October 26, 2013 Updated: October 27, 2013 at 6:39 am
Imagine the excitement for Nate Romine, a true freshman, when he was told he was about to make his first career start. Oh, and that start would be at home against Notre Dame.
Keep imagining, because Romine was never told.
"I didn't get an official, 'Hey, you're starting,'" said Romine, who grew up a USC fan in California and watched many epic contests against the Fighting Irish. "I was just going with the ones and doing what they told me to do, pretty much."
In starting, Romine became the fourth quarterback to do so for Air Force this season - the most in the country. To put that into perspective, the Falcons have started five quarterbacks over their past nine games dating back to the Armed Forces Bowl last season. In 100 games during Chris Petersen's tenure at Boise State, the Broncos have started just six quarterbacks.
Sophomore Karson Roberts seemed prepared to return to the starting position after suffering a concussion Oct. 10 against San Diego State. But the injury limited his practice time and prompted coach Troy Calhoun to opt for Romine, though word leaked to the press box an hour before the game that Roberts would be the starter.
"A little bit in the back of my mind, too, you just don't want a guy to get drilled on back-to-back outings," Calhoun said. "That was a consideration, also."
Romine led the Falcons with 76 rushing yards on 21 attempts and completed 6-of-10 passes for 37 yards. Two of his passes were dropped and he was part of two turnovers - one on a fumble and another when his pitch to tailback Anthony LaCoste was not corralled.
"For a guy in that kind of environment, Nate did some good things," Calhoun said. "His eyes were plenty wide."
Romine said the week leading up to his start was, if not confusing, certainly not perfectly clear. On Tuesday he was told that he and Roberts would rotate first-team reps during the week of practice. Then, on Wednesday and Thursday, he noticed that the reps were primarily going his direction.
When the game started, he knew to go in with the first team simply because he hadn't been told not to.
"I was just assuming leadership," Romine said. "And I think that's what coaches kind of wanted."
As for the game, Romine said he was able to keep his nerves in check despite the opponent.
"It was no different than getting my first start in high school football," he said. "You get a little, I wouldn't call them butterflies, but you're anxious, you're excited, this is your chance to do something.
"It was just another game and it was a chance to leave my mark, so I was excited."