VMI’s defense was not fooled, at least at first. Three defenders stood their ground, waiting to put a hurt on Air Force’s Tim McVey.
This was Air Force’s eighth play from scrimmage in 2017, but the sequence could serve as a preview for the season. If that’s the case, get ready for The Tim McVey Show.
VMI was not ready. McVey, sprinting at full speed, gave a slight fake outside and zoomed right past the tacklers, who could only wave. McVey arrived in the end zone standing up, and Air Force was on its way to a – yawn – 62-0 stampede.
After Air Force quarterback Arion Worthman pitched the ball to McVey, he turned to see the crowd of Keydets waiting for McVey.
“Oh, no,” Worthman said to himself. “They read the reverse.”
Worthman laughed as he thought back to McVey’s journey to the end zone.
“That was awesome,” Worthman said. “Tim made a great move. He does Tim McVey things all the time, so it didn’t surprise me.”
McVey, a senior, has offered tantalizing hints of his potential, averaging 8.4 yards per carry in mostly cameo appearances behind starter Jacobi Owens.
He’s a superb receiver out of the backfield. He’s supremely disliked in Fort Collins after destroying Colorado State with 184 yards (on only 15 carries) in Air Force’s wild 49-46 win last season. He has a strong chance to deliver Air Force’s best season by a running back since Chad Hall collected 1,478 yards while carrying the Falcons to a 9-4 record in 2007.
Owens and McVey enjoyed a strong working relationship. On the sideline, McVey smiled as he watched Owens elude tacklers.
“It was fun to see Jacobi playing well and then try to go out and up it a little bit,” McVey said.
Owens has graduated, but has not departed. As a grad assistant for the football team, he’s still there to push McVey.
On Friday afternoon, Owens and McVey talked for a few minutes after a team meeting.
“Be ready to go,” Owens commanded McVey. “You know what you have to do.”
“I’m gonna be there,” McVey said.
McVey was fully present during Saturday’s first half. He rushed for 98 yards on only 10 carries and caught three passes for 77 yards.
McVey ran past VMI linebacker Kuony Deng, and everyone else on the Keydets' defense.
“I mean, he’s a stud,” Deng said. “We watched him on film, but he’s a lot stronger than I thought he was. I was real impressed.”
Saturday’s smackdown was another chapter in a brutal annual ritual. Air Force invites a weakling from a lower division of college football and proceeds to carpet bomb the opponent. It’s the Falcons version of the NFL exhibition schedule - a fake game before the real season.
Reality arrives Sept. 16 when the Falcons travel to Michigan’s Big House to face screaming Jim Harbaugh and more than 100,000 background shouters. The game begins a vicious stretch when Air Force tangles with San Diego State, New Mexico and Navy. This stretch will define the season.
The trip to Ann Arbor will reveal the Falcons' true strength. Losing to the Wolverines will do little damage to Air Force, but getting crushed by Michigan – like, say, the way VMI got crushed Saturday – could damage the team’s psyche and harm the rest of 2017.
McVey grew up in Ohio, and he knows all about The Big House. He traveled to Ann Arbor for the 2011 Ohio State-Michigan game. He witnessed the fierce rivalry game, listened to the sonic boom-like noise from the Michigan crowd.
“It’s cool,” he said. “It can be intimidating, but it’s just another football stadium, just another field.”
In 2011, McVey was a spectator. On Sept. 16, he’ll be one of the prime actors in the action. Will he deliver those “Tim McVey things” at The Big House?