A little reminder
No. 16 Air Force one victory from fulfilling season goals
Posted: Thursday December 24, 1998 05:04 PM
HONOLULU (AP) -- A little decal that lists three goals has served as a constant reminder for this year's Air Force football team. Two have been accomplished and the third can be fulfilled Christmas Day.
"I gave our players a decal that they stuck on their watches," DeBerry said. "It has 'Commander in Chief Trophy,' 'Western Athletic Conference' and 'bowl.'
"Those were the three season goals for our team. The idea for doing it was that every time they looked at their watches, they were also able to focus on what the goals were."
The 16th-ranked Falcons beat the other two military academies and defeated Brigham Young for the WAC title, so two of the goals have been attained. To complete the trifecta, they must beat Washington of the Pac-10 in the inaugural Oahu Bowl.
Although the Huskies finished the season with a 6-5 record, Air Force has incentive to beat a team from a major conference so it can claim its legitimacy, and, perhaps, eventually capture the attention of the Bowl Championship Series.
"There's going to be a time, and it's not that far off, when you're going to take the top eight or 16 teams and have a national playoff," DeBerry said. "I am in favor of that now."
Even with their impressive 11-1 record, the Falcons were not chosen for this year's championship series.
"I wasn't smart enough as the season went along to understand the ramifications of the BCS," DeBerry said. "But I think the way things worked out this season, [a playoff system] is inevitable."
DeBerry is counting on Blane Morgan, the triple-option quarterback, to lead the way against Washington.
"In the two years that he's been a starter, we're 21-3 and I think the way you measure the success of a quarterback is not in stats like number of yards, but whether he gets his team in the end zone and wins the game," DeBerry said.
But for those who are statistically minded, Morgan, who succeeded his brother Beau at quarterback, rushed for 508 yards, scored 15 touchdowns and directed an offense that finished third in the nation with 266.8 rushing yards per game.
He also passed for 1,144 yards and 10 touchdowns, and his efficiency rating of 162.6 set a school record. He spent his first two years playing behind his brother, but has blossomed since.
"Just being able to watch him run the offense was invaluable," Morgan said. "But once it was my turn, I just wanted to help the team win."
Washington will be directed by a prototype pro quarterback. Although he has one more season of eligibility, Brock Huard has indicated that he's headed for the NFL next season.
After the Huskies beat Michigan State 51-23 in last year's Aloha Bowl, it appeared that Huard, having completed his sophomore season, would bolt for the NFL. However, he decided to return to Washington.
"I wasn't mature enough," he said.
Huard also wanted to see how he would perform without the superior supporting cast he had in 1997.
"For two years, I was surrounded by some great talent -- 10 of our guys were taken in the NFL draft," he said. "To have gone out last year, I wouldn't have been able to deal with the adversity at the NFL level. You see how mature Peyton Manning was this year and how he'd been through all the ups-and-downs, winning big games, losing tough games, having pressure and expectations.
"In this position, you need to be mentally tough and keep fighting. That's what it's been for me this year: a fight and a struggle."
A year ago, his statistics were among the best in the nation -- 2,140 yards and 23 touchdowns. This year, hampered by injuries that kept him out of two games, his totals were 1,924 yards and 15 TDs.
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