Not a fluke
11-1 Air Force looking for more national respect
Posted: Monday December 21, 1998 09:37 AM
HONOLULU (AP) -- It's not often an 11-1 football team playing a 6-5 team in a bowl game is the one that needs a victory to earn national recognition.
Yet that is the case as No. 13 Air Force (11-1) prepares for its Christmas Day game against Washington (6-5) in the inaugural Oahu Bowl.
The Falcons won the Western Athletic Conference championship, but think their accomplishments are not well recognized because of the WAC's reputation as a poor cousin to the Pacific-10 Conference.
Air Force feels a victory over a perennial Pac-10 power like Washington will go a long way toward convincing skeptics.
"The Pac-10, year in and year out, is one of the toughest conferences in the nation," Air Force free safety Jason Sanderson said Sunday. "This is a chance for us to show we can play with teams in the top conferences."
Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said this is a good opportunity for his team against a quality opponent.
"They were just a few plays from having an outstanding year," DeBerry said. "This is an important game for us."
As for the WAC not being respected nationally, DeBerry said: "I don't think we have to apologize for the quality of football played in the WAC."
Washington coach Jim Lambright wasn't believing any of the talk Sunday about Air Force needing a victory to earn respect. They have his already.
"11-1 is 11-1," Lambright said. "I would trade him our 6-5 in a second. We should be the underdogs. We have something to prove."
The Huskies are back in Hawaii for a second year. They beat Michigan St. 51-23 in last year's Aloha Bowl.
"The team couldn't be more excited to return," he said, pointing out that it was snowing in Seattle when the team departed.
DeBerry spent Sunday reorganizing his players after a 13-hour flight Saturday that saw them sit on a tarmac for several hours, forcing them to cancel a scheduled workout.
Upon its arrival the team was greeted at Hickam Air Force Base by a special security detail that included bomb-sniffing dogs -- a precaution prompted by the U.S. military strikes against Iraq.
"I was surprised by that. That's the first time I had seen that," DeBerry said.
He said the attack was not a big distraction, since the players were taking final exams all week.
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