Published: February 9, 2014
There is much familiar about Air Force's six-game losing streak. All but the way it feels.
It was just two years ago that the Falcons also lost their sixth straight with a loss to Colorado State, just as they did Saturday. That loss was generally viewed as the low point of an era and was followed two days later by the in-season firing of coach Jeff Reynolds.
When Air Force fell to the Rams on Saturday, talk was instead of the hopeful signs.
Maybe that was because the loss to the Rams in a game that came down to the final three minutes, was in such stark contrast to a 17-point debacle of a loss to Fresno State three days earlier.
"It was such a 180 from Wednesday night," coach Dave Pilipovich said Saturday, not quite exactly two years to the day that he replaced Reynolds. "The energy and enthusiasm, they just played their tails off. I hurt for them because they played so hard and deserved victory, but unfortunately we came up a little short there at the end."
Closing out games has been an impossible mission for Air Force (9-13, 3-8 Mountain West) during this streak. Over the final five minutes of regulation (plus overtime at Nevada) in the six losses the Falcons have been outscored 88-40.
The final minutes have been plagued with turnovers, poor shooting and a lack of defensive stops. Saturday's loss to Colorado State was no different. The game was tied until the Rams had a 3-pointer with 3:39 remaining. After a turnover, a missed front end of a one-and-one and a few calls went the other way, Colorado State's lead had gone from zero to nine in 105 seconds.
"That's what we have to figure out," point guard Tre' Coggins said. "If we knew, we would have changed it by now."
The thing about this is that Air Force probably would have taken a 3-8 Mountain West record had it been offered before the start of the season - particularly if it would have known it would be without Coggins for a three-game suspension. This was a rebuilding year all along, and the fact that so many of those losses had been within reach made it all the more encouraging.
That's what changed with the Fresno State loss Wednesday. All that hope vanished in a flat performance during the last of three games without Coggins.
He was back Saturday and so were the good feelings for the program. Even the team's lone senior, Chase Kammerer - the one who doesn't have time to invest in a rebuilding effort - understands how important it was that the Falcons put up a fight against Colorado State, even if the result again went against the team.
"I knew we still had it in us," Kammerer said. "I just think everybody was in a little slump. I think we're out of it now and we'll play a lot better for the rest of the season."