Donald Hammond III took advantage of a rare weekend off to watch college football, including this week’s opponent, Colorado, taking down Nebraska.
His impression of the Buffaloes from that viewing?
“They’re beatable,” said the Air Force quarterback, who described himself as “refreshed” after an off week. “Everybody’s beatable.”
That seems to be the consensus among Falcons players as they approach with optimism a rare opportunity against a Power Five opponent when the series against Colorado resumes at 11 a.m. Saturday in Boulder after a 45-year hiatus.
This opinion comes despite little success for the program against teams from major conferences — going 1-7 in the regular season in those games in 12 seasons under coach Troy Calhoun. And while acknowledging that Colorado has experience and elite talent at multiple positions.
Air Force is not alone in this thinking, as sports gambling sites list the Falcons as just 3.5-point road underdogs.
“I think it’s really important that we’re confident, and we are confident,” Air Force linebacker Kyle Johnson said. “But I wouldn’t say we’re cocky or anything. We recognize the situation and how close of a game we know it’s going to be. That kind of drives our preparation.”
Other results support Air Force’s sense of hope. Mountain West teams have won seven of their last 10 games against Pac-12 teams. The conference is 6-5 against Power Five programs this season, with three of the losses coming by one possession or in overtime.
Add Army’s 24-21 double-overtime loss at No. 7 Michigan as proof the service academies can challenge anyone, something Air Force has proven over the years with similarly tight losses at Michigan and Oklahoma in the past decade.
Colorado coach Mel Tucker said his team is aware of the threat this game brings.
“I think everyone in America, everyone in the world, who knows anything about football knows that when you play Air force, you better strap it up,” Tucker said.
The proximity of the programs means there’s significant intermingling. Many players from both sides cross paths while going out in Denver or Boulder. Others know each other from high school.
Hammond said he’s gotten to know Colorado receivers Laviska Shenault Jr. and K.D. Nixon through some trips to Denver in addition to some defensive linemen. He added that he’s had plenty to say to those d-linemen this week.
Air Force receiver Ben Waters attended Valor Christian with Colorado players Curtis Chiaverini and Blake Stenstrom, and also hasn’t been shy in voicing an opinion on this week’s game.
“There’s been some trash talk back and forth, as to be expected,” Waters said. “I’m ready. It will be fun.
“It’s going to prove who is the best team in Colorado — and it’s us.”