Air Force hopes to avoid collapse of last year

Updated: October 7, 2003, 10:55 PM ET

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Air Force's season fell apart after a 6-0 start last year, and the Falcons hope they're not heading in the same direction this year.

After losing 28-25 at Navy last week, the 5-1 Falcons take on Mountain West rival UNLV on Saturday.

They hope to learn from the dramatic collapse last year, when they lost five of their last seven, including conference games against Wyoming and Colorado State.

"Our approach to the team yesterday was to forget it and press on," Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said Tuesday.

Defensive end Monty Coleman said he believes last year's experience will serve the team well.

"Having your first loss of the season I think is a tough mental barrier to get over," Coleman said. "But like last year with the Wyoming experience, and the Colorado State experience, I think all of those experiences combined are going to help us turn it around."

One of the keys against UNLV (4-1) could be how well the Falcons protect the ball. The Rebels lead the conference with a plus-seven turnover ratio and have forced 10 fumbles.

"They've got a very opportunistic team," DeBerry said "They make things happen, and that's a sign of a good defensive team."

DeBerry said good ball-handling would be a moral imperative.

"Whenever you've got the ball up under your arm, you've got a moral responsibility to your brother to hold onto it and not turn it over," DeBerry said.

^INJURY REPORT:@ Falcon back John Taibi (left groin), wide receiver J.P. Waller (left hip) and guard Jesse Underbakke (left ankle) are questionable. Halfback Joe Shieffer (ribs) and offensive tackle Brett Waller (right wrist) are probable.

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