Oh what could have been in the 2016 season. For all the accomplishments achieved by the Air Force Falcons in 2016, a three game stretch in October will leave Falcon fans wondering about the chances lost for Air Force and their 32 senior class. There was a legitimate opportunity for the Falcons to have run the table and gotten themselves in a position to play in a bowl game that would eventually be captured by Western Michigan.
After a 4-0 start that included a road trip victory over Utah State and a home victory over Navy that saw Air Force limit Navy to 57 yard rushing yards in a 28-14 victory, things looked promising for the Air Force season. The Falcons received some votes in the Associated Press poll and with hind sight being 20/20, the Falcons victory over Navy would be even more important as Navy would defeat early season darling Houston that very next week. At this point, Air Force seemed to have a very nice resume built for some serious postseason considerations.
But, Laramie would prove to be a problem for the Falcons. Josh Allen and Air Force turnovers would prove to be too much as Air Force would drop their first game of the year at Wyoming with the Cowboys winning 35-26. The next week in Dallas, which proved to be a scheduling fiasco, the Falcons defense would surrender 373 yards rushing in a 45-40 loss to the Lobos. And, when Air Force lost their first home game in two and a half years to Hawaii in overtime, the promise of the Falcons season had not only evaporated, but there were legitimate concerns that the Falcons might not make a bowl game with the toughest part of their schedule ahead of them.
The Falcons funk was still rearing its ugly head in Fresno as the Falcons were trailing a team that had one victory and had just fired its coach late in the third quarter. Nate Romine suffered an ankle injury and the Falcons would turn to sophomore backup Arion Worthman to try and find a way to win versus the Bulldogs.
Worthman would be the spark the Falcons needed, rushing for 108 yards and two touchdowns in just a little over a quarter as the Falcons would rally to beat Fresno State 31-21. It would be the first of six straight victories for the Falcons, who would finish the year 10-3, their second 10 win season in the past three years, who would cap off 2016 with an Arizona Bowl victory over South Alabama 42-21.
During that streak, the Falcons would accomplish their first overall goal of every season, winning the Commander-in-Chief trophy. It would be Worthman’s arm that sparked the Falcons against Army to clinch the trophy for Air Force.
He would complete six of nine passes for 195 yards and a 46-yard touchdown toss to Jacobi Owens to help the Falcons defeat the Black Knights 31-12. Worthman would display the kind of accuracy that had failed Romine through a large part of the season, and Worthman would find wide receiver Jalen Robinette on big plays during the latter part of the season to get the Falcons offense back to its potent ways.
Worthman will be the focus of the Air Force program going forward, but it will be the 32 seniors that were one of the most successful classes in Falcons history that will be missed. The class of 2017 combined for 28 victories, two Commander-in-Chief trophies and two bowl game victories in their three years as major contributors for the program. They will be a difficult group to replace, led by potential NFL players in Robinette, Owens and safety Weston Steelhammer. Head Coach Troy Calhoun has built a solid program, but this was his best class in his 10 years as Falcons coach and replacing them will prove to be his greatest challenge going forward.