October 26, 2013 Updated: October 27, 2013 at 6:10 pm
Colton Huntsman sprinted into the end zone, and for a few, brief, precious moments Air Force Academy led Notre Dame. Hope had arrived at Falcon Stadium.
Huntsman's touchdown, a false glimmer in Notre Dame's 45-10 rampage, is the highlight of Air Force's year. Think about it: Eight games into the season, the brightest moment arrived in the first quarter of yet another smack-upside-the-head defeat.
The Falcons have four games left to deliver a genuine highlight for the 2013 season. They have four games to prevent this disaster of a season from turning into a historically gruesome campaign.
Air Force is 1-7. The best-case finish, at least to my eyes, is 3-9. Two wins in the final four games would give this downtrodden football program and its fans reason for (limited) optimism in 2014.
The rest of Air Force's schedule is not exactly murderer's row. Army, UNLV, New Mexico and CSU are beatable.
Can the Falcons drop all four?
But the Falcons could steal two victories and with those victories regain a sense of self-respect.
The Falcons have started four quarterbacks in this season of injury and woe. Kale Pearson, Jaleel Awini, Karson Roberts and Nate Romine have all taken turns behind center. The quartet is remarkably similar in talent level. Turns out, this 1-7 team was astoundingly deep at quarterback.
The quarterback position is not the prime challenge as the team moves forward. Neither is the defense. The Falcons lack the athletes to hold opponents under 30 points. The four remaining opponents will score at least 120 points on the Falcons. That's a given.
The key to revival is a resurrected rush offense. Coach Troy Calhoun said after Saturday's loss that Air Force must rank among the nation's top 10 rushing teams for the program to be successful.
He's right. The Falcons have strayed from their identity, partially because the defense can't be trusted to hold anyone.
In Calhoun's first six seasons, the Falcons' offense thrived by embracing a featured back. Chad Hall, Asher Clark and Cody Getz took turns carrying the load for Calhoun and his team. All three had imperfections. All three at times struggled.
But the featured back gave the Falcons' offense a focus. Air Force was able to overcome many of the program's imperfections with an overpowering rushing attack, led by a featured back.
Calhoun said no one yet has emerged as the clear No. 1. He hinted Broam Hart leads a procession that includes Anthony LaCoste, Jon Lee and Huntsman, but Calhoun declined to name a leader of the Falcons' procession of backs.
It's time to pick someone, coach. Really, it's past time. Tell Hart or LaCoste or Lee or someone to get ready for 25-30 carries against Army. This strategy of rushing attack by committee has failed.
The numbers are, no doubt, discouraging. Utah State, Boise State, Wyoming and Notre Dame outscored Air Force by a total of 122 points. Against the Falcons, those four teams looked ready to trash Alabama, but none of those four teams resides in the Top 25. Facing a friendly schedule, the Falcons have grabbed one - count 'em - win while offering no strong reason to believe another win is likely this season.
Huntsman's arrival in the end zone was the clear highlight of this dark season. That's not much of a highlight.