Roberts steps up to lead the Falcons

By Art Garcia,

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun felt good about his quarterback depth coming into the season. It took just two games to put that depth to the test.

Luckily for the Falcons, Karson Roberts passed.

"It's unfortunate when someone goes down with injury, but that's just the way it goes and the next guy needs to be prepared to step up," said Roberts, the former backup signal caller. "I was ready to play, and I just went out there and played my best each game."

As far as Calhoun is concerned, Roberts had proven to be more than just a capable backup.

"Remarkable young man," Calhoun said. "As you get to know him personally, great humility, bright, strong leadership skills. What's fun about Carson is he's not a guy who has to say a whole lot and example means something to him."

Roberts has started the last 11 games for Air Force, leading the Falcons into the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl against Cal. Kickoff is Dec. 29 at Amon Carter Stadium at 1 p.m. CT on ESPN.

Roberts has expertly piloted an attack that features an embarrassment of riches in the backfield. The triple-option Falcons led the nation with six players rush for at least 100 yards in a game this season.

"That's kind of the thing," Roberts said. "You never know who's going to get the ball depending on what the defense does."

The Falcons (8-5) are third nationally in rushing at 321.1 yards per game. Honorable-mention all-Mountain West running back Jacobi Owens became only the fourth player in program history to post two 1,000-yard seasons after racking up 1,013 yards heading into the bowl game.

Owens reached the century mark in four games this season. Other Falcons to hit the 100-yard threshold were injured quarterback Nate Romine, and backs D.J. Johnson, Shayne Davern, Bryan Driskell and Timothy McVey. Air Force 5-2 in this season with a 100-yard rusher.

As important as the running game is, Air Force doesn't live solely on the ground. Roberts put his right arm to good use when needed.

The Houston native completed 70-of-134 passes for 1,446 yards and nine touchdowns. The senior also set a school record for passing yards in consecutive MW games, completing 20-33 passes for 550 yards and three touchdowns against Utah State and Boise State.

"We're a triple option offense," said Roberts, who ran for 674 yards and nine scores. "What kind of makes it special is being able to execute on big pass plays. It's a part of our offense to be able to hit on those big throws."

Roberts is excited about finishing his career in his home state against a quality opponent from the Pac-12. It's also a chance to finish on a winning note after a falling to San Diego State 27-24 in the Mountain West championship game.

"It was a close battle and it was a heartbreaking loss," Roberts said. "We were right there all the way through it. We wanted it really bad. It's a conference championship so the stakes are high. That was a tough loss, but we are looking forward to the opportunity to play Cal."

Art Garcia, the Assistant Athletics Director for Communications for UT Arlington, has spent nearly 20 years as a sportswriter.  He’s worked for, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the San Antonio Express-News and the Bryan-College Station Eagle. Garcia has also written for,,, in addition to other national websites and magazines.