COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Halloween is not your typical day. Two hours and forty-five minutes is not your typical drive to the Springs. And Air Force is not your typical school, or your typical football team.
Thursday night’s CSU-Air Force showdown was not your typical game.
It was the first time I’d gotten into a stadium with no ticket, no pass and no problem. You’d think the Academy would be a little stricter on security.
It was the first time in a press box I was asked to pay for food, had seen someone dressed as an M&M (for Halloween) and seen so many people dressed in fatigues (for real). Sometimes it was hard to tell who was dressed up and who wasn’t.
Thursday was also the first time I’ve heard of a college student talk about his curfew (lights out at the Academy is 11 p.m.). The same student also said taking 20 credits per semester “isn’t that bad.”
As the game – a 31-12 CSU romp – came to an end, I finally saw CSU fans stay ’til the end of the game. If the cadets weren’t soaking up their final hours of free time, Ram fans would have outnumbered Falcon fans in their stadium.
And after the game, I saw the great John Elway on the field for a second CSU game (he was at last year’s Fresno State game). But it was probably the first time No. 7 had gone out of his way to say hi to someone (as Cecil Sapp entered the locker room, Elway caught his attention to congratulate the senior on a big win).
Then there was the actual game itself, which was the first win for CSU on the road on a Thursday night ever. And, the last two times the Rams played here, they wore green pants. Thursday they wore gold pants, as they did in 1996 when they last won here. Who says superstition isn’t real?
The 19-point CSU victory was its first double-digit win over Air Force in 20 years, when it won 21-11 in 1982. It was the first time all year that Air Force hadn’t scored in the second half, and the first time since 1994 the Falcons hadn’t scored on CSU in the second half.
And when CSU kicker Jeff Babcock kicked off to open the second half, slipped on the soggy field, then scooped up a fumble and scored from 29 yards out, it was the first time since Ron Kaaneke in 1961 that a CSU kicker scored a touchdown. After he kicked a 27-yard field goal seconds into the fourth, Babcock was the only one to score a point in the second half.
With the two best running teams in the Mountain West, everyone and their mom knew it was gonna be game of who could hold on to the ball longest. And with Sapp and Falcon quarterback Chance Harridge leading the conference in touchdowns, you knew there would be scoring.
But who would have thought both teams would try to hold on and score at all costs. Seven times did the teams go for it on fourth down; the Rams were two-for-two, the Falcons three-for-five. Only five punts were attempted, all in the fourth quarter, when both teams were ready to give up anything for a spot next to a heater.
Harridge attempted just eight passes all game, and he completed three for a grand total of 29 yards. Those look like Pop Warner passing numbers.
But most importantly, Thursday night’s drubbing marked the first back-to-back, complete, all-around wins for CSU all season.
And that hasn’t been typical of CSU all year.