Colorado Buffaloes vs. Air Force Falcons, 9/10/2022, 1:38pm

Final Score: Air Force 41 – Colorado 10; Attendance: 33,647

Weather: Cold and Wet, 50; Ticket: $37 from Air Force, Seatback $10; Parking: Free

Review: Flying High

The Logistics:

The Air Force Academy is in Colorado Springs, a short one-hour drive from Denver. You will know you have arrived when you start seeing the gliders the cadets fly for practice. While the base is very big, as a college campus it is small with only 4,000 cadets. However, it is worth visiting prior to game day as the base is well equipped for welcoming visitors. We spent a couple of hours touring the grounds on Friday afternoon. The scenery is dramatic, although I would still give the nod to West Point for overall aesthetics. Colorado Springs is very close to several tourist attractions from the Garden of the Gods to the Royal Gorge. There are more than enough things to make a long weekend visit worthwhile. Surprisingly, I had no problem getting a hotel room close to the Academy as there is a large hotel / retail complex close by.

The Site:

The logistics for getting on the base are simple and the path to the stadium is well marked. The beauty of the Academy is that they include the parking cost in the ticket, which is very affordable. On top of that, you can tailgate in the lots, which we did. Not everyone tailgated at their car but there was enough participation that it had a good vibe. In fact, this was one of the friendliest crowds I have encountered. A lot of folks stopped by and checked out our somanystadiums signs and asked about my experiences. Members of the Falconry unit stopped by and introduced us to one the Air Force Falcons. In addition to fans tailgating, each squadron has their own tailgate prior to the game paid for by the academy, sans the alcohol of course.

We paid $37 for upper deck seats on about the 30-yard line. The stadium is medium sized at about 50,000 seats, although they are planning to increase capacity in the next year or so. At the current size, there is not a bad seat in the house, particularly, when you consider the two video scoreboards. Given it is mostly metal bleachers, we picked up some seatbacks for $10. The concessions were a good mix of local vendors. Alas, there were no souvenir cups.

The weather for the game was overcast so some of the bigger pregame traditions such as the flyovers and paratroopers, along with the falcon flying, were cancelled. Some of the others remained such as the cadets doing pushups after every score. Attendance is mandatory for the games but if they win, they usually get a free weekend pass. The Air Force Academy does a lot of small school bits like fans kicking field goals, car races on the screen, etc. These all seem to be staples at the military academies. The one unique tradition is that of the cadets throw cheese onto the field. While highly discouraged, the normally compliant cadets seem to find a way hurl some cheddar slices on the field regardless.

The Game:

The Colorado Buffs came into this game decide underdogs. Having just seen them get walloped by TCU the week before, I knew it was unlikely they would put up a much of a fight in this game. The overcast skies had turned to a steady rain that might have been an equalizer. However, it hit Colorado first as they fumbled on the second play from scrimmage. The Falcons recovered and scored on the very next play. Colorado struggled on offense, doing their best impression of the Rockettes (1 – 2 – 3 Kick). Air Force’s kicks were far more effective, hitting a couple of field goals. They then picked off the Buffs as the second quarter started. It was now 20 – 0 Air Force and things were not looking good for Colorado. However, the Buffs rallied with a strong run game and were aided by a late Air Force fumble. Suddenly it was 20 – 10 at the half.

However, the rain was getting heavier, and we were getting colder. I knew that Air Force was very likely to blow this game open in the second half. I don’t leave many games that early, but I had left my rain poncho in the car, and I had had enough. I returned to hotel to get warm and dry. It also turns out I was right about the game. The weather made for sloppy play, but slowly and surely Air Force grinded its way to another 21 points. The final score of 41 – 10 was the blow out as predicted.

Personal Notes:

It is hard to not like the experience at Air Force. It is affordable and easy. While the teams have been a bit up and down lately, I traditionally think of the Falcons as the best of the three academies when it comes to football these days. I have not done any empirical research to back that up. It just seems the Falcons are always a bit more competitive. The stadium is the right size for program.  While the elevation takes a bit to get used, the scenery is gorgeous. Combine this with all the other natural attractions, a visit to Colorado Springs is a worthwhile one. Besides all of that, watching a game at any of the academies is a special one. These programs are different. It is not exactly like the cadets are playing hacky sack on the quad and their jobs, when they graduate, are serious ones. Just like Annapolis and West Point, the Air Force Academy should be on your must visit college football bucket list.

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