There are plenty of reasons for No. 19 Air Force to bask a bit in all the team has accomplished so far.
At 7-0, the Falcons are tied for the fourth-best start in school history. Their current ranking is the program's highest in two decades. Their 306 yards rushing per game is tops in the nation. Their option-oriented offense even leads the country in passing yards per completion.
Really, though, the Falcons (7-0, 4-0 Mountain West) are too focused to revel in what they’ve achieved to date. The only thing on their mind is a trip this Saturday to Colorado State (3-4, 1-2), where they have another impressive stat — six straight wins over the Rams.
“It’s cool to have that past behind you,” Air Force offensive tackle Kaleb Holcomb said of the team’s hot start. “But the past isn’t going to help you win the next game.”
At stake this weekend for Air Force is not only trying to remain among the unbeaten teams — nine remain — and hoisting the Ram-Falcon Trophy, but staying on track to possibly earn the Group of Five's spot in a New Year's Six bowl.
Falcons coach Troy Calhoun is guarding against complacency, pointing out how the Rams are finding their rhythm under coach Jay Norvell. Colorado State lost at UNLV (6-1, 3-0) last weekend on a last-second field goal.
“They’re there,” Calhoun said of a Rams offense that’s averaging 415 yards of offense. “It’s a loaded operation. It truly is. I mean that with nothing but regard in every way that they operate.”
For the Rams, it boils down to one thing — stopping Air Force’s run-centric offense. Not only are the Falcons the top rushing team in the nation, but senior quarterback Zac Larrier makes the most of each pass he throws (33 and counting). Of his 24 completions, five have gone for scores, including a school-record 94-yard touchdown pass to Dane Kinamon in a win at Navy last weekend. The team's 25.79 yards passing per completion is the best in the nation with Liberty (16.97) a distant second.
“They’re a unique team,” Norvell said of the Falcons, who average more than 34 minutes a game in time of possession. “There’s a certain style of play that you have to be aware of when you play Air Force. There are certain factors and qualities in the game and a path to victory you have to follow — or you’re going to get caught up in their formula for winning.”
Colorado State has dropped 25 in a row to ranked teams. The last win was in 2002 over No. 7 Colorado.
“It’s been a while,” Norvell said. "It’s a great opportunity for us.”
Air Force has won 14 of the last 16 over the Rams, including three straight in Fort Collins. Not that Calhoun puts much stock in that.
“We try to go so hard on trying to work on Air Force,” Calhoun said. ”Now, do we recognize we’re playing a really, really highly capable team? We do. That’s a credit to Colorado State.”
Larrier, who was questionable against Navy with an injury, has won his first seven starts to begin his career. Rich Mayo (1958) and Bob Parker (1970) have the program record at eight straight, according to research by the school.
STREAKING ALONG, PART II
Air Force has now won 12 straight dating to last season. It’s the second-longest streak in team history, behind the 1984-85 team that reeled off 13 in a row.
Rams receiver Tory Horton certainly has caught the attention of the Falcons. Horton has 65 catches for 738 yards and six touchdowns this season. Calhoun highlighted a few things that stood out about Horton.
“If you’re strong, you’re really agile, with short-area quickness, you have tremendous ball skills, you have immense acceleration, you have versatility that goes beyond playing receiver, maybe punt returns for touchdowns, I hope I covered a few of them without being long-winded,” Calhoun said.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football