Press Pass: Birds and signs and dogs, oh my
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., — Hey fans, DJ Johnson here with this week’s version of “Press Pass.”
At 7-5, and pretty much a guaranteed bowl bid, this was not exactly how we saw this regular season ending. However, any invitation to a bowl game has to be considered a successful season.
Just consider how many teams have turned in their uniforms and equipment and have begun their offseason plans. Not the Pokes!
We continue to get practice time on the field, will have the opportunity to dissect another team in the film room and will finally play in one more meaningful game this season. I’ll take that! Let’s take a look at some of the adventures on the field at the US Air Force Academy.
First off, congratulations to this young man, Logan Wilson, who was named a first-team All-American by Pro Football Focus. “No linebacker across the nation was able to accomplish what Wilson accomplished in 2019 as he was the only defensive player in the country to field elite grades against the run, in coverage and when blitzing the passer,” PFF’s Cam Mellor wrote. “His all-around elite play saw him finish as the nation’s highest-graded linebacker as he recorded 17 total pressures on just 50 pass rushes, secured 40 run stops and made nine total plays on the ball for a passer rating of just 63.2 into his coverage." Instituted in 1985, The Butkus Award is one of the elite individual honors in college football. The purpose of the award is to realize the athletic achievement and serve to the community while honoring the nation’s best collegiate linebacker. An independent Butkus Award Selection Committee comprised of 51 experts, including professional, college and high school scouts, and prominent spots journalists, conduct the selection process. I’m really pulling for this Wyoming native to walk away with this year’s collegiate Butkus Award.
I would also like to give a shout out to Cowboy place-kicker, Cooper Rothe, who pulled ahead of former Poke Sean Fleming on Wyoming’s all-time field-goal list, connecting on a 23-yarder to make it 13-6 contest with 2:58 left in the game. Here is a picture of Rothe that I snapped on Saturday, just before kicking the record setter.
Even the falcons at the Air Force Academy sport tiny fighter-pilot like helmets. They wear theirs prior to flight, not during. I was able to catch this shot of "Ace," who flew at Saturday’s Wyoming/USAFA contest. If anyone was wondering about these birds, Ace is a 12-year-old Gyr-Saker hybrid that performs at halftime of Air Force Academy football games. As noted on the USAFA official website, Ace is actually short for his full name, Achilles, but is fitting with the flying culture of the Academy. Ace is notorious for his love of flight, always eager to fly off the glove and play in the wind. His flying pattern is characterized by sharp turns, climbing high so that he can dive with fantastic speed. Falcons prey on other birds, making them experts at air-to-air combat. They affectionately call them nature’s fighter pilots, making them a fitting mascot for the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Who let the dogs out, arrrrffff, arrrrffff, arrrrffff, arrrrffff! While my Boise State Press Pass showcased their tee-retrieving K9, the USAFA game showcased a different type of K9 display. During halftime, US Air Force Security Forces MWD (Military Working Dog) handlers played "catch and release" with a few of their furry law enforcement officers.
For those who haven’t been to Falcon Stadium, the locker rooms for both teams are accessed via the same tunnel. Therefore, to thwart any halftime extra-curricular activities, the officials literally hold back the visiting team until the home team has made its way down the tunnel, and into their locker room. Here you can see the traffic control by the MWC officiating crew.
Who needs hand signals when you have visual cues? Air Force uses an intricate combination of quad-charts to call plays on both the offensive and defensive side. And not only do the employ the coaches to hold up the signs, they actually have players participate in the showings. I am curious though -- why was the Colorado Avalanche omitted? All other professional Denver teams are utilized … hmmmmm?
Ever wondered how athletic scholarships work at USAFA? Well, they don’t … strictly speaking. There are no athletic scholarships at any of the service academies. Every student at Army, Navy and Air Force is on scholarship. Athletes get considerations in the nomination and admission process, but there is no financial aid earmarked for athletics. According to the USAFA official website, an Academy education is valued at $416,000. All USAFA cadets also earn $846 a month in basic pay, which is disbursed by direct deposit into each cadet’s personal banking account. #geewhizfacts
I wonder if this signage actually works? I’d venture to say it does! I also think it’s comical that the brand of collar they use is the “Fur Missile.”
Alright sports fans, the regular season has come to a close. As are all of you, 7220sports.com is patiently waiting for Sunday to roll around to see where our next adventure takes us. Based on today’s predictions, it looks like the New Mexico Bowl is the leading guess, while the Arizona Bowl, First Responders Bowl, Hawaii Bowl and Armed Forces Bowl all have been thrown out, too. I’ll be honest, I’m just really happy that the Potato Bowl is currently not predicted because playing on that field two times in one year would stink! I personally would love to see us in the Armed Forces Bowl or the First Responders Bowl because who doesn’t want to go to Dallas/Ft Worth in late December or early January!
Chat soon, my friends … BOWL BOUND!