on the offensive side of the ball where the changes will be very obvious.  Calhoun will be going away from his mentor's triple option attack in favor of a more pass-oriented scheme, or in his word's a "more balanced attack."  Regardless of what flavor the offense takes, Carney believes the element of surprise should help Air Force.


"Hopefully we have somewhat of an advantage (on our conference opponents) because teams won't be able to prepare for us like they have every other year."


But with a new offense Carney admits, comes new challenges as well.


"It's hard to go out there and learn a new offense.  You're re-learning things and we'll be slowly learning throughout the season instead of knowing exactly what to do like in the past."


On the other side of the ball, new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter has installed a 3-4 attack which Fowler said should make the Falcons a "little more aggressive," but the Clayton, North Carolina native downplayed the change when compared to the offense. 


One thing both Carney and Fowler do agree on is that Air Force needs to find a way to win close games.


"I can't even tell you how many games in the last three years we have lost by three points or less.  We definitely have to get better at staying focused for the entire game," said Carney.


It turns out Air Force is 2-8 in games decided by three points or less in the past three years which includes two close losses to archrival Navy. 


"The toughest was my sophomore year up there (in Annapolis), in the rain, with the last second field goal.  That's kind of been the story since Shaun (Carney) and I have been here.  You've got to give Navy credit.  They've done what they needed to do to win.  We just need to be more consistent," said Fowler.


Carney agreed with Fowler's assessment of the Mids.


"It's always going to be a battle.  They've done a great job of being able to pull out the close wins and that's something we have struggled with as a team." 


Before Air Force makes its trip to Annapolis on September 29, it will have to navigate through the top three teams in the Mountain West Conference from a year ago – Utah, TCU and BYU.  If Air Force can beat South Carolina State in its opener on September 1, and win two of three against the upper-tier of its conference, they should be riding high when they face the Midshipmen. Top Stories