Air Force Matches Record 12-1 Mark
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) _ One point separated them from perfection, and they fulfilled the three goals that are perennially perched atop their preseason checklist.
With a 12th Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, a Western Athletic Conference title and a season-ending bowl victory, the 1998 Air Force Falcons present a convincing case for consideration as the best team in academy history.
``I don’t think there’s any doubt we’re the best team,″ wide receiver Matt Farmer said Friday after Air Force’s 45-25 win over Washington in the Oahu Bowl at Honolulu. ``Ever.″
Air Force’s 12-1 record is matched only by the 1985 Falcons, who had two All-America selections and experienced their only loss at Brigham Young.
This year’s team had no All-Americans, and the national statistical charts were devoid of Air Force players, but a bruising ground attack and surprising success through the air gave the Falcons a season to remember.
``It’s certainly up there with the 1985 team,″ coach Fisher DeBerry said.
If not for a 35-34 loss at Texas Christian Sept. 26, Air Force likely would still be preparing for a more important bowl game. The defeat bumped the Falcons from the Top 25, and it took an eight-game winning streak for them to climb back to No. 16.
Friday’s win over Washington extended the streak to nine.
``If this is not a Top 10 team, then I don’t what is,″ DeBerry said.
Even the Top 20 is an impressive achievement for a team expected to make little impact this season.
Despite losing 13 starters, including four on the offensive line, Air Force had the nation’s third-best rushing attack (264 yards per game), and quarterback Blane Morgan emerged from the shadow of his older brother to finish with a 20-3 career record as a starter.
Beau Morgan, the only player in NCAA Division I-A history to rush and pass for 1,000 yards in two different seasons, had 16 career wins as a starter before graduating in 1996.
Cale Bonds will succeed Blane Morgan next season, and he provided a glimpse of the future this year when he ran for 167 yards and two touchdowns and passed for two TDs against Navy.
There’s little reason to doubt the Falcons will have a dropoff defensively.
After losing seven starters from the 1997 team that gave up only 12.4 points per game, Air Force held the opposition to 14.2 points and forced 33 turnovers, including three against Washington.
``How can anyone not give us respect now?,″ Morgan said.
The Falcons won the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy with wins over service academy rivals Army and Navy and captured their first _ and last _ outright WAC title with a comeback win over Brigham Young.
The Oahu Bowl victory provided the exclamation point, snapping a three-game bowl losing streak and erasing the memory of a 41-13 loss to Oregon in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl.
``Tonight has been a dream come true for the Air Force Academy,″ DeBerry said.