Air Force Football: Are the Falcons for Real?

Jimmy CornellCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2007

IconThe experts said Air Force would go 1-4 in their first five games and finish seventh in the Mountain West.

They were wrong.

Only three Mid-Major teams are undefeated through Week Three: Hawaii, Tulsa, and Air Force.

Under new head coach Troy Calhoun, the Falcons blew out South Carolina State in their season opener—no big surprise.

The real test for the new spread option offense came the next week at Utah.

The underdog Falcons held the Utes offense to only 12 points—the same Utes offense that would score 44 points against UCLA the following week. What's more, Air Force managed a respectable 20 points against the same Utah defense that would hold one of the best offenses in the Pac-10 to just six.

But one good win could be a fluke, the critics said—maybe Air Force pulled an Appalachian State. Highly-favored TCU and their world-class defense would surely set the Falcons in their place.

The Horned Frogs fell in overtime.

TCU struggled to capitalize against the "bend-but-don't-break" Air Force defense, and the Falcons managed to take advantage of the Frogs' errors to score 20 points against the touted D.

The difference between the Air Force of the present and the Air Force of the past is the ability to step up when it counts.

Without a doubt, sophomore strong safety Chris Thomas is the Falcons' MVP through three games. Thomas has notched a key interception (Utah), a blocked field goal (TCU), and huge tackles against Utah on fourth-and-goal and against TCU on fourth-and-one to help save both games.

Senior quarterback Shaun Carney, meanwhile, is finally having his breakout year. With 425 passing yards, Carney is 24 percent above his average career output—and has done it while maintaining a 60 percent completion mark (61.3 percent career).

Carney also showed his leadership and maturity late in the TCU game.  After the offense stalled, the QB stepped up by making smart decisions, knowing when to get rid of the ball, and hooking up with Travis Dekker on a 50-yard completion to set up a crucial Falcon touchdown late in the game.

BYU awaits Saturday, and Air Force faces another test against the nation's third best passing offense. The Falcons have a chance to to show the world that the last two games weren't flukes. 

With or without a victory against BYU, though, Air Force has already made a statement loud and clear.

After the win over TCU, the Falcons look ready to take the Mountain West.  Notre Dame may not even be favored by the time November comes around.

At least the Falcons have scored an offensive touchdown.

Will Air Force go undefeated?

Probably not.

Will you find ESPN talking about Air Force's big upsets of TCU and Utah?

No, you won't.

But don't forget that the publicity doesn't make the team—and with or without it, Air Force is the real deal.