Off a challenging first half of the schedule, Air Force’s slate doesn’t get any easier.
A road game against resurgent San Diego State this week is followed by a pair of games against top 10 teams: TCU and Utah. Even for a Falcons team that is up to 23rd in the nation in the Associated Press poll and the coaches poll, that’s a tough test.
“A service academy has never played a schedule like this,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said.
Air Force will have to go through the next few weeks without a pair of defensive starters and a key backup on the defensive line. Safety Brian Lindsay has a broken clavicle and Calhoun said he will miss the rest of the season. Nose guard Ryan Gardner is out about three weeks with a groin injury, according to Calhoun. And Calhoun said backup defensive lineman Ben Kopacka has a sprained MCL and possible injury to the meniscus in his knee and could miss a few games.
P.J. Adeji-Paul will replace Lindsay and Bradley Connor will replace Gardner.
The defense will have a challenge against San Diego State. Calhoun praised many of the Aztecs players on Sunday. He said quarterback Ryan Lindley is as good of a quarterback as Air Force has played this year. He said receiver Vincent Brown might be San Diego State’s best receiver since Webster Slaughter. He saved his highest praise for freshman running back Ronnie Hillman, first comparing him to one of the greatest college running backs of all time.
“He’s Reggie Bush,” Calhoun said.
And then he compared Hillman to one of the best running backs in pro and college history.
“He is better than Marshall Faulk was as a freshman,” Calhoun said.
While Calhoun might be a tad hyperbolic, he is making sure that his team understands that San Diego State – which had controversial calls go against it in losses to Missouri and BYU – poses a serious challenge.
“They’re a fumble and a clipping away from being undefeated,” Calhoun said. “They’ve got talent coming out of their ears.”