USAFA, Colo. –
The Air Force Academy football team used a season best offensive performance to snag a 42-24 victory over the University of New Mexico, Saturday afternoon, Nov. 10, at Falcon Stadium. The Falcons (4-6, 2-4 MW) had season bests in both points, total yards (623), and rushing yards (478) to seal the 18-point win.
The 623 yards of total offense is tied for the 12-most in program history, and is the most total offense for the Falcons since putting up 663 against VMI in the season opener last season.
Sophomore quarterback Donald Hammond III
led the offense in his third start of the season, as he passed for 145 yards, and rushed for 136 more, both new career bests, while accounting for three touchdowns, two passing and one rushing. It was the second 100-yard rushing game of the season for a Falcon player, and the first of his career.
Air Force was three total yards short from having three 100-yard rushers, as sophomore running back Kadin Remsberg
finished with 99 yards on six carries with a score, while junior fullback Cole Fagan
had 98 yards on 17 carries and a score as well. Both were new career highs, respectively. Also adding a touchdown on the ground was junior fullback Christian Mallard
, the second of his career, while fellow junior fullback Taven Birdow
had 85 yards on 13 carries, including a career-long rush of 50 yards.
In the passing game, junior tight end Kade Waguespack
had three receptions, two of them touchdown catches, for a total of 51 yards. Senior wide out Marcus Bennett
finished as the leading receiver, as his lone reception went for 54 yards, while freshman Brandon Lewis had a 40-yard catch for a new career-best.
Not to be outdone, the defense got it done with a pair of turnovers, as well as seven tackles for loss and five sacks. They allowed 305 yards of total offense, while only being responsible for 17 points as the fourth score came from UNM's (3-7, 1-5 MW) defense. Junior linebacker Kyle Johnson
led the team with nine tackles, as well as a fumble recovery, while junior defensive back Grant Theil
was a turnover machine, forcing a fumble, as well as intercepting a pass, both the first of his career.
Sophomore linebacker Parker Noren
was the second leading tackler, finishing with eight stops, which included a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, as well as a forced fumble. Meanwhile, sophomore defensive lineman Jordan Jackson
was a backfield disrupter, finishing with a career-best two sacks.
The Falcons received to start the game, and came out firing on offense. The Hammond led attack went 75 yards in 10 plays, which included a fourth down conversion when it was fourth and four from New Mexico's 40 yard line. After the conversion, Air Force scored three plays later on a 19-yard rush from Mallard. It was his first of the season and second of his career.
After a pair of empty possessions from New Mexico, Air Force stated with the ball on its own 19 with about three minutes left in the quarter. On third and one, Birdow broke free for a 50-yard gain down to the UNM 22. On the next play, Air Force fumbled and New Mexico recovered to end the momentum. Air Force's defense continued to thrive after the turnover, forcing a three and out to get Air Force the ball back to begin the second quarter.
Starting the second quarter on their own 45, the Falcons wasted little time in extending their lead, as Hammond used a career-best 37-yard rush on an option keeper to cap a four play, 68-yard drive that used only 1:24 of game time. Early in the second, Air Force had the 14-0 lead.
The Lobos got the offense going in their first drive of the second half, as they used a 56-yard pass to go 71 yards to get on the board with a three-yard TD rush, putting it back to a seven point game. About 10 minutes of game time later, UNM tied the game at 14 on an 11-yard touchdown run with 2:30 left until the half.
Air Force wasn't done, though, as they answered back four plays later on a 54-yard rushing touchdown from Remsberg, his new career-long. With just 1:40 until halftime, Air Force regained the lead, 21-14. Then New Mexico executed a two-minute drive of their own, as they went 71 yards to get into field goal range, and the converted kick made it 21-17 at the half.
Out of the break, New Mexico had a decent drive that got them to midfield, but on a first and ten, a long pass was picked off by Theil at the six. It was the first interception of his career. Air Force was not intimidated by the long field, as they embarked on a nine play, 94-yard drive, which was capped off by a 43-yard touchdown strike from Hammond to Waguespack to extend the Air Force lead to 28-17 early in the third.
The turnover bug struck again for UNM on their next drive, as on the second play from scrimmage, a short completion was knocked loose by Theil, and recovered by Johnson to give the Falcons the ball at New Mexico's 21 yard line. Three plays later, Hammond found Waguespack once again for a nine yard TD pass to give Air Force its largest lead of the game, 35-17, with under five minutes to play in the third quarter.
Air Force forced another three and out on the ensuing Lobo drive, but an 84-yard punt from New Mexico pinned the Falcons back on their own one. New Mexico took full advantage of the situation, as they forced and recovered a fumble in the end zone on the first play of the drive to cut into the lead, 35-24.
Turnovers continued to plague the Blue and Silver on its next drive right at the start of the fourth quarter, as a fumble on the NM 29 killed a nice drive, and gave the Lobos the ball back down just 11. Fortunately, Air Force's defense was up to the challenge once again, forcing a three and out to get the ball back with 13 minutes to play.
This time, Air Force protected the ball well, and it resulted in another long touchdown drive. On the first play, Hammond completed a 54-yard pass to Bennett to enter Lobos territory. Setting up at the UNM 21, five plays later Fagan bulldozed his way in for a three-yard touchdown run to get the Falcons back up by 18, 42-24, with 10 minutes left to go.
Back with the more comfortable lead, the Air Force defense got after the QB on New Mexico's next drive, as a pair of sacks forced them to punt with about seven minutes to go. Air Force then did what they do best, melting the clock with three first downs to take the time down to 21 seconds. UNM ended up getting the ball back, but just ran out the clock to conclude the game.
The Falcons will be back in action next Saturday, Nov. 17, when they head up the road to take on the University of Wyoming. Kickoff from Laramie is set for 2 p.m.