Post Game Interviews
USAFA, Colo. –
Behind a stifling defense and a steady offense, the Air Force Academy football team cruised to a 38-0 season-opening victory over Stony Brook University Saturday afternoon, Sept. 1, at Falcon Stadium. The shutout win marked the second-straight in a season opener for the Falcons (1-0) after blanking VMI 62-0 in last season's lid lifter.
The Air Force defense was firing on all cylinders, as they held Stony Brook (0-1) to just 75 yards of total offense, the second-fewest for an Air Force defense all-time. The Seawolves were limited to 35 yards through the air and 40 on the ground, while only recording four first downs. The four first downs allowed are tied for the second fewest allowed in a game all-time for Air Force.
Leading the defensive effort was senior defensive back Garret Kauppila, who finished as the team's leading tackler with six stops, including four solo to go along with two pass breakups. Sophomore linebacker Lakota Wills
tallied five tackles, including a sack, while fellow linebacker, junior Kyle Johnson
, notched his first career interception, which he returned 32 yards the other way for a score.
Not to be outdone, the offense shined as well, as they finished with 362 yards, including 333 on the ground and 29 through the air. Senior quarterback Arion Worthman
earned the start, and finished with 95 yards of total offense as the third-leading rusher with 66 yards, as well as the 29 yards passing.
Junior running back Joseph Saucier
finished as the leading rusher, tallying 71 yards on 10 carries, while junior fullback Cole Fagan
finished just behind him with 67 yards on 18 carries. Four offensive players notched touchdowns for the Falcons, as Worthman and Fagan, as well as backup QBs junior Isaiah Sanders
and sophomore Donald Hammond III
, found pay dirt throughout the game.
Air Force deferred the ball to the second half after winning the toss, starting on defense. They forced a three and out, taking over possession for their first drive of the season. The offense moved like clockwork, driving 74 yards in nine plays, capped off by a seven yard touchdown run from Worthman to open up an early 7-0 lead.
On the Seawolves' ensuing possession, the defense continued to click as Johnson read an errant Stony Brook pass, picking it off and having a wide open field for a 32-yard interception return for a score. It was AF's first pick-six since Shaquille Vereen
against Colorado State last season, Oct. 28.
With the early 14-0 cushion, the Falcons' defense continued to stall the Stony Brook attack, not allowing a first down until a pass interference penalty gave them a new set of down with about five minutes to play in the first quarter. That drive for Stony Brook resulted in a failed fake field goal attempt, keeping it 14-0 into the second quarter.
The second stanza began with the conclusion of a nine-play, 42 yard drive from the Air Force offense, which culminated in a 48-yard field goal from senior Matthew Philichi
, a new career long on just his second career collegiate field goal.
Following Air Force's fifth forced three-and-out in six drives, the offense went back on the attack, but were halted in the middle of a drive for a lightning delay. After the 38-min delay, Air Force finished off an 11-play drive on a 16-yard Fagan rush, making it 24-0 with under five minutes until the half.
The inclement weather was not finished, however, as three minutes of game time later, another strike occurred delaying the contest for another 34 minutes. With the inconsistent time in play, neither team had much momentum on offense, taking the 24-0 tally into the half.
Out of the abbreviated halftime, both teams remained sluggish on offense, as Air Force opened with a punt, and then both teams traded fumbles deep in SBU territory. Both teams then established decent drives that chewed up the rest of the third quarter, but neither resulted in points taking the game to the fourth quarter.
In the midst of its long drive, Air Force finished it off to start the final period, as Sanders completed the 20-play, 88-yard marathon, which took over 10 minutes off the clock, with one-yard scamper, to make it 31-0 early in the fourth. AF and SBU then traded possessions before the Falcons wound up with the ball with just under nine minutes to go.
Led by third string QB Hammond III, the Blue and Silver went 44 yards in 10 plays to put the icing on the cake, as a five-yard Hammond III rush put the final points on the board with two and a half minutes to go. On its final drive, Stony Brook gained 24 yards, which kept Air Force from breaking the previous school record for fewest points allowed with 66 against San Diego back in 1956, but they did not reach the end zone as the final horn sounded on a 38-0 Air Force victory.
The Falcons now begin a two-game road swing, beginning with a road trip to the Sunshine State to take on Florida Atlantic University next Saturday, Sept. 8. Kickoff against the Owls is set for 2 p.m. ET.