Know Wyoming’s foe: Air Force Falcons
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., -- Troy Calhoun is reluctant to call this a rivalry game.
Craig Bohl is not.
"It is for us," Wyoming's 10th-year head coach said during his Monday press conference. "I don't know where Air Force sees it ... But for us, for our players, we certainly (view) this as a big game. It's not just another game that's on the schedule. This is a big game and we spent a great deal of time in preparation working for that."
Air Force views fellow military institutions -- Navy and Army -- as its main adversaries. Those three battle each season for the Commander-in-Chief's trophy. More importantly, bragging rights.
The Falcons also have hardware on the line when they meet in-state rival Colorado State.
Wyoming's most coveted prize is the Bronze Boot. That goes to the winner of the Border War, the Cowboys' annual battle with CSU. There's also Jim Bridger's rifle (Utah State) and the Paniolo Trophy (Hawaii).
While this one doesn't come with an award to hoist at game's end, it's arguably the most underrated rivalry in the Mountain West. The conference saw fit to "protect" this matchup (and CSU) when it came to axing divisions before the 2023 season.
"We have a great deal of respect for them," Calhoun said back in 2019. "I know it stirs up, I don't want to say animosity, but it stirs up interest and you never ever want somebody to be able to live by subjective emotionalism. We want to play well in that game. We want to be competitive in that game."
Air Force holds a slight 30-27-3 edge in the overall series. These games are typically close, the last eight decided by an average of seven points. Bohl is 4-3 against the Falcons. Calhoun holds a 8-7 record against the Cowboys.
"I think we'd beat ourselves, if anything," Air Force running back Emmanuel Michel told reporters when asked what challenges Wyoming's defense presents. "I think the only way we lose is (if) we beat ourselves. As long as you take care of what we have going on in our locker room, I think we'll be just fine."
Sound like a rivalry to you?
The Cowboys and Falcons are scheduled to kickoff at 5 p.m. Mountain Time. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
* Head coach: Troy Calhoun (17th year) 126-78 overall record, 75-51 in MW play
* Offensive coordinator: Mike Thiessen (10th season); Defensive coordinator: Brian Knorr (1st season)
* Record in 2022: 10-3 overall, 5-3 in Mountain West Conference
* Offense in 2023: Average 37.6 ppg, 411.8 ypg (329.8 rush, 82 pass)
* Defense in 2023: Allow 12.2 ppg, 223.8 ypg (70.6 rush, 153.2 pass)
* Key Returners - Offense: Zac Larrier (QB - 14-19, 410 yds, 3 TD; 62 rush, 362 yds, 3 TD), Emmanuel Michel (FB - 91 rush, 400 yds, 8 TD), John Lee Eldridge III (RB - 31 rush, 278 yds, 3 TD), Owen Burk (FB - 44 rush, 242 yds, 2 TD), Dylan Carson (RB - 25 rush, 156 yds), Jared Roznos (WR - 6 catch, 245 yds, 2 TD), Cade Harris (WR - 2 catch, 82 yds, TD)
* Key Returners - Defense: Alec Mock (LB - 37 tackles, 2 sacks, PBU, 2 FF), Trey Taylor (S - 28 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 INT, TD), Johnathan Youngblood (LB - 26 tackles, INT), Jayden Goodwin (S - 21 tackles, 2 PBU), Jerome Gaillard Jr. (DB - 19 tackles)
* Overview: Air Force, like last week's opponent, Fresno State, lost a ton of firepower on offense during the offseason. Three-year starter Haaziq Daniels is no longer under center. He threw for 836 yards and seven touchdowns in 2022. He also rushed for 695 more yards and found the end zone eight more times on the ground. Brad Roberts led the nation in rushing with 1,728 yards on 345 carries. He scored 17 touchdowns. The Falcons' top outside threat, David Cormier, is gone, too. He snagged 15 passes for 404 yards and four touchdowns. Surely this team would stumble out of the gate if not take a step back, right? (Insert laughing emoji) Troy Calhoun's squad is humming despite all the new faces. The system works. It has for decades. One might even venture to say it's a plug-and-play triple-option attack, only that would be undercutting (pun intended) the talent that litters this roster, beginning with the orchestrator of it all, quarterback Zac Larrier. Air Force is leading the nation in rushing, averaging nearly 330 yards per outing. Larrier is doing damage through the air, too. The senior is completing 74% of his throws and has already amassed 410 yards and three touchdowns. That is no surprise. This shouldn't be, either: The Falcons defense is ranked second in the FBS just behind Penn State, allowing just under 211 yards per game. Yes, this team hasn't played the toughest schedule out there. In fact, its opponents are a combined 8-22 overall and Air Force featured one of the easiest schedules in the land. Still, the Falcons took care of business, holding Robert Morris, Sam Houston State and San Diego State to 10 points or less. Air Force is, well, Air Force-ing. These guys are tough, fast and disciplined. They always are.
* Thoughts on Air Force: "We have a big, big week. We're excited about playing in Air Force. They've been classic games through the years. Coach Calhoun has been there a long time and they have another great football team ... They're undefeated, they're prolific on offense, averaging 38 points a game, and they do have the ability to throw the ball along with running the football. They're great on third down, great on fourth down and they're plus-four in the turnover margin. Their quarterback, (Zac) Larrier, I think is excellent. Another guy that's loaded up -- and they always have a good fullback -- is (Emmanuel) Michel. I think (he) is a great fullback, as well. They give us a lot of different formations and sets. Their offensive coordinator has been there a long time. I think he's an Academy graduate and at one time had been on the faculty there. So, it's a classic game, the Falcons are hard to play in Colorado Springs, but we've got a good football team and we're going to be playing a good football team." - Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl
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- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players