‘I like the pressure’
LARAMIE -- It's no secret what Air Force plans to do on offense Saturday afternoon.
They will pitch right. Pitch left. Quarterback Donald Hammond will keep it around the edge. Occasionally -- and typically successfully -- he will even drop back and throw the ball down field.
The Falcons line, well, they are notorious for "cutting" defensive linemen. In other words, taking their legs out from underneath them.
No matter what route the Air Force goes, knowing where the fullback is at all times is the key. That guy was Timothy Jackson, the Falcons second-leading rusher with 745 yards. He left last week's game against New Mexico with an undisclosed injury. Senior Taven Birdow still gashed the Lobos for 110 yards on the ground.
No matter who the Falcons put in their backfield, Javaree Jackson, Cole Godbout, Mario Mora and Victor Jones will have to be nimble, effective and stoppers if the Cowboys hope to escape Colorado Springs with their eighth win of the season.
"I do like it," Jackson said. "I like the pressure. I can carry a big responsibility for the team. I like that most. I'll do anything to help this team."
Jackson has proven that all season.
The junior from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, has racked up 31 tackles this season, including six for loss. The 6-foot, 5-inch, 276-pound defensive tackle also has three sacks and an interception.
Jackson said this week is about the interior guys doing the "dirty work."
"The two interiors guys, no matter where the ball goes, if the fullback goes, you follow him," Jackson said. "We just take a lot of time to prepare. We practice cuts a lot in practice. The only thing that's tricky to master is their game speed. These guys run this their whole career every single game. We try to mimic their game speed and can only do it for a week.
"We don't want anyone to run down the middle."
Godbout, the Hudson, Wisconsin, product, has 30 tackles and a pair of sacks under his belt this season. The redshirt freshman tackle said this week is about simplifying things.
Godbout has never faced the Falcons before, but he's knows all of that is easier said than done.
"Obviously, I'll need to get a feel for it," he said. "We've been working on playing the cut a lot this week.
"It's a lot of pressure, but I know as long as I do my job -- tackle the fullback at all cost -- we should do pretty well."
Air Force (9-2, 6-1) is ranked second in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 304 yards per outing. The Falcons have rushed the ball 630 times this season, which is only second to Army with 633. The guys from Colorado Springs average 5.3 yards per carry.
Last season in snowy Laramie, Kadin Remsberg and the Falcons ran the ball 65 times for 362 yards. It took a furious rally by Tyler Vander Waal and crew to upend the Falcons, 35-27.
Remsberg led the Falcons with 128 yards on the ground. Cole Fagan, who is no longer with the program, rushed for 116 in the loss.
Wyoming (7-4, 4-3) has been one of the top teams in the country when it comes to stopping the rush. The Cowboys allow just 94 yards per game on the ground, which is good enough for seventh in the nation.
That equates to 2.7 yards per rush.
“They’ve been really, really good,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun told the Colorado Springs Gazette this week.
Those numbers don't mean much when it comes to stopping Calhoun's triple-option attack though.
Nick Szpor, the Cowboys holder and emergency quarterback, will be running the scout team offense this week. The senior will do his best to duplicate Hammond and the Falcons.
"There's not really much different about the offense they run. It's been the triple option for years now," said Jackson, who finished with three tackles in last season's contest. "It's not going to be easy, but it's doable."
Not that the Cowboys need any extra motivation heading into this one, but if they pull out the victory, this senior class will be the first in program history to beat Colorado State and Air Force in four consecutive seasons.
That hasn't been lost on the defensive tackles.
"These guys really care," Jackson said of the Wyoming seniors. "Guys take it really serious -- to heart. We just need to execute it. We are motivated to beat these guys."
This will be Godbout's first taste of this bitter Front Range rivalry, but he's heard plenty about it from the upperclassmen.
"I think it would mean a lot to them, especially the Colorado guys," he said. "Knowing a lot of our seniors most likely didn't get an offer from them or CSU, to give them this chance will be huge for them."
Kickoff is slated for noon from Falcon Stadium.