AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo .– Just as most Hollywood actors can possibly be connected with Kevin Bacon in a Six Degree of Separation board game, there are ties that unite many longtime college football coaches.
Craig Bohl and Troy Calhoun have more in common than you might think.
Bohl deepened his knowledge as he prepared to help Wyoming slow down Calhoun’s version of the triple option during the Cowboys’ Mountain West’s opener against Air Force on Saturday at Falcon Stadium (5:00 p.m., CBS Sports Network).
The Cowboys head coach played the role of defensive back and then served as defensive assistant in Nebraska for Tom Osborne. This meant that Bohl had endured countless training reps against one of the most successful options attacks in sports history.
Bohl was also Fred Goldsmith’s defensive coordinator at Rice from 1989 to 1993. Goldsmith also ran the option and was previously Ken Hatfield’s defensive coordinator in the Air Force when Fisher DeBerry was the offensive coordinator.
Calhoun played for DeBerry and succeeded the legendary Falcons head coach in 2007 with a modernized take on offense.
“The lineage and connection between the triple option and what the Air Force has done offensively have evolved, but a lot of common themes there,” Bohl said. “Some weeks I get more involved in coaching, I hate to say it, than others. But it’s kind of in my wheelhouse. Many young coaches these days never really face the football option.
“So our coaching team worked hard, our players worked hard. We know there is going to be a challenge and we are excited to play.
The Cowboys (4-0) used last week’s open date to heal their bodies and start preparing early for the Falcons (4-1, 1-1), who lead the FBS in rushing (367.4 yards per game) and are currently tied for first place in the Mountain Division with Boise State (2-3, 1-1) and Utah State (3-2, 1-1).
A road victory against the Air Force would be an important first step for UW on the road to a conference championship.
Going undefeated won’t be easy for the Pokes, who are 6-point underdogs after being favored in all four non-conference games.
“It’s always intense because of what they do and how well they do it,” defensive line coach Pete Kaligis said of preparing for the Air Force. “You live on a razor’s edge. Because if your eyes are wrong or you’re a little behind and they take an angle on you and lose a guy, that’s when the seams open in the alley … the 11 guys must be right with their eyes in this game. “
There will be a lot to look out for in UW defense.
Elusive quarterback Haaziq Daniels racked up 384 yards and eight touchdowns and completed 15 passes for 384 yards with one touchdown and one interception this season. Bruised fullback Brad Roberts racked up 540 yards and five touchdowns. Quick wide receiver Micah Davis added 449 total yards and five touchdowns.
The Cowboys know they’ll need to play nearly flawless mission football to get the Falcons, who are second nationally in possession (37:31), off the field.
Air Force scored on its first four possessions, was 9 for 15 on third base conversions, 3 for 3 on fourth base conversions and had the ball for 41:53 in New Mexico’s shave 38-10 the last week.
“Everyone has a job to do, and we always try to focus on that as much as we can,” said linebacker Easton Gibbs. “I mean, there are so many moving parts to this offense. Everyone has to do their job, because one mistake could miss something. “
The Cowboys lost the previous meeting to the Falcons, 20-6, in the 2019 regular season finale. The defense limited the Air Force to 162 rushing yards, but Levi Williams and Tyler Vander Waal added 111 yards. passing and two interceptions, and Xazavian Valladay finished with just 38 rushing yards and averaging 2.7 yards per carry.
A healthy Sean Chambers, who improved to 13-3 as a UW starting quarterback with the 24-22 comeback victory at UConn two weeks ago, led the program to his best start since 1996.
“Sean is going to be Sean. He’s a leader, and that’s what he does, ”said wide receiver Isaiah Neyor. “He brings that energy that we need to this team, and we’ve built around him. So we’re going to go out there and believe in him and make him do what he does best.
The Air Force ranks 13th for rushing yards allowed (89.4 per game) and 14th for total yards allowed (285.6 per game), but Utah State amassed 628 total yards on a 49-45 victory on September 18 at Falcon Stadium.
Aggie quarterbacks Logan Bonner and Andrew Peasley totaled 31 passes to 49 for 448 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Calvin Tyler finished with 132 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including the winning score of 61 yards.
Chambers was eager to get back on the pitch after throwing two interceptions in UW’s last last minute breakout.
“In the end, that’s unacceptable,” Chambers said of the Pokes having to go 13-0 at the start and lead 16-6 in the fourth quarter against winless UConn. “If we want to be seen as one of the best football teams in the country or in our conference, then we have to start every game quickly. Unfortunately, we didn’t. …
“The only way we can go up is to go up and that’s what we’re going to do. We are a good, talented football team and we know how to play. This is exactly what we need to do.
Chambers, a domestic comeback contender of the year, was injured in the first quarter of the Cowboys’ 2018 victory over the Air Force and was injured again for the 2019 game.
The Falcons did not make the 2020 trip to Laramie due to COVID-19 issues within their schedule. Chambers was reportedly unavailable due to a third season-ending injury.
The UW’s balanced offense, which has 750 passing yards and 722 rushing yards in four games, will need to be efficient and productive to finish 1-0 this week, which has been the Cardiac Cowboys’ mantra this season.
“There wasn’t a big pep talk to say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get ready to play Air Force,’” Bohl said. “Everyone understands how critical this game is and what kind of quality opponent they are.”
Air Force leads the all-time streak 29-26-3, including a 20-19 advantage in conference games.