• Graham Knight

Air Force Season Review & Falcons Seniors Bugg & Meeks

by Graham Knight

The Air Force Falcons are going bowling this year -- in Texas!

The Falcons will take on the Louisville Cardinals in the ServPro First Responder Bowl in Dallas on December 28th.

Louisville, from the A-C-C, was 6-6 on the season.

The Falcons finished the regular season, 9-3, tied with Utah State for first place in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. But the Aggies went to the conference championship game by virtue of their win over Air Force.

The Falcons lost two in-conference games this season, each by just one score. They also lost to Army in the Commanders Classic. But after the 3-3 Covid season of 2020, where three dozen players took turnbacks, the 2021 Air Force squad put on a torrid offensive display, leading the nation in rushing with an average of 341yards per game.

The Falcons were the only team in college football to rush for more than 4-thousand yards on the year and were second only to Army in rushing touchdowns at 42. They also trailed only Army in time of possession.

A big part of that success was junior fullback Brad Roberts who led the Mountain West in rushing with 1,275 yards. That's tops for any fullback in Air Force's storied history.

But the Air Force defense was equally as strong, virtually tied with Boise State for fewest points allowed. It was anchored by two seniors who will be graduating this month and going on to start their military careers. Their leadership epitomizes what coach Troy Calhoun has preached each and every week on the gridiron.

Two defensive stalwarts that helped lead Air Force to its 8-3 record, so far, this season are linebacker Demonte Meeks and cornerback Milton "Tre" Bugg, III.

Meeks showed his presence on the very first play of the 2021 season, registering a sack against Lafayette. Bugg has come up key with interceptions all season long.

After a strong 2019 season from each player, Meeks finished as the team's leading tackler and Bugg led in pickoffs. Both players took the turnback option during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign.

While neither has regrets about that decision, they agree that watching from their couches was . . . "It was really rough," Meeks said, "to see them do their thing and not be there. I felt a little bit out of place for the first couple of games."

"Motivation," Bugg called it, "that's what it was, just having to sit out a full year, a full calendar year, from football. And it was definitely motivating."

For Meeks, an engineering major from outside of Cleveland, the turnback year was an opportunity to hone his craft in the work world.

"I was there as an intern," he recalls, "mainly working in construction, documents and things like that...and, learning about master-planning and how utilities work and how you even negotiate with a client. Talking millions of dollars and getting their ideas on paper, in reality."

For Bugg, an Arizona native, it was a chance to bulk up physically and dig into some of the finer points of the game.

"I've been studying more offense lately, rather than defense," he said, "because defense is all, like, reaction to what the offense does. So, if you can know what they're going to do beforehand, just recognizing route concepts before they can even happen."

That intelligence on the field is just one of the things that has impressed their head coach.

"Tre, he has a maturity beyond his years," Air Force Head Coach Troy Calhoun said. "[He] does a great job being able to reach teammates. [He's] just one of those guys that's level-headed, great competitor, remarkable young man."

And as to Meeks:

"An amazing work ethic," says Calhoun, "Just his maturity, his focus, his intensity and the passion for everything that he does. Nobody puts in more time in regards to extra study of film than he does. He’ll frequently get his dinner and he goes right into the film room [and is] there from about 7 'till, who knows how late sometimes, in the evenings. And to be able to do that and still be an engineering major at the AF academy, it tells you he has his priorities in order. But more than anything else, he’s got a way where he can be dialed-in and really focused in whatever it is that he goes to attack."

Tthat prep work is something the graduation linebacker takes pride in, especially when it comes to playing a rival academy squad.

"Prep school, triple option . . . coming in as a freshman, all you look at is triple option," Meeks said. "Then seeing, actually studying my sophomore year, junior, senior year, super-senior year, has been looking at it for a long time."

But now, as the season and time at the academy winds down, there will be a chance to reflect on time in Colorado Springs.

"[I've] definitely gained an appreciation for the school and everything it's been able to teach me," Bugg said. "Not only as a future officer, but also as a man, in order to gain those characteristics I was lacking when I first came here. [I] definitely feel confident going into the Space Force."

Bugg's service assignment upon graduation has him entering the US Space Force. Meeks will be stationed at Air Force Base Elmendorf in Anchorage, Alaska.

edited for web by Joe Harman