Air Force New Mexico Football

Air Force running back Brad Roberts jumps over his offensive linemen and the New Mexico defense to score a touchdown last week in Albuquerque, N.M. Air Force won 38-10.

Air Force football added an honor on Tuesday for a position group most unlikely situated to earn recognition.

The offensive line was named among 13 semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, joining only Appalachian State and Louisiana among teams outside the Power Five.

Other teams included in the picks from a 13-person committee, comprised of former offensive linemen, coaches, talent evaluators and media analysts, include No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Ohio State.

“We’ve done it in a way that is uncommon,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said.

The offensive line was a question mark entering the season, as all five starters graduated last year. During the season the Falcons have shuffled through nine starters — including three at center — on the line in eight starting combinations.

"We knew coming in that we were the new link in the chain, might have been the weakest link," center Ben Mercer said. "We worked hard. I feel like our hard work has paid off."

The Falcons lead the nation in rushing (325.4 yards per game) are second in time of possession (36:18). Their 2.7 yards per rush before contact is 11th-best nationally.

Steed Lobotzke is serving in his fifth year as the offensive line coach for Air Force.

“Physicality and effort and teamwork and toughness are baked into their cake, so you better ‘buckle your junk’ when you play Air Force, because if they get under your pads, it’s over,” an unnamed committee member said in a press release from the Joe Moore Award.

The effectiveness of the line is part of the reason the Falcons (8-3, 5-2 Mountain West) enter the final week with a chance to win the Mountain West. Air Force would clinch a division title with a victory and either a Utah State loss or Boise State victory. The Falcons also advance if all three teams lose.

Air Force could also produce the league’s top rusher, as fullback Brad Roberts (107.4 ypg) holds a slight edge of UNLV’s Charles Williams (102.2). The Runnin’ Rebels (2-9, 2-5) visit Falcon Stadium in the regular-season finale at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

“It just shows the grit and ability we have together and the trust we have in each other,” said senior left guard Hawk Wimmer, the lone lineman to start each game. “It doesn’t really matter who we put out on the field because we all trust in each other and we bonded together this year.”

The Joe Moore Award will announce its winner on Dec. 7.

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