One of the service academies will have some very famous, albeit temporary, visitors next week.
The New England Patriots will face the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High this Sunday night. Instead of heading back to Foxborough ahead of its Nov. 19 game in Mexico City, however, the defending Super Bowl champions will set up camp at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, academy and NFL officials confirmed to the Denver Post.
From the Post‘s report:
The Patriots are holding over in Colorado Springs as opposed to returning to New England as part of their preparations for a Nov. 19 game against the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City. Beyond team-building prior to an international trip, the move also allows the Patriots to train at altitude. The Air Force Academy is located 7,258 feet above sea level, just shy of Mexico City at 7,382.
The football facilities at Air Force include three outdoor practice fields (two grass and one AstroTurf), two 10,000-square-foot weight rooms, two training rooms, and a 92,000-square-foot indoor practice facility (The Haladay Athletic Center).
Air Force plays host to Wyoming this weekend before traveling to Boise State Nov. 18. The newspaper writes that, “[a]s of Wednesday afternoon, Air Force did not have an itinerary for the Patriots’ practice plans.”
Because America, dammit.
With under a minute remaining in the second quarter, Air Force trailed UNLV 27-0. Over the next 31 or so minutes, however, the Falcons outscored the visiting Rebels 34-3 in soaring to a 34-30 Mountain West Conference win.
The win was the second-largest comeback in the service academy’s history — they trailed Fresno State by 28 in 1996 before coming back to win — while it matched UCLA’s feat from the opener.
Quarterback Arion Worthman (pictured) led the way to the win with his legs, rushing for a team-high 166 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Air Force, which came into the game ninth nationally averaging 287.8 yards per game, gained 401 yards on the ground on a whopping 78 carries. The Falcons attempted just eight passes on the day, completing four for 72 yards.
The win snaps a four-game losing streak for the 2-4 Falcons, while the Rebels have lost two in a row and sit at 2-4 on the season.
The news centering on football players taking a knee during the national anthem has largely been an issue playing out in the NFL but has trickled down to the high school level. College football tends to stay out of the issue since most pregame ceremonies occur with college football players in the locker room. But because weather wiped out the typical pregame pomp and circumstance prior to Saturday night’s New Mexico vs. Air Force game, players were on the field as the national anthem was performed, oddly enough, at halftime.
Five players from New Mexico’s football team — defensive end Garrett Hughes, safety Stanley Barnwell, cornerback Elijah Lilly, safety Michael Sewell, and linebacker Kimmie Carson — all were seen taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem.
Both teams remained on the field during halftime rather than retreating to their locker rooms due to a shortened halftime break. The game scheduled was modified due to a weather delay. New Mexico head coach Bob Davie said it was agreed there would be no playing of the national anthem during the halftime, so he was surprised when it was played and to learn some of his players chose to take a knee the way a number of NFL players have recently.
“I’d like to have the opportunity to visit with our players, talk about what our stance would be, unified as a football team,” Davie said, according to the Albuquerque Journal. “I kind of got shocked by that. I wouldn’t want to judge or have too much of a critique, at least speaking from my standpoint, as far as a total football team. Because in fairness to them, I never really talked to them about it.”
Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun was asked about the situation after the game (no Air Force players were seen taking a knee), and he showed no ill-will over the decision.
“That’s their right,” he said. “They live in a country where they’re allowed to do that.”
Freshman kicker Quinn Nordin kicked a school-record five field goals to help No. 7 Michigan (3-0) overcome red zone deficiencies in a hard-fought 29-13 victory against Air Force (1-1) Saturday afternoon in Michigan Stadium.
For the third straight week, Michigan’s offense continued to sputter at best, leaving some questions for the Wolverines as they prepare to enter Big Ten play next week. Michigan managed to score just one touchdown against the Falcons, and the Wolverines really showed some warts trying to move the ball. Give Air Force credit for the defensive effort they presented, but Michigan only converted three of 11 third-down attempts and was unable to score a touchdown on any of their four red zone trips. It may not have cost Michigan a win today, but at some point, that trend cannot continue if the Wolverines are going to make a run for the Big Ten championship this fall.
Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight was never pulled from the game, but his day was far from impressive as the leader of a Michigan offense still trying to find itself three weeks into the season. Play calling lacked creativity at times as well, but that just means there is room for improvement for Jim Harbaugh and his squad. Fortunately for Michigan, they have a kicker who continues to be automatic from any distance early on and the defense continues to rise to the occasion.
Air Force did find something to work with in the second half as they worked to tire down Michigan’s defense using their trademark option attack, but the Wolverines proved to have the decisive edge anytime Air Force tried to mix things up using their speed. Michigan was just faster. On a fourth-quarter drive, with Air Force trailing 22-13, a promising drive was thwarted when the Falcons tried running Timothy McVey to the right side. The Wolverines gobbled him up behind the line of scrimmage inside the red zone and Air Force kicker Luke Strebel sailed a field goal attempt wide left. Air Force probably needed to get a touchdown on the drive anyway, but the missed field goal midway through the fourth quarter felt like a near knockout blow for an Air Force offense not known for quick drives.
Michigan now enters Big Ten play looking to finish what they failed to do a year ago; win the Big Ten East Division, and perhaps the Big Ten championship. The defense is locked in for the job. Next week, the Wolverines head to Purdue to take on a Boilermaker team that has looked like a new program this season under new head coach Jeff Brohm. Purdue is playing at Missouri today and has already pushed Louisville into the fourth quarter. Can Michigan avoid an upset next week?
Air Force will return home for a big Mountain West Conference game against San Diego State. The Aztecs will be coming off a home game against Stanford.
Michigan may have one of the top defense sin the nation, if not just the Big Ten, but offensive worries are not hiding in Ann Arbor this afternoon. Michigan leads Air Force, 9-6, but have had to settle for two field goals on each of their two red zone trips.
Michigan took the game’s opening possession into the red zone but could not get past the Air Force 17-yard line before settling for a Quinn Nordin field goal. The Wolverines then fumbled away the football on their next offensive series when Chris Evans fumbled away a nine-yard gain. Air Force also took advantage by working their way into the red zone before Arion Worthman took a bad sack for a loss of 13 from the seven-yard line. That meant the Falcons had to settle for a field goal inside the red zone as well.
On the ensuing possession, Michigan again moved their way into the red zone, but Air Force stood tall and held Michigan to no gain from a 1st and Goal from the nine-yard line on the next three plays. Nordin again came out for his second field goal. Nordin added a third field goal just before halftime to give Michigan the lead.
The Wolverines entered the game with the Big Ten’s worst red zone touchdown percentage at 16.7 percent, roughly half of the percentage Rutgers has had early on this season. Michigan may find a way out of this game at home, but that is going to be a key area to focus on moving forward regardless of what happens in the second half.