Six wins likely are enough to send Air Force back to a bowl game. They’re not enough to satisfy coach Troy Calhoun, and quarterback Tim Jefferson won’t settle for a .500 record.
The Falcons head into Saturday’s home finale concentrated more on topping a motivated UNLV team than their December destination — possibly the Poinsettia Bowl, probably the New Mexico Bowl or the Armed Forces Bowl for the third straight year.
UNLV (4-6) kept its postseason hopes alive Saturday with a 35-16 victory over Colorado State, and it can become bowl eligible with wins against Air Force and San Diego State. The Falcons (6-4) have won six of seven against UNLV.
In the Mountain West Conference, only New Mexico and Colorado State are out of bowl contention — like UNLV, Wyoming (4-5) and San Diego State (4-5) have a shot. If TCU goes to the Bowl Championship Series and Utah beats BYU, Air Force would get a berth in the Poinsettia Bowl with wins against UNLV and BYU in the Nov. 21 finale.
Asked Sunday about BYU, Calhoun said, “We don’t play them this week. We’re going to keep the focus where it needs to be.”
That’s on UNLV, which Calhoun called a “really talented football team” behind versatile quarterback Omar Clayton, explosive receiver Ryan Wolfe, troublesome linebacker Jason Beauchamp and a trio of 300-pound defensive linemen.
Calhoun said routing Army 35-7 to become bowl eligible brings “a bit more confidence, but that’s the natural growth and development that occurs. … Even though we’re aware that we’re going to get a chance to go someplace, these guys know what we better do. We better be disciplined. We better be focused. And we better play fired-up football.”
“There’s a sense of relief, but we’re not stopping,” Jefferson said. “We have UNLV next and then BYU. Our focus is on UNLV and getting another win and improving our bowl resume. So hopefully, we can get the best bowl possible.”
Quarterback Connor Dietz, out since Oct. 24 because of a broken bone in his right hand, won’t return until a possible bowl game, and linebacker Alex Means (sprained right foot) needs another week of rehabilitation, Calhoun said. There weren’t any serious injuries against Army.