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Ramsey: Moral victory for Air Force could turn season around

October 24, 2013 Updated: October 24, 2013 at 10:24 pm
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photo - Air Force linebacker Joey Nichol, shown at left against Wyoming, believes Saturday's game against Notre Dame is an opportunity for the Falcons. "It offers a chance to show that we can play," he said.
Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Air Force linebacker Joey Nichol, shown at left against Wyoming, believes Saturday's game against Notre Dame is an opportunity for the Falcons. "It offers a chance to show that we can play," he said. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

A less-than-mighty Notre Dame team has arrived in our city, which starts me wondering what a massively motivated group of football players who reside on the edge of Colorado Springs might do Saturday at Falcon Stadium.

Sure, I know Air Force has lost six of seven games. And I know the Falcons suffered through humiliating, can-this-get-any-worse losses to Utah State, Boise State and, especially, Wyoming.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not predicting an Air Force upset. I am predicting this game will remain close into the fourth quarter. I am predicting the Falcons will use this game to seize momentum as they prepare to face the four less-than-overwhelming opponents left on their schedule. Army, New Mexico, UNLV and Colorado State have combined for 12 wins and 17 losses.

Will Notre Dame deliver another blowout loss to the Falcons?

I don't see it.

Air Force is weary of getting kicked around. This team might be weary enough to depart college football's basement.

Linebacker Joey Nichol grimaced as he looked back on a six-game losing streak.

"It's been pretty tough for me," Nichol said. "You go to bed thinking about it and you wake up thinking about it."

On Saturday, Nichol and his teammates will play in front of a packed Falcon Stadium and a national TV audience. This is the ideal time for one of our nation's worst college football teams to make a huge leap to mediocrity.

Of course, Nichol wants more than just mediocrity, but he realizes the immensity of this opportunity.

"It offers a chance to show that we can play," he said. "Everyone looks at the record and sees Air Force is 1-6. Everyone always looks at Air Force as small kids and now with a 1-6 record they're going to look at us as extra small."

There's nothing extra small about Air Force's troubles. Starting quarterback Kale Pearson suffered a severe knee injury in the opener against Colgate and second-string quarterback Jaleel Awini departed the team after an honor code violation and third-string quarterback Karson Roberts suffered a concussion and .

The defense was atrocious for four straight weeks, allowing 195 points in games during the month of September.

The Falcons know how badly they've played, how many points they've surrendered, how many quarterbacks have come and gone. They've noticed all those empty seats at Falcon Stadium.

Still, they stubbornly believe victories are just around the bend. This belief might seem blind, but it's still commendable. Optimism always is the best mindset for marching into the future.

Halfback Jon Lee, mysteriously underutilized this season, shrugged when he thought about the mental pain he and his teammates have suffered this season.

"Just being a fighter, you know, I pretty much just wake up each morning and thank God that I have another chance to get better and work that much harder," Lee said. "We're still pushing forward, trying to win and that's never going to stop, no matter how down and out we are."

Lee won't kid you. It's no fun rising each morning with a record of one win and six losses. But he's done some math.

"I mean, it's not as bad as being 1-11," he said.

He's right, and Saturday is the ideal time to revive. Losing with dignity to the Fighting Irish could awaken a team that has spent this season sleeping.

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Twitter: @davidramz

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