Mel Tucker and Colorado fully focused on Air Force amidst flawless start

Aug 30, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mel Tucker during the second quarter against the Colorado State Rams at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Colorado’s 34-31 overtime victory against Nebraska warranted a celebration. The grit and determination of the Buffaloes to turn the tables and take advantage of a winded Huskers’ squad were impressive after trailing 17-0 at the half.

A day hours after the win, however, the focus has flipped to this week’s opponent, Air Force. The message this week has been about playing disciplined and defending the option. The two programs have not played since October 5, 1974, when Colorado came away with a 28-27 road victory.

The game is in Boulder, Saturday at 11 a.m. MT and Folsom Field will likely be filled with much more of a home crowd than the sea of red in the seats last week. The three captains are players who were key contributors in the win over Nebraska. First half success for punter Alex Kinney kept the Buffs close enough to climb back in the second half last week and earned him the honor of game captain for Saturday.

In a somewhat slow start to the season for No. 1 receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (79 yards, one touchdown), both K.D. Nixon and Tony Brown have seen success, combining for 308 yards and two touchdowns. Brown is also a captain after he made the game-tying touchdown reception with under a minute remaining in regulation last week.

The final captain for Saturday’s visit from the Falcons is safety Mikial Onu. He has forced at least one turnover in each game with a forced fumble against Nebraska and two interceptions against Colorado State. Onu and junior safety Aaron Maddox were both top-five on the Colorado defense in tackles in each of the first two games and their aggressive attack will be important to contain the option offense of Troy Calhoun’s Falcons.

Mel Tucker explained earlier this week that this is not a “trap” game. The Buffaloes play Arizona State in Tempe next week to start their conference schedule. An emotional win over Nebraska may have distracted players from the upcoming challenge. Maybe on another team, there would be a lack of focus, but not on Tucker’s.

“I know that these guys believe in what we’re doing, and I know that they will play hard for each other,” Tucker said. “I know they’re unselfish. I know that it’s important to them.”

The confidence he puts in the team inspires the players to trust the coaches and their teammates. Staying calm and adjusting to each situation as it comes has been the recipe for success in the first two Colorado victories and Saturday’s game will be no different.

Steven Montez described the Air Force defense as “really physical and very disciplined” and explained that they were a good football team on both offense and defense. A balanced Colorado attack is when the offense is most dangerous. The young running backs will continue to share carries and the ball will be spread around in the passing game.

On defense, the secondary will be more important defending the run than the pass as Air Force rushed for 423 yards and seven touchdowns in their season opener against Colgate. Conversely, Falcons’ quarterback Isaiah Sanders threw only one pass, completed for 41 yards. Air Force got an extra week to prepare for Colorado, but the Buffaloes boast the No. 7 run-stopping linebacker in college this season, Nate Landman.

The Buffaloes have not surrendered more than 200 yards on the ground in either game this season and are 4.5-point favorites.

This early game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.

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