Falcons devastate BYU, advance to 6-0
By John Van Winkle, Air Force Academy Public Affairs
/ Published October 15, 2002
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFPN) -- Undefeated Air Force advances to No. 18 in the nation, after holding Brigham Young University to negative 21 yards rushing in a televised 52-9 blowout Oct. 12.
There has been no love lost between the two teams, after Brigham Young University devastated Air Force's season last year, with a televised 63-33 embarrassment of the Falcons. That 63-point loss is the largest score by an opponent in Falcon football history, and the Falcons' season plummeted to a 6-6 finish after the BYU loss.
So this game was a showdown for many reasons, between the Mountain West Conference's top offense (Air Force) and top defense. And the offense won decisively.
"We've waited 365 days for this moment," said Air Force head coach Fisher DeBerry. "We were thoroughly embarrassed as a football team last year when we played over in Provo [Utah]. That was very uncharacteristic Falcon football that we played over there [last year] and so we've had a focus to really be ready to play and to demonstrate the pride that we have in Falcon football, and I think we did that tonight very dominantly."
Air Force unleashed the nation's top rushing attack using the triple option and some traditional I-formations to gain 386 yards and seven touchdowns and holding the ball for more than 40 minutes by game's end.
But like previous games this year, it was the opponent who drew first blood, although it was only a pinprick. BYU took its opening possession to the Air Force 7-yard line, but was thrown for an 11-yard loss by linebacker Anthony Schlegel and had to settle for a field goal.
DeBerry then unleashed the Falcons rushing attack upon the BYU defense. Air Force scored its first two touchdowns in short order, and then pulled a trick from BYU's playbook by trying an onside kick.
"We had that happen to us last year, when they tried an onside kick after their first touchdown," said DeBerry. "We were still reeling a little bit from how easy they scored on the opening drive. They exercised the onside kick, took it and went down the field, and we were behind 14-nothing before we know what happened.
"So I was bound and determined that we were going to try an onside kick tonight, whether it worked or not."
Air Force recovered the onside kick, and drove for another touchdown. Meanwhile, the Falcons defense fed off its offense and special teams by making its own share of big plays.
Four of the Cougars' drives ended in interceptions by Schlegel, cornerback Wes Crawley, safety Larry Duncan and right falconback Joel Buelow. The Falcons defense ended another three Cougar possessions on downs, and one more on a fumble recovery by defensive end Charles Bueker.
"We just swarmed the ball," said Schlegel. "We got up on them early and pretty much took them out of their game."
BYU's Marcus Whalen and Curtis Brown totaled more than 200 rushing yards last week. Against the Falcon defense, they ran for 41 yards on 18 carries. But thanks to quarterback pressures, sacks and the defensive line's blocking, BYU lost 62 yards on the ground, said Schlegel.
"That's how you get negative yards," added the linebacker.
BYU did pass for 325 yards, but used three quarterbacks to amass that yardage, and only found the end zone with 5:36 left in the game. BYU quarterback Matt Berry's pass on the conversion attempt was intercepted, leaving the score at 45-9.
With the game firmly into rout status, Air Force's third string drove for another touchdown in the final minutes, scoring on a 1-yard run by fullback Tim Gerhsitz.
"Tonight, we were focused on not giving up the big play, and we didn't give up a big play until right there at the end, and that was against our reserve players. The scored against our 3rd string, but that doesn't bother us a bit," said DeBerry. "We try to play as many people as we can. Obviously when you play as many people as we played tonight, that's good for your morale and helps your depth."
Perhaps the biggest test of Air Force's season comes Oct. 19 when they host Notre Dame.
"There's going to be two very good defensive football teams here next Saturday, because obviously Notre Dame has got one tremendous football team, and our football team is competitive as well," said DeBerry.
Notre Dame is 6-0 on the season, and ranked No. 7 in the nation. The Fighting Irish have the nation's No. 5 rushing defense which has yielded only 76.2 yards per game. They will be going up against the nation's No. 1 rushing offense, averaging 339.7 yards per game.
Defensively, the Falcons rank 23rd in the nation in total defense, allowing 121.5 rushing and 188.33 passing yards per game, while making nine interceptions and seven fumble recoveries this year.
"We realize Notre Dame's got a good football team and is going to come in here very highly ranked, and with the tradition that Notre Dame brings," said DeBerry. "But at the same time, it's another game, and it's one step at a time and it's one game at a time. So we're going to try to be a better football team this coming week than we were this week."
Kickoff for the Air Force-Notre Dame game is 8 p.m. MDT. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN, and ESPN's College Gameday broadcasts live from the Air Force Academy 8:30 to 10 a.m. MDT.