Arion Worthman’s postgame mood has served as a barometer throughout Air Force’s season.
The junior swayed between undeterred optimism and an angry frustration through a four-game losing streak and, later, a home shutout to Army.
In the wee hours of Saturday night, he was different; a 28-14 loss to Wyoming left him despondent.
“It sucks,” he said, quietly. “I’m at a loss for words, honestly.”
It would be too early to declare this moment rock bottom, as two games remain. But it sure felt that way because of the nature of this game and what was at stake.
Air Force could have moved into a second-place tie in Mountain West’s Mountain Division with hopes remaining of winning it. At one point late Saturday, Boise State trailed Colorado State by 25 points and the Falcons had seized momentum against Wyoming. Had the Rams and Falcons won, Air Force would have controlled its own destiny for a path to the Mountain West title game. Of course, neither of those scenarios played out and the Falcons were eliminated from the division race.
Plus, there was the matter of bowl eligibility, which is now very much in doubt for a team that needs two more wins in two weeks to get to the necessary six wins.
Beyond those stakes, there were developments within the game that changed emotions. The Falcons trailed big early, climbed back into it so much it felt they were in control, but then watched it slip away.
It may be better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. But it’s far more crushing to have been in control of a football game and not finished than to never have been competitive.
Wyoming, which forced three turnovers, converted the first two into touchdowns and built a quick 21-0 lead.
Air Force came back, knocked touted Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen out of the game after he had thrown for just 70 yards, and, for the third quarter, totally dominated. The Falcons still trailed 21-14, but had doubled the Cowboys’ offensive output and were driving for what could have been a tying touchdown early in the fourth quarter when the third turnover struck on a fumbled quarterback exchange.
Wyoming cashed it in again, scoring 21 of its 28 points off turnovers, and that was that.
“We had very little continuity in the first half,” coach Troy Calhoun explained. Asked why, in Week 10, continuity would be an issue, he didn’t respond other than to say his team has “got to play better.”
“We’ve got to play really, really good football to beat really, really good teams, and it won’t get easier.”
No, it won’t. After being outscored 49-14 in home losses to Army and Wyoming, the Falcons will travel to Boise State on Saturday.
There’s still a chance the Falcons could sneak into a bowl game at 5-7. But even that would require one more victory for a squad clearly knocked to the canvas on Saturday.
“We’ve got to know that it’s not over,” said fullback Taven Birdow, who led Air Force with 82 rushing yards on a night it ran for 203. "We can’t give up. Even though there’s only two games left, we’ve got a lot to improve on. We can get a lot better. If we want it enough, we can do it.”