September 20, 2011
Air Force is preparing to welcome Tennessee State. I don’t work for the academy’s marketing department, but there is one enticing selling point.
On Saturday afternoon, Falcon Stadium will offer the best place in the Springs to take a nap.
But there is a benefit to this probable laugher/snoozer, if you’re a member of the Falcons.
This team needed two weeks off after getting bombarded by TCU. And, yes, I’m counting this Saturday as a week off.
The Falcons are preparing for the most brutal month in the academy’s football history. They travel to Navy Oct. 1, followed by journeys to Notre Dame and Boise State. The Falcons could perform nobly on all the trips and walk away with three losses.
Linebacker Jordan Waiwaiole insisted the Falcons are taking Tennessee State seriously.
“After the way we performed against TCU and this stretch we have coming up in October, this is a game where we have to be dialed up and we have to be perfect,” Waiwaiole said.
Air Force appears hungry. The Falcons' collective ego was smashed by TCU, and they know Navy is itching to end its one-game losing streak to the Falcons.
This Air Force hunger could mean a long afternoon for the Tigers, and for spectators who enjoy watching evenly matched opponents.
Here are a few numbers to prepare you for Saturday:
Tennessee State, which competes in the NCAA’s Championship Subdivision, has lost 15 of its past 19 games. The Tigers surrendered 58 points, and 630 yards passing and 37 first downs in Saturday’s loss to Murray State.
Air Force has defeated five Championship Subdivision opponents since 2007 by a combined score of 249-51. This is an average win margin of 39.6 points.
Of course, Tennessee State could deliver the biggest college football upset in Colorado history. Michigan and Minnesota and, yes, Navy found ways to lose to Championship Subdivision teams.
I asked Troy Calhoun if he planned to mention those losses to his players.
“No,” he said. “You’re going to do it for me.”
But his players are intelligent. They know the history of the Falcons games with Championship Subdivision teams.
Guard A.J. Wallerstein woke up with butterflies on the morning of the TCU game. He knew he was preparing for a national powerhouse.
When he wakes up this Saturday?
“I don’t think I’ll have those butterflies,” he said.
Still, he insists this game could be valuable for the Falcons. He’s watched film of the TCU loss – a horror show – and saw “a lot of mental errors.”
He knows repeating those errors could doom the Falcons. Air Force rode into this season burdened by the highest expectations since at least 2003.
Wallerstein still believes his teammates can earn a special season.
“Losing one game doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not good,” Wallerstein said.
Expect a focused, slightly enraged version of the Falcons on Saturday. They want to banish memories of a painful afternoon against TCU. They want to offer a warning shot to their good friends at the Naval Academy.
Tennessee State and fans of competitive football games are in trouble. Big trouble.