A day at ‘The Big House’
Several weeks ago, when I wrote about my excitement for the start of the college football season, I had no idea that in a just a few short weeks, I would be attending my first Air Force Falcons football game.
And yet, there I sat Saturday afternoon, in section 11 row 9 of “The Big House”, Michigan Stadium, experiencing my very first Air Force football game.
It was a moment I had long waited for, and while I had always dreamed to see them play in Falcon Stadium, if I had to watch them play on the road, seeing a game in “The Big House” was a nice alternative.
Friday afternoon, diehard Michigan fan Doug North and I hopped in my car and headed east, stopping at the Clarke versus Albia football game, before moving on to Iowa City, where we picked up Marc Coenen.
We stayed in Iowa City just long enough to eat dinner at midnight, and then we hit the road for Ann Arbor, rolling into town at 8 a.m. on Saturday.
Even though I wore my Air Force jersey, no Michigan fan was disrespectful toward me, while several stopped and wished my team good luck.
Somehow, the three of us were the first people in the stadium to enter the seating area, getting to see the entire 110,000-plus capacity stadium entirely empty, which was a cool sight.
The Falcons came into the game as a 21.5-point underdog to the much more talented Wolverines, but I knew Air Force’s triple option offense could put points up on Michigan’s defense. My biggest concern was could the Falcons contain Denard Robinson?
Turns out, aside from two long touchdown runs – one on the second Michigan play from scrimmage, and one on the first play of the second half – they did contain him.
Unfortunately, that ended up being one Denard Robinson touchdown too many, as Michigan held on for a 31-25 win.
But, every Wolverine fan in the stadium was sweating it out in the final quarter as Air Force cut the lead to three at one point, and twice had the ball in the final 8:00 of the game trailing by just six.
Why was such a heavy underdog in that position against a much more talented team, and on the road, no less?
Execution. Execution. Execution.
The Air Force “triple option” attack is a thing of beauty to watch. (I put it in quotations, because it is not entirely triple option).
The Falcons have a solid base of about four or five plays they execute to perfection, and they run each of those plays out of a variety of formations. So, while the defense knows exactly what is coming, Air Force disguises the plays in such a way that it is still difficult for the defense to stop them.
Then, just when you think you’ve got the offense figured out, they mix in an option play-action pass. The Falcons will lull a defense to sleep with the option, and then suddenly throw a deep route and pick up a large chunk of yardage.
As if running the triple option wasn’t enough, they also run it no huddle, and do hockey-style line shifts in between plays to keep fresh bodies in the game. At several points, they subbed in new players, and still were lined up and ready to go before the officials were even ready to continue play.
But, perhaps the biggest reason the Falcons were so successful against Michigan, is the fact they didn’t back down from a far superior team. They fought tooth and nail to the bitter end, showing a lot of heart and desire.
How else would 5-7, 175-pound running back Cody Getz rack up 180 yards and three touchdowns against Michigan, especially running behind an offensive line that was dwarfed by the Michigan defensive line?
And that is why I am glad to see these are the same young men who are defending our country after their graduation.
It was nice to see the Michigan fans applaud Air Force after the game, in a sign of respect.
I had one Michigan fan seated near me tell me after the game, “I think that’s the first time I’ve ever cheered for both teams. How can you root against Air Force?”
The same can be said of either of the other service acadamy football teams. The level of heart and determination that Army, Navy and Air Force play with should be commended.
Watching how they compete on the football field against much bigger, faster, stronger, more talented teams, always makes me feel comfortable knowing that they are the next wave of young men to defend our country.
I leave with one final note. The Air Force uniforms did not have player names on the back of the jerseys. Instead each player’s jersey said either “Freedom” or “Service” on the nameplate.
With this week marking the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, let us all take a moment to remember that freedom isn’t free, and thank those who serve our country.
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