Do games get any bigger than this one?
The No. 24-ranked Rams travel south down Interstate-25 today to take on the Air Force Falcons in a battle that could decide the Mountain West Conference championship. Both teams are atop the MWC standings, but find themselves at drastically different points in their season.
Playing in their second straight Thursday night game, the Rams (7-2, 3-0 MWC) take their perfect conference record, along with a three-game winning streak, to Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs. Air Force (6-2, 3-1 MWC), on the other hand, has lost two straight games after starting the season undefeated and climbing as high as No. 19 in the polls before Saturday’s devastating loss to Wyoming dropped it completely from the rankings.
“They know this is the biggest game of their season, and I think that puts you in place where you know they’re going to come out and play hard,” linebacker Drew Wood said. “But you know they’re going to play hard regardless of what the situation is. We’re going to be prepared for them and ready for a good game.”
The game will renew a rivalry that has blossomed between two teams that regularly contend for the conference crown, and between coaches Sonny Lubick and Fisher Deberry, who hold each other in high esteem.
“My relationship with Fisher, I think, is really good except for this week, but you have to love Fisher,” Lubick said. “Anyone who knows him has so much love and respect for him and his family. He’s been very kind and generous and good to me since I came into the league. We just like to compete against each other.”
The two teams have split the series even in the last six years, and this season’s match-up could resemble the snowy showdown of two years ago, when the Falcons won an offensive battle of attrition, 44-40.
“It should be a classic CSU-Air Force game,” DeBerry said. “The last couple of years have all been barn-burners. I just hope we have more points at the end than they do. I don’t care what the weather is, it’s going to be the same for both teams.”
The Rams defenders have had to prepare for Air Force’s triple-option, an offensive style they see only once a year, and a method of attack the Falcons have mastered. Air Force quarterback Chance Harridge is leading the nation with 16 rushing touchdowns, and the Falcons rank second in Division I-A with 299.3 rushing yards per game.
“If we step up and stop the option like we should be able to do, it’s going to be a great game,” Wood said. “There’s a lot of tackles to be made so it’s a lot of fun to get in there and stick your head in and make tackles. If you put them in a second and nine or second and ten where they’ve got to get ten yards in two plays, most likely they’re going to have to pass once. And when Air Force is passing, you’re doing what you want to do, because if they can run the option all day, they will.”
Edited by Jon Ackerman and Josh Hardin