Air Force brings physical play, national ranking

By Liz Frome , Staff Writer

After their shutout victory at home Oct. 17, against Wyoming, their conference opponent, the Air Force Falcons will be looking for their second straight win as they head to Salt Lake City to face the Utes on Saturday.

The game will mark the second time in three weeks that the Falcons have played a nationally ranked team. Their last ranked opponent was the Mountain West Conference’s top-ranked TCU. TCU was ranked No. 8 in the USA Today Poll when Air Force lost to the Horned Frogs by just three points.

This week against the Utes, the Falcons hope to extend their winning record in competition with Utah. Air Force is the Utes’ only MWC opponent they don’t have a winning record against. The Utes trail Air Force in wins when playing each other, 11-14.

“They’re tough guys; they play hard,” said Utah offensive lineman Caleb Schlauderaff. “It’s always just a tough, hard-nosed game whenever (we) play Air Force. Every year it seems like they get better.”

Although the Utes have won five of their past six meetings with Air Force, Utah’s senior tight end Ben Hendy said he expects another physically challenging game against the Falcons.

“Air Force is a great program,” Hendy said. “They’re a very disciplined group of guys. They’re very tough, and you know you’re going to have to play a full four quarters of football to compete with those guys, so it’s going to be a challenge for us, but we’re excited.”

A tough team to contain on the ground, the Utes’ defense will have to be on the point with individual assignments in order to contain the Falcons’ offense, U head coach Kyle Whittingham said.

“Everyone on the field has an assignment, and any breakdowns mean a potential for a big play,” Whittingham said. “We need to be sound in our scheme and match (Air Force’s) discipline and toughness. They are a great cut-block team, and we need to stay on our feet and rally to the football and gang tackle.”

The Falcons have proved themselves so far in the season as a tough matchup for any team, with their widest loss8212;seven points8212;coming against Minnesota in week two. Air Force is 4-3 on the season, receiving its other loss against Navy by a three-point deficit in overtime.

With an aggressive Air Force team on its way to Utah, attempting to spoil the Utes’ hopes of another MWC title, Utah’s defense has been preparing intensely for another physical game against a talented MWC opponent.

“Last year, preparing for (Air Force) was probably one of the hardest weeks of practice,” said Utah junior defensive tackle Christian Cox. “I think we did full pads three days, but it paid off. I expect nothing less for this year. We’re real excited. They are just a misdirection, get-you (team). If you take a break, they’ll bust a big one on you.”

Saturday’s game starts at 2 p.m. and will be televised by Versus.

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