Given the physical restrictions that military service puts on cadets, Air Force football has traditionally been based more on speed, willpower and technical execution than on pure size and strength. The Falcons have traditionally run a triple option offense, and have routinely competed favorably against bigger and stronger national opponents. While the wishbone is almost always assumed synonymous with the triple option, Air Force only deployed the formation occasionally under Coaches Fisher DeBerry and Ken Hatfield. One mainstay from both of these coaches is the option, and the consistent repetition to near perfection, as witnessed by the wins and the rushing statistics in the past 25 years, regularly placing Air Force in the top ten rushing teams in the nation.
Running back Asher Clark and the Falcons take on the Houston Cougars during the 2009 Armed Forces Bowl
The Falcons are not only recognized by the lightning bolt on the side of their helmets, but their traditional option attack. Air Force is one of the premier rushing teams in the nation. Since Fisher DeBerry took over as Falcons head coach in 1984, they have ranked among the nation’s top 10 in rushing 19 times in 21 years. The Air Force football team has enjoyed success not only on the field but also in the classroom. In 49 years of Air Force football, there have been 39 Academic All-Americans.
1985 was the most successful season in Air Force football history. Under second-year coach Fisher DeBerry, the Fightin’ Falcons came within one win of playing for the national championship. They recorded 10 straight wins to start the season, climbed the polls to #2 in the nation, but lost to BYU by seven points in the penultimate game of the regular season. Air Force rebounded with a bowl game win over Texas in the Bluebonnet Bowl and finished with a 12–1 record as the #5 ranked team in the nation.
Chance Harridge: In 2002, Harridge set the NCAA Division I record for most single-season rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, with 23. Tied by the University of Florida's Tim Tebow in 2007. Broken by Navy's Ricky Dobbs in 2009 with 27.
Beau Morgan: He became the first player in NCAA history to rush and pass for over 1,000 yards in a season twice. He broke the NCAA single season rushing record for a quarterback, along with being only the second player in NCAA history to run and pass for 3,000 yards in a career.
Air Force Academy Falcons free safety Bobby Giannini (#11) prepares to finish off Tennessee tailback Montario Hardesty, while Falcons defensive end Josh Clayton (#97) loosens Hardesty's grip on the football. The Falcons lost 31-30 in 2006.
Air Force has a traditional rivalry against the other two FBS service academies, Army and Navy; the three play for the right to hold the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Air Force has held the trophy 19 times, more than either Army or Navy. Among other schools, Air Force has played more games against Colorado State and Wyoming, having played each school 53 times since 1957, the Falcons' first season.