Oct 012002
Authors: Reed Saunders

The Mountain West Conference might be seeing a down year, but the Air Force Falcons are flying high.

The Falcons are the early story of the league, running to a 4-0 start and ranked No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll this week, the first time Air Force has cracked the national rankings since 1998, when the Falcons finished No. 10 in the coaches poll and no. 13 AP.

The Falcons, 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference, are off to their best start since the 1997 season when the team opened 7-0 en route to a 10-3 record.

“It’s a great honor to have your program recognized nationally, but as I’ve always said it not where you’re ranked early in the season that counts. What matters most is where you’re ranked in November and December,” Air Force head coach Fisher DeBerry said.

DeBerry, in his 19th year as head coach, has seen this type of success before. This year marks the fifth time in the DeBerry era that the team has been perfect through its first four games. AFA averaged 10 wins per season in the other four years and went to a post-season bowl game every year.

The Falcons get back to work this weekend against Navy, opening their defense of the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy. Air Force has dominated its service academy series with Army and Navy, winning the trophy 16 times, including five in a row and 12 of the past 13. Air Force has five-game winning streaks against both Army and Navy.

“I’d like to say it’s coaching,” DeBerry said. “That’s not it. We’ve had some good continuity on our coaching staff. That might have something to do with it. But I’ll tell you, the day our players take Army or Navy for granted, we’re in trouble.”

The Falcons are coming off an impressive come from behind victory over MWC rival Utah in Salt Lake City. In that game, Air Force rallied from a 26-6 deficit to win 30-26.

“(DeBerry) has our players believing in themselves,” said tight ends coach Dick Enga, who has been on the Air Force staff for 25 years.

The rest of the West:

Brigham Young: The Cougars will play at Utah State Saturday coming off their lone bye week of the season. BYU has lost two straight games and has had inconsistency at quarterback, where Bret Engemann has been spotty.

New Mexico: The Lobos are one of three MWC teams with the week off, but are still licking their wounds from two straight losses, including a 49-0 whipping at home at the hands of Texas Tech and a 24-13 loss at in-state rival New Mexico State.

San Diego State: At 0-5, first year head coach Tom Craft and the Aztecs are off to the worst start in school history despite having the leading passer (Adam Hall, 1804 yards) and receivers (J.R. Tolver, 747 yards; Kassim Osgood, 717 yards) in the conference.

UNLV: The Rebels will try to rebound from a disappointing road loss to Toledo when they face Nevada in the Battle for the Fremont Cannon on Saturday. Head Coach John Robinson is going for his 200th career coaching victory.

Utah: The Utes are still recovering from a stunning home loss to Air Force, in which they blew a 20-point halftime lead. The loss was Utah’s third in a row. The Utes’ three losses this season have been by a combined 13 points.

Wyoming: The Cowboys have a realistic shot at their first win of the season Saturday when Division I-AA The Citadel (1-3) comes to War Memorial Stadium. Wyoming is last in the MWC in both scoring offense and defense.

– Edited by Jon Ackerman and Josh Hardin

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