Air Force coach seeks 150th win

Updated: August 29, 2003, 7:59 AM ET

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Fisher DeBerry can wisecrack about closing in on 150 victories after 19 years at Air Force, but he says the Falcons' Division I-AA opponent for the season opener is no joke.

DeBerry, 149-83-1, leads his team against Wofford, his alma mater, on Saturday.

"You winning 150 games is a pretty good indication you're getting old," he said this week.

DeBerry said the Falcons are approaching Wofford with respect. The Spartanburg, S.C., school averaged 342 rushing yards per game last season while holding opponents to an average of 270 yards total offense.

"They've got some doggone good football players and they've got about four football players that we had recruited," he said.

Wofford's key players are quarterback Jeff Zolman and fullback J.D. McNair. McNair ran for 707 yards last year and will be asked to step into the role of Jesse McCoy, who rushed for 1,000 yards.

Wofford must replace four all-Southern Conference defenders from last year's 9-3 team.

In contrast, Air Force returns 15 starters and has experience on both sides of the football.

The Falcons are particularly strong on offense, with the return of quarterback Chance Harridge and a potent running game that led the nation last year with 4,001 total yards. Harridge alone ran for 1,229 yards and set a Division I record with 22 touchdowns.

"When you've got a quarterback like that back, it's a good place to start," DeBerry said. "He's also been a good leader for a football team."

It also helps to have most of the offensive line returning, led by senior guards Brett Huyser and Jesse Underbakke.

DeBerry wants more production from Air Force's passing game, which ranked 116th nationally last year. Harridge completed 44 percent and threw for just 10 touchdowns last year.

The Falcons spent extra time last spring on passing.

"I'm less concerned about our passing game after the spring," DeBerry said. "If Chance can throw the ball in a game as well as he did in practice, I can't wait to see us play."

Air Force switched to a 3-3-5 defensive alignment last year and allowed nearly nine fewer points per game than in 2001. The Falcons also led the Mountain West with a plus-nine turnover ratio.

The Falcons will be without starting fullback Steve Massie. He suffered a contusion in his knee and isn't expected back until the Sept. 6 game with Northwestern.

DeBerry said Saturday's game could be quick.

"We start at noon and it will probably over at 2 because they're not going to throw the football, and we're not going to throw the football," he said.

"So (the winner) might be just whichever one can recognize what the other one is doing and tackle and block the best."

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index