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AFA dreams of a miracle

End Zone


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Most people in Colorado Springs know Scott Hente as an earnest, outspoken member of City Council, potentially a candidate to become our next mayor.

I know him another way, too — as a loyal 1975 graduate of the Air Force Academy who ranks among the area's most dedicated AFA football fans. He's been a longtime season-ticket holder since rising to lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, which included serving in Operation Desert Storm (1990-91) before his military retirement.

So it came as no surprise early Saturday when we exchanged e-mails, with both of us thinking Air Force would defeat Brigham Young later in the day. The result was a stunningly complete 35-14 victory, Air Force's first win against BYU since 2003.

Monday morning, Hente followed up with his list of the biggest Air Force football victories ever, moving this game immediately into his top five, which include: 1. Notre Dame, 1985; 2. Ohio State, 1990; 3. Texas, 1985; 4. BYU, 2010; 5. BYU, 1998.

He asked for my top five, a slightly different group: 1. BYU, 1998 (Western Athletic Conference championship); 2. Notre Dame, 1983 (first win at South Bend); 3. Ohio State, 1990; 4. Notre Dame, 1985; 5. Texas, 1985.

Both of us fully acknowledge that our lists cover the period of 1980 to the present, during the tenures of Ken Hatfield, Fisher DeBerry and Troy Calhoun. Air Force certainly celebrated many huge conquests between 1958 and 1976 when Ben Martin was head coach. Among them, in no particular order: pulling an upset at Nebraska in 1963, several wins against Colorado, handling Stanford in 1970 (with Jim Plunkett on his way to the Heisman Trophy and leading the then-Indians to the Rose Bowl), winning at Arizona State in 1972 (during Frank Kush's ASU dynasty), and also two ties in 1958, at powerful Iowa and against TCU in the Cotton Bowl.

All that said, every collection of greatest Air Force wins would have to make room for a new No. 1 if the Falcons happen to shock the world this Saturday — at none other than Oklahoma (1:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Net).

These chances don't come along very often, for the Falcons to test themselves against the almighty national elite, although playing the likes of TCU, Utah and BYU every year inside the Mountain West has been comparable in many ways. Air Force goes to Norman as a 17-point underdog, with the Sooners coming off an impressive 47-17 rout of Florida State. Their superior speed, combined with the accurate arm of quarterback Landry Jones, would give every indication that a mismatch is on tap.

Maybe. But the Falcons should make this trip full of fresh confidence after what happened last week. Air Force's defense exposed BYU's weaknesses and held the Cougars without a point in the final three quarters. The offense, with a variety of playmakers and junior quarterback Tim Jefferson running the show, also improved as the game went along, piling up 477 total yards.

What would it take to have a shot at the Sooners? Air Force must get some early breaks and avoid falling behind by more than a touchdown. Offensively, the Falcons have to be able to use the clock, avoid turnovers and capitalize on any scoring chances. And they can't be intimidated by the crowd atmosphere.

All that could happen, of course, and Oklahoma still could win by something like 38-21 (matching the spread), which would be respectable for the Falcons.

But something tells me it won't be so one-sided. Something tells me that the Sooners will make just enough mistakes to give Air Force hope.

It's still hard to imagine the Falcons being able to stop OU star running back DeMarco Murray, a legitimate All-America threat. Florida State tried desperately to shut him down, and he still scored two touchdowns.

My feeling, though, is that this Air Force team does have a chance. Just like against Texas in the 1985 Bluebonnet Bowl, Ohio State in the 1990 Liberty Bowl, BYU in 1998 and Notre Dame any number of times.

And that makes this a game worth watching.


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