Nose guard Mosese Fifita apparently spent his time in Air Force’s raucous postgame celebration on the floor in exhaustion.
That was his spot during the pregame, too.
Fifita, the Falcons’ 6-foot-1, 330-pound senior received IV treatment for an illness prior to facing Army, then matched a career-high with six tackles in the 17-13 victory at Falcon Stadium. He also registered a quarterback hurry and potentially influenced a game-altering missed PAT.
The Army at Air Force football game Saturday looked very similar at the end to the Falcons' loss to Navy earlier this season, but this time Air Force's defense held for victory.
“Guys like (Mosese Fifita) are why you get up early in the morning and grind in this business,” Air Force assistant Alex Means tweeted.
“I love my team ...” Fifita tweeted.
Teammate Elisha Palm called it Fifita’s “flu game,” a reference to Michael Jordan’s performance in the NBA Finals in 1997 while battling an illness.
Fifita has played a pivotal role in the middle of the defense, as Air Force (7-2) ranks 11th nationally against the run (96.7 ypg) despite having played two top-10 rushing teams in Navy and Army.
The Black Knights ran for just 129 yards Saturday, their lowest output this season.
Army missed its first PAT of the season after scoring in the second quarter, when kicker Cole Talley pushed the kick to the right. Air Force has blocked two PATs this season. Nobody got a hand on this one, but Air Force players suspect the threat of pressure from a line that includes Fifita and Jordan Jackson influenced the miss.
“It’s got to be in his mind that J.J. and Mo Mo are coming, and pressure on the edge,” linebacker Kyle Johnson said. “That can be in the back of your mind.”
Because Army missed that PAT, it needed a touchdown instead of a field goal in the final minute when Air Force came up with a defensive stand inside its 10-yard line.
FIfita has 33 tackles this year, including three for a loss to go with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. This is up from 25 tackles — 1.5 for a loss — last year as he was named Most Valuable Defensive Player for the Falcons following the 2018 season.
The senior from Everett, Wash., and a NCWA national champion in wrestling while at the Air Force prep school, was one of 62 players from 32 schools named to the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year watch list prior to the season — an award that recognizes “ability and integrity.”