Jefferson leads Air Force with jitters, but no fear

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Tim Jefferson isn't shy about admitting that he gets jitters.

After starting the last five games at quarterback for Air Force and posting a 5-0 record, the true freshman thinks the jitters might be good luck.

"I always get jitters before games," Jefferson said. "I've gotten jitters before games ever since I was 5 or 6 and I knew stuff was actually on the line. You know, I thought that I would stop getting nervous before games, but it's just natural to me. I've noticed that whenever I don't get jitters before games I don't play nearly as well as when I do get jitters before games. I think it's a thing that kind of helps me out. I hope I'm nervous before this game starts."

Jefferson will be playing in the biggest game of his young career Saturday when BYU visits Air Force for a tilt that will keep the winner in the hunt for a piece of the Mountain West title.

Air Force already has exceeded expectations. As one of the youngest teams in the FBS, Air Force has posted an 8-2 record and is all but guaranteed a bowl. And this week it received votes in the Associated Press poll. So as far as Jefferson is concerned, winning this game would just be yet another odds-defying moment in a season of odds-defying moments.

"This has been the most fun I've ever had playing football," Jefferson said. "Being the starter for a Division I team, there aren't many words I have to describe it. I'm trying to make the best out of it and not looking back in the past, but looking forward to what I have in front of me."

Jefferson freely admits that he didn't know much about BYU before starting to prepare for the game. He had heard the Cougars had won the league each of the past two years and he read on some Web site that BYU is the only team that has dominated the Falcons during coach Troy Calhoun's last two seasons.

Since 2006, BYU has defeated Air Force by an average of 22 points. The Falcons haven't beaten the Cougars since 2003 and during those four losses, the Cougars haven't scored fewer than 31 points (2007).

"The only thing I really knew about BYU was that they were really tough and they're the only team to really handle Air Force in the coach Calhoun era," Jefferson said. "They're really big, they have a lot of Samoans on their team and whatnot. But we're outsized in every game that we play so it's not going to be anything different. They're all human. Nothing's insurmountable. We can still hang with them, if not beat them."

Jefferson's zeal and carefree nature has been infectious to the rest of the team. After suffering back-to-back losses to Utah and Navy, Air Force turned to Jefferson and hasn't looked back. Jefferson doesn't put too much pressure on himself or his team. He said he's just thankful for the opportunity to be a starting FBS quarterback.

To Jefferson, it's not about beating BYU, it's about getting the Falcons nine wins this season -- tying last year's win total -- when no one thought they could.

"We have nothing to lose here playing this game. We're going bowling. We got ranked No. 28 this week in the AP poll, and this week we have a chance to go out there and tag BYU. We have nothing to lose. If we beat them, hey, we're in the top 25. So, we just have to be positive about it and not hold anything back."