Falcons eye history, redemption after BYU loss

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • U. S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
There was no way to sugar coat Air Force's first loss of the year, 31-6, to defending Mountain West Conference champion Brigham Young University, Sept. 22, before a sellout crowd of 62,502 at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah.

The Cougars (2-2, 1-0 MWC) got the upper hand, scoring a touchdown on their opening drive, and never looked back.

Despite the one-sided final score that wasn't even that close, there was a lesson to be learned by the Falcons from last season.

On Oct. 28, 2006, BYU manhandled the bluesuiters, 33-14, at Falcon Stadium. The next week, Air Force bounced back with authority by playing its most complete game of the year, dominating Army, 43-7, at West Point, N.Y.

With Navy (2-2) looming Saturday at Annapolis, Md., the Falcons (3-1, 2-1 MWC) want, and need, lightning to strike twice.

"In the past we sometimes let one loss beat us twice," Air Force wide receiver Chad Hall said. "We have to forget about this one and prepare for Navy."

"Before we move forward it's paramount we learn from what happened today," Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun said. "Some things have to get corrected."

One priority will be to improve third-down conversions on both sides of the ball. The Falcons converted only 3-of-13 while BYU was successful 8-of-16 times. That was key as the Cougars amassed a 37:10 to 22:50 time of possession advantage.

As a result, BYU out gained Air Force 452 to 231 in total offense.

The Air Force offense lacked rhythm from the opening possession. Falcon quarterback Shaun Carney was intercepted on the game's third play from scrimmage by BYU defensive back Quinn Gooch. Six plays later running back Manase Tonga scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.

Tonga added a 2-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter against a tiring Falcon defense, which limited opponents to an average of 294 yards and less than 11 points per game in its first three outings, good enough to be nationally ranked.

"They made a lot of great plays," said Air Force safety Chris Thomas who had a career high 14 tackles, including 10 unassisted. "Their offensive line picked up our blitzes real well and opened up seams for their running backs. We have to find ways to get in there."
BYU ran the ball 44 times for 159 yards to compliment quarterback Max Hall going 23-of-33 for 293 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

Meanwhile, Carney was limited to 10-for-21 passing for 98 yards. Half the real estate came on a 49-yard completion to Hall late in the third quarter as part of a 5-play, 67-yard drive capped by Carney's 8-yard touchdown run. A 2-point conversion attempt was no good.

The score extended Air Force's streak of scoring in consecutive games to 172, that's eighth longest in the nation. The last time the Falcons were shutout was by Mississippi, 13-0, in the 1992 Liberty Bowl.

That was little consolation to Air Force, which was attempting to open the conference campaign by defeating the last three MWC champions. The Falcons already beat TCU and Utah.

The Cougars haven't dropped a league game since 2005 and own a 22-6 all-time record over Air Force, including a four-game winning streak.

The Falcons will try to snap Navy's four-year streak of capturing the coveted Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, symbolic of academy football supremacy, Sept. 29, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. 

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