Sports

Fresno State opponent watch: Nine-year coach Troy Calhoun keeps Air Force flying high

Air Force Falcons head coach Troy Calhoun directs his team against the Wyoming Cowboys on Oct. 10, 2015.
Air Force Falcons head coach Troy Calhoun directs his team against the Wyoming Cowboys on Oct. 10, 2015. Associated Press

When Troy Calhoun was a cadet at the Air Force Academy, he wanted to become a fighter pilot, not a football coach.

But that dream never materialized for the ninth-year football coach.

“Had the physical at the end of sophomore year and I thought I had pretty good eyesight,” he said. “I can see a curveball and can hit a fastball well, still think we can hit some 3-pointers, be able to hit a target when a receiver is moving down the field. And yet at that sophomore physical, you couldn’t do any alterations. Couldn’t use contacts and couldn’t have Lasik surgery like they do now. Wasn’t able to go to pilot training.”

A coaching career came calling and Calhoun has flourished since for Air Force (3-3, 2-1 Mountain West) heading into Saturday’s conference against Fresno State (2-5, 1-3) at 11 a.m. Saturday in Colorado Springs.

Born in Roseburg, Ore., Calhoun lettered in football at the academy in 1985 for a Falcons team that finished the season ranked fifth in the country with a 12-1 record (with wins over Navy, Notre Dame and Texas). One of only two freshmen to letter on that team, Calhoun also was teammates with Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter that year.

Calhoun was a starting quarterback in 1986 and was later named the Western Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete Award winner.

After his playing days, Calhoun began his coaching career with the Falcons before moving on to Ohio University and Wake Forest under coach Jim Grobe. Calhoun joined the Denver Broncos in 2003 as a defensive assistant and then was an offensive and special teams assistant in 2004 and 2005. He was offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans in 2006.

Calhoun then became the first former Air Force player to guide the football program, replacing longtime coach Fisher DeBerry for the 2007 season. Since, Calhoun is is 62-47 overall and 35-29 in the Mountain West. DeRutyer was an assistant under Calhoun from 2007-09.

“I was really fortunate to be asked by Jim Grobe to go with him to Ohio University and then Wake Forest University,” Calhoun said. “That’s kind of how the coaching part first came to fruition.”

What struggles? – Don’t tell Air Force fullback Jacobi Owens that the Fresno State defense had been struggling. He saw what the Bulldogs did against UNLV, holding the Rebels to 299 total yards.

Fresno State gave up just three plays of over 20 yards. The Bulldogs had been allowing five plays of over 20 yards per game.

“Their defense is extremely athletic,” Owens said. “Probably one of the best defenses we’ve played thus far, especially one that has some idea of what we’re doing. Fresno State knows how to defend (against the option offense) and it’s going to be a good battle.”

Added Calhoun: “They really hit their stride in the last two weeks, especially at the quarterback position. Great skill and they’re able to take advantage of it, especially against teams that are not extremely athletic. … They get you in the open field and they do a heck of a job at that.”

Injuries – The Falcons will reportedly be without outside linebacker Dexter Walker and cornerback Kalon Baker. Fullback Shayne Davern left Saturday’s game against Colorado State with a knee injury, but could play against the Bulldogs.

Series – Air Force and Fresno State are meeting for the eighth time overall and seventh as conference foes. The Falcons lead the series 4-3, but DeRuyter is 1-0 against his alma mater. The last meeting was in 2012 and the Bulldogs rolled to a 48-15 victory.

Scoring streak –The Falcons have scored in a school record 277 consecutive games. The streak is the third longest active streak in the nation, behind Florida (340) and Texas Christian (286), and seventh longest in Division I history. Air Force last was shut out by Mississippi 13-0 in the 1992 Liberty Bowl.

Anthony Galaviz: 559-441-6042, @agalaviz_TheBee

FRESNO STATE VS. AIR FORCE

  • Saturday: 11 a.m. at Falcon Stadium
  • Records: Bulldogs 2-5, 1-3 MW; Falcons 3-3, 2-1
  • Series: Falcons lead 4-3
  Comments