Klee: Unfortunately, expect the expected from Air Force football

By: Paul Klee
October 26, 2013 Updated: October 27, 2013 at 5:56 am
photo - Notre Dame's tight end Ben Koyack pulls in a touchdown as Air Force's linebacker Jared Jones in the 2nd quarter.  (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)
Notre Dame's tight end Ben Koyack pulls in a touchdown as Air Force's linebacker Jared Jones in the 2nd quarter. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett) 

From the sweet, gloriously Colorado view in the press box at Falcon Stadium, there's one thing you don't want to see.

Brake lights.

Not before the game is over, at least. Yet there they were on Saturday evening: red flickers of acceptance, blinking on and off in the distance, a line of cars puttering away with the fourth quarter still to come in another Air Force football defeat.

Judging from their early exit, Air Force fans expected more. I assume they expected more than an OK Notre Dame team looking like a great Notre Dame team in toying with and eventually thumping the Falcons, 45-10.

I sure did.

I expected Air Force's defense would present more than a speed bump against a Notre Dame offense that ranked in the bottom third of the FBS. I expected Air Force coach Troy Calhoun would use 16 days of preparation to find a way to make the Falcons competitive, at the least, in the big home game against haughty Notre Dame.

Now? I don't expect Air Force will win another game.

I expect 1-11.

"It definitely hasn't gone the way we thought it would," safety Dexter Walker said.

College sports are all about expectations. Always is, on every level, in every game we play. That's true of Notre Dame, Air Force, CSU-Pueblo or whomever.

If a team is expected to be awful, and it is awful, it's no biggie. If a team is expected to be good, and it is good, it's no surprise.

It's when a team is expected to finish third in the Mountain division of the MWC, then loses seven straight games for the first time since 1979, that brake lights start blinking before the game is over.

Expectations at Falcon Stadium officially were adjusted: With four games left on the schedule, Air Force was eliminated from bowl contention.

"Tough pill to swallow," Calhoun said.

The Falcons expected more this season.

"I expected us to be really, really good on defense," Walker said.

He cares. He cares that more should be expected of an Air Force football team. That was apparent as the sophomore spoke with sincere emotion after another loss.

"It sucks because we prepare," he said.

Here, put it in perspective even a columnist can understand: Through seven games, the Denver Broncos have scored 38 touchdowns. That is a record pace in the NFL.

Through seven games, Air Force had allowed 36 touchdowns. That would be a record pace in any league.

If the Falcons were facing the Broncos on Saturday, perhaps the result wouldn't be so damning. But these Irish are not your father's Irish, or even last year's Irish, who played for the BCS title.

Entering the game, these Irish ranked 82nd in the country in scoring offense. Instead of allowing pride to creep through, the Falcons allowed Irish quarterback Tommy Rees to throw five touchdown passes. He'd never thrown that many in college.

Notre Dame has a fairly extensive football history. And Saturday's blowout marked the first time it's had five players catch a touchdown pass.

"When you make mistakes against a good team, I think they're magnified even more," said Calhoun, who cited "immaturity" as one source of his team's struggles.

What are the new expectations for Air Force?

The telling moment arrived with Brian Kelly in the interview room. The Notre Dame coach was asked how he was able to incorporate several freshmen into the offense Saturday.

Kelly said he would have preferred to do it earlier this season.

"Sometimes you've got to sit on them a little longer than you want because you're playing such tough competition," Kelly said.

Then he shot a glance at Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, as if to say: Hey, let's get a few more Air Forces on the schedule.

"Our guys have goals," Kelly said. "Our goal is to win every week."

The goal for Air Force should be to steal one more win, either against Army, New Mexico, UNLV or Colorado State

Hope it happens.

But I wouldn't expect it.


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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