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Gazette Premium Content Ramsey: Boise State might be the worst destination possible for Air Force football

2 photos photo - Air Force Academy head coach Troy Calhoun watches the action on the first day of practice Thursday, August 1, 2013. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette + caption
Air Force Academy head coach Troy Calhoun watches the action on the first day of practice Thursday, August 1, 2013. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
David Ramsey, david.ramsey@gazette.com Updated: September 10, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Despair.

This the emotion Air Force football fans have struggled to defeat since Saturday's 52-20 knockout at the hands of Chuckie Keeton and Utah State.

All summer, I said the Utah State game would offer a preview of the season. If that turns out to be the truth, Air Force will spend the season getting pounded in front of tens of thousands of empty seats at Falcon Stadium.

The Troy Calhoun era, which started with such promise in 2007, now crawls along. The Falcons have lost 14 of their last 25 games against Division I opponents. (Fisher DeBerry, Calhoun's predecessor, lost 16 of his last 25 games.)

Athletic director Hans Mueh expressed faith in his football team a few minutes after the Utah State devastation.

"I'm not concerned about that yet," Mueh said of the Falcons slump. "The bottom line, when you peel it all back, is we have gone to six straight bowl games. We've got a lot of football left. I love this team."

Calhoun's team badly needs revival after Saturday's surrender at Falcon Stadium. If the Falcons fail to revive - to at least show a suggestion of talent and fire and potential - they can count on returning to a depressingly empty Falcon Stadium Sept.?21 against Wyoming.

"What were the numbers the other day against a really, really good football team?" Calhoun asked Monday, referring to attendance on a sunny Saturday afternoon vs. Utah State.

Not good, coach. Official attendance was 32,716, but three or four thousand fans might have been disguised as vacant seats.

This season is not a hopeless cause. At least not yet. The Falcons showed flashes of promise on offense, especially when Jaleel Awini was throwing the ball. Awini showed impressive arm strength, accuracy and poise in the pocket. Unfortunately, his receivers dropped six of his first 10 throws.

But this week is perilously close to hopeless. Boise State has played 84 games on its hideous blue home carpet during the 21st century. They've won 80, the nation's best home record.

"I didn't know that," senior receiver/running back Ty MacArthur of Boise's tendency to stomp on visitors. "That doesn't bother me."

Air Force doomsayers also fail to bother MacArthur. He's watched enough film to realize just how fully the Falcons struggled on Saturday, but he retains faith in his teammates.

"I'm optimistic because we see things on the field that others don't," MacArthur said. "We know football a bit better than those in the stands."

But even those who sit in the stands realize Air Force needs to keep the ball out of the clutches of Boise State's offense. In normal years, the Falcons offense is a clock-devouring machine with a mono-offense based almost entirely on running the ball.

This might not be a normal season after the departure of quarterback Kale Pearson, lost to a severe knee injury two quarters into the season. Pearson was a traditional Air Force quarterback, a run-first, run-second leader.

Awini is different. That was evident on his third pass of the game. Awini dropped into the pocket and saw tight end Marc Hendricks covered closely in the end zone. Didn't matter. Awini directed a fastball through heavy traffic directly into Hendricks' hands.

Hendricks dropped the pass, but a statement had been made. Awini could become one of the finest passers in Air Force history, which includes pass-happy days during the Ben Martin era.

Running devours the clock. Passing doesn't. Air Force travels to Boise in the middle what could, and probably should, be a change of personality for its offense. The offense, on the strength of Awini's arm, could pile up the points.

But can the Air Force defense stop Boise? Recent history suggests no.

The season and this program are in disarray after the Utah State debacle, and Boise's blue carpet is one of the worst places in the country to bring order to football chaos.

Still, the Falcons must show some signs of life at this hostile destination. If they don't, they can expect more fans will stay home.

-

Twitter: @davidramz

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