Falcons fall to CSU, 31-12

  • Published
  • By John Van Winkle
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Two drive-killing fumbles and a stingy Colorado State University defense handed the Air Force Academy its third loss of the football season Oct. 31.

This is the third consecutive loss for the Falcons, who started the season with six consecutive and decisive wins before losing to Notre Dame, Wyoming and now Colorado State.

CSU took control of the game from its first possession, stunning Air Force with a 77-yard drive for a touchdown.

"In the first half, they were dynamite on first down. We couldn't stop them," said Falcons head coach Fisher DeBerry. "They'd always get seven, eight, nine yards on the first play, and it's easy to have an offense whenever that happens. That first drive sort of shocked us and we didn't play very good defense in the first half."

The Falcons offense responded on the next series, driving 60 yards on 14 plays and capping the drive with a dive for a touchdown by quarterback Chance Harridge; however, the Falcons' scoring drought started as the extra point was blocked.

Rams cornerback Dexter Wynn ended the Falcons' next drive by forcing a fumble on a reverse.

CSU racked up another two touchdowns to lead 21-6 late into the second quarter, before the Falcons could muster another scoring drive.

With 2:21 left in the half, Bryan Blew returned the kickoff 33 yards to the Air Force 35-yard line to start the drive. A 7-yard reception and a 4-yard run by halfback Leotis Palmer, combined with four rushes by Harridge drove the Falcons down to the CSU 13-yard line. On the next play, the offense rolled right, while tight end Adam Strecker blocked on the left side, and ran into the open. Harridge hit the Strecker end with a bullet-pass, and he dove in for the touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, and the Falcons ended the half down 21-12.

Still, between that last score, their halftime talks and knowing they had to get the ball to start the second half, the Falcons came out pumped after halftime, said DeBerry.

"We were in the ball game," he said. "I told my team that I really felt very, very good about where we were as a football team, and I felt very confident in our offense coming out to start the second half, because of what we've been able to do thus far this year. But we fumbled the ball on the opening kickoff, then they took it in. Obviously the two turnovers we had in the game were huge. I don't know of a worse way in the world to start the second half."

The Falcons defense did bear its claws in the second half, holding CSU to a field goal for the remainder of the game. But the Falcons offense could not make the blocks on the corner to allow their option offense to turn and head upfield for any significant yardage.

So with two turnovers and offensive production limited by poor execution, the Falcons lost 31-12 to the CSU Rams. With the win, the Rams move two games ahead of the Falcons in the Mountain West Conference and establish a chokehold on the conference championship.

"I told the team in the locker room [after the game] that I'm very, very disappointed," said DeBerry. "I'm very disappointed for them. Yet at the same time, I'm still encouraged and optimistic that this football team can compete and will compete. I'm just glad we've got three games left as far as the season is concerned."

The Falcons have 10 days to prepare for their next game, but not a day will be wasted, said DeBerry.

"We're going to work as hard as we can," he said. "Tomorrow, we're going to come in as a football team and we're going to look at this [game's] film very much in depth. We're going to look at it very critically, we're going to look and see where we can get better."

Despite letdown of three straight losses after a 6-0 start, the football team remains determined to get back to its winning ways, said Harridge.

"I know this team, and it's going to happen," he said. "We're going to get back on track this week, and I know with all my heart, that whatever it takes, we're going to happen."

The next game for the Falcons is Nov. 9 at Army, which is a perfect 0-8 on the season.

"Records are meaningless when it comes to games between the service academies. They come to play with everyone," said junior linebacker Trevor Hightower.

The Air Force-Army game will determine which service academy wins the commander-in-chief trophy. The trophy is awarded annually to the military academy whose football team bests its service academy rivals in college football. Each year, the winning team sends its coaches and seniors to Washington to meet their commander in chief and accept the trophy at the White House.

Air Force has held the trophy and the bragging rights that go with it for the past five years, and bested Navy 48-7 earlier this year.