Hope for Air Force Football: Parallels to 2007

Jake SchallerContributor IOctober 11, 2009

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 9:    The Air Force Academy Falcons offense huddles just before scoring their final touchdown against the University of Tennessee Volunteers on September 9, 2006 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won 31-30.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

A couple minutes into Saturday night’s game against TCU, I figured Air Force simply was overmatched.

The Falcons went three-and-out on the game’s first possession and then TCU gained 24 yards on its first play from scrimmage. With some momentum, they quickly marched inside the Air Force 15-yard line.

TCU looked too big, too fast, too talented.

But a strange thing happened on the way to what appeared was going to be a blowout.

It started feeling a whole lot like 2007.

You remember the Falcons’ 2007 game against TCU, of course—the 20-17 overtime victory that still stands as the signature win of coach Troy Calhoun’s tenure at the academy.

Anyway, tonight—like in that 2007 game—Air Force was a big underdog. But tonight—like in that game—Air Force got some key turnovers (including two after TCU drove inside the red zone) and made some surprising plays offensively to stay close.

Now, there wasn’t a 71-yard touchdown like Jim Ollis had in 2007. And, of course, Air Force came up short. But the Air Force offense at least made a few plays, and the Falcons hung around long enough to put themselves in position to have a chance to win.

Calhoun said after the loss tonight that, “there’s no joy in not having the most points on the scoreboard at the end of the game.”

And he’s right. At this point, the Falcons are past where they should feel good about keeping games close against the Mountain West Conference’s “Big Three.”

Yet I can’t help but feel like this game, in a lot of ways, was a step forward for the 2009 Falcons. Against the best team Air Force has faced to date, in a situation in which there could have been a hangover from the Navy loss, the Falcons played toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s top teams.

“We’ve got the makings of having a good football team,” Calhoun said. “You just see spots, here and there. … I think what we’re going to find out is we’re going to play better football in the second half of the season—over the next six games—than we did in the first six games. We’ve got the makings, character-wise, of being a good football team.”