BOULDER • This one’s for Chad Hall. It’s for Chad Hennings, Bryce Fisher, Chris Gizzi, the late Dee Dowis, the Morgan brothers.
Air Force 30, CU-Boulder 23 (OT).
This one’s for all the proud Air Force football players, coaches and families who never got their shot to beat the Buffs because a bunch of Boulder students behaved like spoiled brats in the 1970s. This one’s for you, and you, and you.
“I think it’s a brotherhood thing. I think everybody’s going to feel this win — all the alumni that didn’t get this chance,” burly fullback Taven Birdow said Saturday afternoon under bluebird skies at Folsom Field as the Falcons celebrated a triumph in the first Air Force-CU game since 1974.
Oh, and I wish you could’ve seen it. All of you, wish you were here. Kade Remsberg, who looks like the neighbor kid who wants to mow your lawn, giving it to a Power-5 program that didn’t recruit him. Remsberg leapt into the Air Force bleachers after zipping down the sideline like a lightning bolt on the first play of overtime. Touchdown, Falcons!
Donald Hammond III, the fearless quarterback, shouting “This is our state!” after CU-Boulder’s last-ditch fourth-down pass to Heisman trophy candidate Laviska Shenault Jr. bounced on the grass turf. Ballgame. Bedlam. Bolts.
“We want to be the kings of Colorado. That’s how we look at it,” said Remsberg, who earned all of his 150 rushing yards and that one sweet touchdown. “We’re going to play CSU and we’re going to beat them.”
How long had Air Force thought about this one, this circled-on-the-calendar game at CU-Boulder?
“Two years, since the schedule came out,” Birdow said. “Two years. Haven’t stopped thinking about it for two years.”
And the rest of a Bolt Brotherhood that was unable to play CU? Much longer. Try 45 years. This delicious series was suspended after a 1973 game in which CU-Boulder zealots threw beer cans, eggs and whatever else was handy to protest the Vietnam War. Despicable then, despicable now.
It’s not Air Force that should’ve been begging to reconsider this series. It’s CU-Boulder. Considering the way those servicemen and their families were treated Oct. 13, 1973 — the last time Air Force graced Boulder for a football game — academy alums have every right to hold a grudge. But you know what’s better than a grudge? Bragging rights.
And the best-run FBS program in the state of Colorado was and is Air Force until proven otherwise. CU-Boulder dishes out buyout checks as if it were on Oprah: You get one! You get one! Meantime, Air Force goes 89-67 in the Troy Calhoun era, CSU goes 66-87, and CU-Boulder has one winning season since it fired Gary Barnett in 2005.
“We viewed this as a state championship game,” Hammond said. “All we have to do is beat CSU (on Nov. 16) and we run the state.”
Party with Tim Curry, Ben Garland, Weston Steelhammer, because this was for them, too. Like Birdow was saying, Air Force is a brotherhood. If your family was pelted by eggs and words you can’t repeat at the dinner table, would you return to the scene of the crime with peace on your mind? This was no time to join hands and sing Kumbaya. They teach history at the academy, and the Falcons knew decades of alums were watching from near and far. They wanted this one. Bad.
“We have a band of brothers who we’re playing with right now, but we’re playing for the guys before us,” said offensive lineman Nolan Laufenberg, who grew up smack in the middle of the two programs, in Castle Rock. “We feel them in a moment like this.”
Fist pound the Buffs for fighting back like they did in wins against CSU and Nebraska. Tough crew over there. But for three quarters CU-Boulder wanted nothing to do with Air Force’s punishing running game: 444 yards on offense, 289 on the ground and a mean streak you can’t measure with a tape.
Trap game? Not here, not Saturday. Air Force was better than CU. Air Force didn’t punt until 6 minutes were left in the third quarter. Better players, better scheme, better coach. All the Falcons were missing was a Heisman pose from Remsberg after he silenced most of the 49,282 on a pitch to the right side for the overtime winner.
“Core play,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun called it.
“These guys in here, there’s a reason they go fight for the First Amendment,” Calhoun added.
Shoot, even Calhoun cracked a smile. OK, so it was after he noticed an Air Force staffer had left his fly open after using the facilities. But a smile’s a smile, and Calhoun had never faced CU, either. His phone’s blowing up right now from fellow Air Force grads, guarantee it.
“However well an F-16 or an F-35 pilot may fly, they want to execute the next mission,” Calhoun said. “That’s no different than us. We want to execute the next snap.”
The Falcons knew what this game meant to the ones who came before them, some long before they were born. As Birdow hustled to the team bus, I told him he’s never again going to pay for a beer at an Air Force gathering.
“Hope not,” he said. “Hope not.”
This one’s for all of ‘em.