AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — After back-to-back losses at San Diego State and TCU, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun isn't worried that the Falcons may join other birds in flying south for the winter.
"You've got to play," he said. "Part of that is the sheer sense of unity and perseverance."
The Falcons, he explained, have the right character and makeup to come out of the tough setbacks even stronger. They'll get a chance to show it Saturday when the eighth-ranked Utah Utes visit the academy.
"There is not a more disciplined, more mentally tough team in the country than the Falcons," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "This has been a great series through the years, and we need to play assignment-sound football in order to have a chance to slow down the triple option."
Air Force enters the game leading the nation in rushing offense with 326.5 yards per game.
Utah's defense, meanwhile, is one of the country's best against the run — allowing only 87.4 yards per game.
"The best way to defend the option is to keep it on the sideline," Whittingham said. "If our offense can control the football, control time-of-possession, and make first downs — move the chains — that's the best way to defend it."
Slowing quarterback Tim Jefferson and running back Asher Clark, who have combined for 1,185 yards rushing this season, won't be easy.
Especially, if the best defense is a good offense.
"Bottom line, we've got to play a clean game. One thing with Air Force is you can't turn the ball over because that offense is going to sit there and grind out drives," said Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn. "We've just got to play smart. We can't turn it over. We've just got to make the most of the opportunities that we do get."
Defensive back Reggie Rembert, who has intercepted three throws this season, will be among those targeting Wynn's targets. He picked off passes in Air Force wins over BYU and Colorado State.
Besides home victories over the Cougars (35-14) and Rams (49-27), the Falcons also topped Northwestern State (65-21) and Navy (14-6).
They're just 1-3 on the road, however, dropping decisions to Oklahoma (27-24), San Diego State (27-25) and TCU (38-7). The lone win away from home was a 20-14 decision at Wyoming.
Utes on the air
No. 8 Utah (7-0, 4-0 MWC) at Air Force (5-3, 3-2)
Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
TV: CBS C
Radio: 700 AM