Air Force has suffered its share of losses in the past two years, but none quite like this.
“It was tough (Monday) coming in,” receiver Andrew Smith said after a 17-14 loss at Army. “I think you just had to look around, there were a lot of guys who were frustrated, or sad, or angry — just a whirl of emotions.”
That loss knocked the Falcons (3-6, 1-4 Mountain West) out of the running for the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy. They had already been knocked from the conference race.
But there’s one goal remaining that leaves this deflated team no choice but to rebound — bowl eligibility.
To get there, the Falcons need to win out over the final three weeks. They’ll be playing three teams — New Mexico (3-6, 1-4), Wyoming (4-6, 2-4) and Colorado State (3-6, 2-3) — with losing records, but teams in the Lobos and Wyoming that have won four out of the past five in the series.
And Air Force approaches this stretch where it must go 3-0 after going just 6-13 against FBS competition over the past two seasons.
It’s a tall order, even as the Falcons enter as 13.5-point favorites for Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game against New Mexico at Falcon Stadium.
“We’re winning all three,” cornerback Dailen Sutton said. “Winning out the rest of the season. That’s the mindset.”
In New Mexico, the Falcons will face a team with an identical record and going through similar issues. The Lobos, who also had a losing season last year after going to a bowl game the previous two seasons, changed offenses this year and have struggled to establish an identity while shifting through quarterbacks. Air Force and New Mexico are two of the five teams in the nation this season to start three quarterbacks this year. Coltin Gerhart is listed as the starter this week for the Lobos.
Air Force came out of a loss to Army last year needing two victories in three games to reach bowl eligibility. It won just once more.
This year, that cushion is gone.
“You’re on that edge,” senior defensive tackle Micah Capra said. “We didn’t make it to a bowl game last year, so we really want to make it to a bowl game this year. Especially coming from the senior class, there’s that extra push, extra drive.”