Updated: September 2, 2014 at 9:59 am
Linebacker Jordan Pierce had the look of someone who had been there before when he entered the game in place of the injured Joey Nichol on Saturday for Air Force.
It's no wonder. He has, in fact, been there before.
Pierce, who moved up the depth chart and is the likely starter this week against Wyoming if Nichol remains sidelined with a groin injury, filled in for Nichol the final two games of the 2013 season. In each of those contests, he led the team with 11 tackles.
In relief duty on Saturday he made one tackle and had a big hit on Nicholls State receiver Von Breaux to dislodge a pass and force an incompletion.
"I don't think this is as much of a rebuilding year as people think it's going to be because we do have a lot of people who, like in this case, Joey goes down and I'm ready to step up," Pierce said. "We have that at a lot of positions. It sucks because Joey's one of our captains, one of the starting inside linebackers, but just like at a lot of positions, if somebody goes down we have somebody waiting to step up."
As much of a disaster as the 2013 season was for Air Force, the experience that an injury-riddled 2-10 year provided could turn into a positive. Last week's official depth chart included 10 second-teamers who had combined to make 56 starts the previous season.
Pierce, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior, was of course one of them. Nichol injured his groin on a noncontact play in the second quarter and did not return to the game. Coach Troy Calhoun said he received "positive news" about the injury on Monday afternoon but did not know if Nichol would be ready to practice on Tuesday - let alone play in Laramie, Wyo., on Saturday.
"I think the key is just to see that he really is healthy before we go," Calhoun said. "You've heard me say this, I think hamstrings, calves, groins, ankles - those things that can kind of be bothersome if they aren't completely healed."
Defensive coordinator Steve Russ said the depth that players like Pierce provide will be felt not just when injuries occur, but in utilizing the bench during games.
"When you have smaller bodies, you want to be able to keep them as fresh and healthy as possible," Russ said. "If you can play fewer snaps and play harder while you're out there I think that's a good thing as long as you can trust the guys who are out there and I think we have the ability to do that right now."
Sophomore tailback Jacobi Owens, who rushed for 233 yards in his debut Saturday, was named the National Football Foundation Colorado chapter player of the week.