The Air Force Falcons (2-2, 2-0) will likely have more than 45,000 screaming fans behind them tonight when they face off against CSU (4-1, 1-0) for the 45th time.
The Rams, however, will have something behind their bench that the Falcons will not: The Ram-Falcon Trophy.
The trophy has been displayed on the sideline of the winning team from the previous season’s game for the past 26 match-ups.
Each team has earned the wood-carved trophy 13 times.
“We don’t like Air Force,” said junior H-back Kory Sperry. “In-state games (earn) bragging rights for another year. Anytime time we can beat them it takes an extra effort.”
An extra effort will be needed by the CSU defense to stop an AFA rushing attack that is ranked third in the nation with 254.8 yards per game.
On the other hand, the Rams’ defense boasts the country’s 13th best rushing defense.
Something is sure to give.
Tonight marks the first time CSU will face a triple-option offense since it gave up 611 total yards to Navy in last year’s 51-30 Poinsettia Bowl loss.
“We definitely have to be aware of some of the things Navy did to us,” said defensive coordinator Steve Stanard.
Stanard said his team has reviewed the film of that game and made some adjustments, but this year’s unit is more confident.
“If we’re in the right place at the right time then we’ll be successful against the option,” he said. “If not, then it could be a long day.”
Sophomore linebacker Jeff Horinek feels the Navy game had an immense impact on why the defense is vastly improved from than last year.
“I think the Navy game really turned everything around because we got embarrassed,” he said. “Once we started to work out as a team in the spring, it seemed like a whole new feel.”
Like any other football game, turnovers should play a decisive factor in deciding which team remains unbeaten in the Mountain West.
The Falcons enter the game on a remarkable turnover streak, created on kickoffs.
Twice they have gained possession of onside kicks, while two other times AFA has recovered fumbles off of sky kicks from Zach Sasser.
The Rams, on the other hand, have been plagued with turnovers on special teams, giving its opponents outstanding field position on more than one occasion.
CSU does appear to have a clear advantage over the Falcons through its passing game.
Junior quarterback Caleb Hanie has the second highest completion percentage in the nation (72 percent) while AFA is ranked second from last in the conference in pass efficiency (151.3).
As Sperry put it, “As long as we come out and play the way we have been, I don’t see us losing.”
Football beat writer Sean Star can be reached at email@example.com.