Air Force Football: A Look Back at 2021

Air Force Football: A Look Back at 2021

Air Force

Air Force Football: A Look Back at 2021

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[jwplayer IknYeGBa-sNi3MVSU]

2021 SP+ Projected Air Force at 7-5


Ten Wins, Bowl Hardware, P5 Victories and Another CiC Letdown; 2021 Had it All!


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The confetti has long since settled from their SERVPRO First Responder Bowl victory to close out the season, but that doesn’t mean we’re done talking 2021 Air Force Falcon football. In a season that featured a lot of highs, and very few lows, were going to look back at how the Falcons delivered, relative to expectations.

Nearly a year ago, the preseason SP+ win projections were released, and at that time, Air Force were pegged to win six FBS games (their FCS Matchup against Lafayette was not projected) against five losses. You can refer back to that gross underestimation of the Falcons HERE. With that as our launching point. lets take a closer look at how things really went.

EXPECTATIONs vs. reality

We made reference earlier to the SP+ win projection for Air Force, but you have to remember that is pure data driven analytics, which doesn’t take into consideration any of the nuance associated with Military Academies; Of most significance would be ‘The Turnbacks’. Those players who spent a year away from the Academy in 2020 provided significant punch for the 2021 team, in particular on the defensive side of the ball where they were one of the best in the country.

Still, when you look at the schedule that awaited the Falcons, it wasn’t unreasonable for pundits near or far to conclude that there were five games that very legitimately could result in losses, even for a good Mountain West team. When you looked at the schedule last winter, games against Army, Nevada, San Diego State, Wyoming and Boise State all seemed like they could be a tall order.

While the Aztecs and the Cadets from West Point validated why they could be cause for concern, defeating the Falcons, it was Utah State that took Air Force, and the Conference by surprise. A then, unexpected loss to the Aggies proved to be the deciding tie-breaker at the end of the season, which kept the Falcons out of the Conference Championship game. A game which the aforementioned Utah State Aggies throttled San Diego State as part of their improbable run to prominence.

The most heartbreaking losses were undoubtedly at the hands of Utah State and Army. As would always be the case, the loss to rival Military Academy Army stings the most, as it further ran the Falcons Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy drought to five years. Five very long years.

Wipe away those tears though, despite a couple matchups that didn’t go as hoped, there were ten that did. That’s right, ten. A particularly impressive win total when you throw in the fact that their three losses all game by a single score or less.

Anytime you can post a double digit win campaigns, you are doing something right in Colorado Springs. It’s not just the fact that the Falcons were able to battle their way to ten victories, but who they dealt the L’s to along the way. Wins against Boise State, Nevada and Louisville (Bowl Game) can’t be ignored. Those three games alone featured some of the most electric players in the country, and all three fell victim to a game Air Force Squad.

Beyond an overall great season for the team, Air Force also had some individual performers that absolutely balled out. If you follow Falcon football, or even the Mountain West, the names Jordan Jackson, Brad Roberts, Demote Meeks and Tre Bugg III should all be in your directory of Conference studs.

However, on a defense full of standouts, nobody wrecked the party in a more surprising fashion than Vince Sanford. The Falcon linebacker played at a level that put his name in Defensive Player of the Year conversations.

Offensively, Haaziq Daniels took a giant step forward as a duel threat quarterback. The second year starter was already a threat on the ground. but by seasons end, he’s put opposing secondary’s on notice. One of the reasons the offense hummed, was all the weapons at Daniels disposal. They got 500 yards of pop out of DeAndre Hughes, Micah Davis and Brandon Lewis.

The only senior in that bunch, Lewis, saved his best for last racking up 172 yards on five catches, with two trips to the endzone. One can’t help but wonder what kind of numbers he could have posted had he gotten more touches throughout the season. Maybe that will allow for extra tread in his NFL endeavor?

This is an impressive collection of performances when you consider that doesn’t include the Mountain West’s rushing champion, Brad Roberts 1,356 yards. Oh, you thought replacing the whole offensive line from the year prior would a serious issue? Not so much, the Diesels rolled as did the nations top rushing team.

Often times expectations are a matter of perspective. While failing to secure the CiC Trophy will always loom large over an Air Force season, but stringing together ten wins in the fashion they did should help lift that dark cloud. With so much talent coming back in 2022, we’d be remised without a serious salute to this 2021 team before we turn the page. What a fantastic season from an even better collection of Cadet-Athletes.

 

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