BOULDER – The in-state giant. A Power Five foe. A two-year run of disappointing close calls.
Air Force slayed ‘em all on Saturday.
After waiting 45 years for this series to be renewed, the Falcons and Buffaloes needed overtime before Kade Remsberg’s 25-yard touchdown and a defensive stand finally sealed a 30-23 victory.
Then, Air Force partied.
“It’s like the best feeling ever,” said Remsberg, who ran for 146 yards and atoned for a fumble with the touchdown. “We’re playing this Power Five team. A lot of us feel jaded that we didn’t get a lot of the offers from Power Five teams that we think we deserved. This is huge for us.”
There was nothing fluky about this win in front of 49,282 at Folsom Field. In fact, Colorado was probably fortunate to be in it. Air Force kept the Buffs in it with two fumbles, an interception on what looked like an easy touchdown at the goal line and a missed PAT.
The Falcons outgained the Buffs 444-325, dominated time of possession by 10 minutes and led by double digits for more than 25 minutes.
Still, the game came down to the waning moments. And that hasn’t generally been kind to a Falcons’ squad that has lost five games in the past two years by 4 points or fewer and another four by 10 or fewer.
“That’s exactly what was going through my head,” safety Jeremy Fejedelem said. “I was just, ‘Aaahhh, another close game, I hope this one goes our way this time.’”
Air Force led 23-10 when Steven Montez hit Dimitri Stanley with a 13-yard pass with 6:09 remaining. That would have cut the deficit to 6, but Air Force’s 6-foot-6 defensive end Jordan Jackson blocked the PAT.
“That was huge,” Falcons coach Troy Calhoun said. “It keeps it to where it’s a 7 point game instead of a 6-point game. That matters big-time.”
The Falcons quickly punted, setting up a 13-play, 60-yard drive that Laviska Shenault Jr. capped with a 2-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds left.
“There was no thought on that,” CU coach Mel Tucker said when asked if he considered a 2-point conversion. “We were playing pretty good on defense and offense. Let’s take (the PAT) and try to close it.”
Here’s the final play from my perspective in front of the Air Force crowd at CU. pic.twitter.com/CTSkas2QrY— Brent Briggeman (@BrentBriggeman) September 14, 2019
The Buffs won the toss and put Air Force on offense first.
Remsberg then scored on the first play, diving over the pylon after taking a pitch around the right side and following a block from Ben Waters.
“I got the ball. I knew my team needed me. I just told myself there was no way I’m not scoring on this play,” said the junior tailback. “As soon as I got in open space, I knew it. It was over.”
Colorado picked up a first down, then stalled as Jeremy Fejedelem laid a big hit on third down. As Air Force cornerback Milton (Tre’) Bugg III walked back toward the line alongside Shenault, he had some words for his former teammate on a Team USA showcase squad in high school.
“I said they’re running you like a horse out here, man,” said Bugg, whose second-quarter interception was his second in two games this year. “He looked dead tired. But I knew they were going to look for him, so I just put all my energy in my play.”
The Buffs did look for Shenault, the All-America candidate who had eight catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. Bugg had Shenault covered tightly when Montez tried to put the ball to his outside shoulder. Shenault never saw it coming and it dropped incomplete, sealing Air Force’s first victory over Colorado since 1968 and its first road win over a Power Five team since beating Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., in 2007.
“It’s huge for the team knowing that we can do it,” said quarterback Donald Hammond III, who ran for a touchdown and completed scores to Geraud Sanders (32 yards) and Ben Waters (81 yards). “Last year we felt like we could. Today we proved that we can.
It’s giant. And the giants have been slain.