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Falcons on wrong end of 2 close contests

In a matter of five days the Air Force Academy football team went from unbeaten at 2-0 to all but eliminated from the Mountain West Conference football title chase at 0-2 in league play.

And those two losses — Saturday against Wyoming and Thursday night in Rice-Eccles Stadium against Utah — came by a combined total of four points.

"This football team is not a bad football team," Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry insisted speaking about his troops after the 38-35 loss to the Utes. "As a matter of fact, it's a good football team."

Just not a good enough team to overcome a blocked punt, a fumble and an interception against the two-time defending league champions on the Utes' home field.

"Once again, we coulda, shoulda won," said DeBerry. "It's the same thing I said last week."

The Falcons certainly showed they could move the ball against the Ute defense. They finished the game, in fact, with more total offensive yards than the Utes — with 485 yards to Utah's 457.

A big chunk of that yardage came during two long touchdown drives late in the fourth quarter after the Utes had opened up a 17-point lead making the stats a bit deceptive, but had the Falcons converted a successful onside kick with 1:08 the might have completed the unlikely comeback.

"If the (ESPN) TV audience didn't enjoy that then I don't know what you've got to do," said DeBerry.

The Falcons started fast, scoring touchdowns on two of their three possessions to take a 14-7 lead led by running back Ryan Williams, quarterback Shaun Carney and receiver Jason Brown.

The Falcons scored again late in the second quarter, too. But the Air Force offense bogged down in the third quarter and through much of the fourth.

As a result, DeBerry benched Carney, a sophomore, in favor of senior QB Adam Fitch, who proceeded to take the Falcons on a pair of scoring drives in the final five minutes.

"Adam Fitch gave us a spark there and we made a run at it," DeBerry said.

Air Force now has a bit of a QB controversy on its hands, but DeBerry refused to say who would be the team's starter for next week's game at Colorado State.

Carney finished with 145 yards passing, but only 16 net yards rushing. Fitch had 89 yards passing and 38 yards rushing. The star of the game for the Falcons, however, was Brown, who finished with nine catches for 184 yards and a score.

Air Force, at 0-2 in league play, knows its back is against the wall but still feels like it has much to play for.

"We can still have a good season," said DeBerry.

Added Carney, "We've got to hope and pray now that other teams in the conference will lose two games . . . it's still a possibility."


E-mail: lojo@desnews.com