CU Buffs’ Mel Tucker embraces challenge of facing Air Force

Tucker, several Colorado coaches, have experience going against option offenses

Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer
Colorado head coach Mel Tucker feels Air Force have some similarities to Georgia Tech.

The Sept. 14 matchup between Air Force and Colorado is one of the most intriguing games on the Buffaloes’ football schedule this fall, and not only because it’s the first meeting between the teams in 45 years.

For the first time in years, the Buffs will have to face an option offense.

“It is different, but you don’t prepare for those guys in one week,” CU head coach Mel Tucker said.

Like every opponent on the schedule, Tucker and his staff have spent time this offseason studying the Falcons’ triple-option attack, which is rare in today’s college football. All three service academies – Air Force, Army and Navy – run the option, as do a couple other schools.

The only Power 5 conference team that has run an option offense in recent years in Georgia Tech, under coach Paul Johnson, who retired after last season.

Tucker and many of the coaches on the defensive staff are familiar with Johnson’s offense at Georgia Tech. While at Georgia the past three years, they faced the Yellow Jackets annually. But, how much will that experience really help the Buffs?

“They have some similarities (to Georgia Tech),” Tucker said of Air Force. “It is option football, but they are different families coming from different trees. It’s a little bit of a different animal. They’re not the same scheme as Georgia Tech. There are some things they do that are drastically different than Georgia Tech.”

Some of the same principles will apply, however.

“We have to be sound vs. the dive, we have to make sure we have someone on the quarterback, make sure we have someone on the pitch, and we have to be sound in coverage so we don’t turn guys loose,” he said. “And, really those options teams, they’re going to test your soundness and your ability to play option football and be disciplined and sound against all of their formations, their motions, their adjustments, unbalanced (lines) and all of those things. In general, I think that helps us because we have coaches on our defensive staff that have coached extensively against option football.”

Air Force and other option teams have a history of making life difficult on opposing defenses, which makes some Buffs’ fans leery of the matchup with the Falcons.

Tucker, meanwhile, embraces the challenge.

“I look forward to every game because that’s what it’s all about,” said Tucker, who nearly signed with Air Force out of high school to be an option quarterback for the Falcons. “I wouldn’t be in the profession if all you did was study the opponents and practice but you never got a chance to play. Getting a chance to play is what it’s all about. That’s what makes it fun.

“Whether it’s an option football team or not … to me it really doesn’t matter. We have to prepare the same and be ready to go. We have to prepare our guys to play in the games and be at our best when our best is needed.”