The worst fears regarding Air Force quarterback Kale Pearson's knee injury were likely realized Sunday.
"MRI came back today and its not lookin too good," Pearson wrote on Instagram about 24 hours after suffering the injury in the second quarter Saturday. "I was extremely motivated to get this season goin but God has a bigger plan for me. I wanna thank everyone for the prayers and support! Ill be back! And stronger than ever!"
Pearson injured the knee about 2? minutes before halftime in a 38-13 victory over Colgate. The assumption of many was that the hit, which caused the knee to slightly buckle in, resulted in a torn ACL. While Pearson didn't say it - and Air Force's coaching staff didn't say anything - his tweet indicated that whatever damage was incurred will leave the team in the hands of sophomore Jaleel Awini. That means an already young roster is about to get even greener.
"Don't get me wrong, we aren't exactly advancing the sales of Pampers here," coach Troy Calhoun said Saturday. "We have guys who have played. They've had a ton of reps on the practice part of it. It's just that that's not always exactly the same thing."
Players pointed to nerves as the primary culprit in a slow start against Colgate, as the Football Championship Subdivision opponent outplayed the Falcons for the first 16 minutes. They said they settled in after that and the scoreboard reflected it, as Air Force scored 38 straight points after falling behind 7-0.
An early lull could lead to a much deeper hole this week against a Utah State team picked to finish second - just ahead of Air Force - in the Mountain West's Mountain Division.
Calhoun, who avoided talking in specifics about Pearson or Awini after Saturday's game, hinted that he will not hold back with Awini.
"In order to be fair to your guys, you have to coach them to the possibilities, what they can be, their capabilities," Calhoun said.
As a senior at Rangeview High School in Aurora, Awini completed 78 of 136 attempts for 1,266 yards, 23 touchdowns and just one interception. He also ran 116 times for 1,078 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Raiders went 11-1 that season.
Physically, Awini is game-ready. He's listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. He has an effortless release and a strong arm.
It was his decision-making and proclivity for turnovers that prevented him from seriously challenging Pearson for the starting job, and that was on display as he took an 18-yard loss on a sack while trying to improvise against Colgate.
"I think the biggest thing is to just let the game come to me a little bit," Awini said. "Just have it slowed down a little bit more. I'm not where I want to be right now, but I've got to let the game come to me a little bit."