BOULDER • The first college football game Jalen Sami attended growing up in Colorado Springs was between Air Force and Brigham Young at Falcon Stadium.
When he made the hour and a half trip up north to Boulder for college, one of the first teams he played against was the team he grew up just a short drive away from him: Air Force.
That was three years ago, when the Falcons rolled into Folsom Field and beat the Buffs in overtime. But all Sami can remember is one play: the game-winning touchdown Air Force scored on the first play of overtime.
“The vivid memory of how it was a battle and then it all ended with that one big perimeter run,” Sami said this week, recalling that 2019 clash.
If anyone forgot, it was almost a miracle that CU even forced overtime in the first place.
Air Force was the dominant team all afternoon long, outgaining the Buffs by over 100 yards of total offense.
The Falcons scored 23 unanswered points after falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, and their 20-10 halftime lead could’ve been even bigger if not for an interception at the goal line in the final minute of the half.
The Buffs were about a field-goal favorite heading into that game three years ago.
This time around, the Falcons are around a 17-point favorite, and that’s largely because Troy Calhoun has this team in just as good of a shape as the 2019 squad that won 11 games, while the Buffs just don’t have the same stars on the roster like Laviska Shenault, who had nearly 150 yards of total offense and played a big role in the fourth-quarter comeback three years ago.
“I’m seeing a really good football team,” CU coach Karl Dorrell said of Air Force this week. “I felt like they operated very efficiently on both sides of the ball. We know we’re going to need to play really well.”
Who the Buffs’ quarterback will be is yet again a question mark. Sophomore Brendon Lewis got the start against TCU last week, but struggled and was ultimately replaced by junior J.T. Shrout in the second half. It’s a far cry from 2019, when Steven Montez was in the last of his four years as the starting QB in Boulder.
But while the Buffs offense might not be the same unit it was three years ago, Sami feels the defense is in a better spot to handle all of the problems the Air Force offense causes every opponent it faces.
“I’ve definitely looked back to three years ago, watching the same film and seeing how I played,” Sami said. “They’re a good team and we are, too. I know that the plan that we have defensively is built to stop their offense.”
Sami is one of three defensive players that played a big role in that game three years ago, joined by fellow defensive lineman Terrance Lang and Na’im Rodman.
This matchup might not be too personal for the myriad of young players on this CU defense, but that trio of Sami, Lang and Rodman haven’t forgotten.
“Us three, we’re taking it very personally,” Sami said. “This isn’t an offense that you see often, so the more you dial in, the more you know your opponent, the easier it is.”