The Ram-Falcon Trophy will be staying in Colorado Springs for another season as the Air Force Falcons were able to defeat the Colorado State Rams by a score of 27-19, more than likely finishing their season at 5-7 for the second year in a row.
I say likely because there is a very very very small outside shot that they could qualify for a bowl game if there are not enough bowl eligible teams to fill the 78 available slots. There are currently 72 teams eligible for a bowl game and with several games pitting 5 win teams against each other, we will have a minimum of 75 teams and potentially as many as 90 teams that are bowl eligible at the end of the weekend.
If there are not enough teams, then the highest APR scores are used to decide which 5-7 teams would get invited first and Air Force would be at the top of that list, as they sit just behind Northwestern (already bowl eligible) on the Academic Progress Rate stat.
So, the odds are pretty good that there will not be a postseason for the Falcons, and if that’s the case, well then at least they can say they went out on a high note and broke some records along the way as they closed out their season during Senior Day on Thanksgiving with the victory.
The man leading the charge today and setting those records was junior fullback Cole Fagan. To say he had himself a day would be an understatement as he finished with 260 YARDS on 34 carries and a touchdown, setting the Air Force record for rushing yards by a fullback and getting the third most rushing yards in Falcon history regardless of position.
He went back and forth with Colorado State receiver Preston Williams, who finished with 248 yards and three touchdowns, accounting for all but one of the Rams points on the day, as CSU fell to 3-9 on the year.
This was the third all-time game on Thanksgiving Day for the Falcons and the first time they have been able to come away with a victory.
Colorado State was able to get in Air Force territory on each of their first two drives, but the Air Force defense, missing leading tackler Jeremy Fejedelem because of a targeting penalty last week against Wyoming, was able to get stops when it mattered.
Air Force’s first drive was an option clinic as they went 80 yards on 13 plays and using nearly six minutes off the clock, ending with a three yard TD for Fagan to put the Falcons up 7-0.
After swapping punts on the next five possessions, four of which were three and outs, Air Force was able to find the end zone again. A huge 56 yard run from Fagan got the Falcons into the red zone, and Donald Hammond III found senior Marcus Bennett for the 16 yard TD strike to make it 14-0. It was an incredible catch by Bennett, so take a look:
Colorado State finally got something going on the ensuing drive as they appeared to realize the mismatch they had with Preston Williams against the Air Force defensive backs. Williams caught two passes, each for 34 yards, the second one resulting in a TD and cutting the lead to 14-6 after the XP was missed.
A heavy dose of Fagan, sprinkled with Joseph Saucier, got Air Force back in scoring position on their next drive, and Jake Koehnke nailed a 29 yard field goal to make it 17-6.
Realizing just what they had going with Preston Williams, Colorado State targeted him on literally every single play on their next drive, completing 4 of the 5 passes, the last one a 58 yard TD that got the Rams back within four.
Air Force faked taking a knee with just 26 seconds to go, resulting in a 33 yard run by Saucier and clearly getting under the skin of Colorado State who would get a personal foul at the end of the game when they actually did take a knee. A missed 54 yard FG by Koehnke kept it at 17-13 at intermission.
Using the tandem of Fagan and Taven Birdow, Air Force drove all the way down to the one yard line to open the second half, but Hammond was stuffed on the goal line, and the Falcons turned it over on downs.
Colorado State was able to move the ball down the field, using a delayed play action pass to Olabisi Johnson to get away from their goal line. However, Jeremy Fejedelem, the junior defensive back who had to sit out the first half, was able to intercept a Collin Hill pass in the end zone to get the ball back to the Falcons offense.
Air Force would do more of what it had done all game, mounting an 18 play, 76 yard drive that ended up with a 39 yard FG by Koehnke to put them up 20-13 early in the fourth quarter. For the game, they would have five drives of at least 10 plays and 60 yards, all of which were nearly six minutes in length. That would help them lead the time of possession by over an entire quarter, holding the ball for over 38 minutes during the contest.
K.J. Carta-Samuels was forced into action on the next drive as Hill was knocked out with a concussion, and he proceeded to do just what Hill did, finding Preston Williams yet again for a 31 yard TD pass that cut the lead to 20-19.
A blocked PAT kept the Falcons in the lead, and they would add another score to cap off the season. Needing a third down stop, the Rams were unable to contain Air Force, as Hammond found Andrew Smith for a 13 yard strike on 3rd and 6. They then proceeded to ride Cole Fagan and the fullback dive all the way to the red zone, before using a pitch to Kadin Remsberg to make the score 27-19.
Colorado State would get back into the Air Force red zone on the next drive, but Carta-Samuels was intercepted by linebacker Kyle Floyd at the three yard line, sealing the game for Air Force and sending the seniors out on a high note.
Fagan’s 260 yards not only was the most ever for a fullback in Falcons history, but it also got him just three yards shy of 1,000 for the season.
I suppose Air Force can find them a list of 5 win teams to root against on Saturday but more than likely they will conclude their year at 5-7. The future seems bright though, as nearly the entire offense is returning and a large part of their defensive core will be back as well. Having back-to-back losing seasons will not sit well with Calhoun and co., but here’s to betting they are able to turn it around and find their winning ways once again in 2019.