The San Diego State Aztecs (6-5, 4-3 Mountain West) beat the Air Force Falcons (8-3, 4-3 Mountain West) 30-14 tonight at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
Both these teams entered the game knowing if it lost, it would be out of MW title contention. Thanks to impressive efforts from Ezell Ruffin, Quinn Kaehler and the entire defense, the Aztecs go home tonight still alive in that title battle, while the Falcons face a long plane ride home. Both teams, however, are now eligible for a bowl game.
SDSU reached the red zone on its first four possessions. But thanks to the red-zone woes it's faced all season, the Aztecs only got 13 points on one touchdown and three field goals.
Therefore, despite having about half of SDSU's first-half total yards and time of possession, the Falcons entered the half ahead 14-13 after a 74-yard touchdown pass and a touchdown on a short field.
As SDSU entered the locker room, it seemed like Rocky Long's squad was doing the exact same thing as it did in Boise: start the game on fire then slowly fall apart as the other team asserts its dominance.
But not this time, apparently.
SDSU running back Donnel Pumphrey punched it in from 12 yards out late in the third quarter to put the Aztecs up 23-14, and the Aztec defense held Air Force scoreless in the second half. In fact, Long's defense only allowed 143 yards in quarters three and four.
Air Force's top running back, Jacobi Owens, didn't make the trip to San Diego and he will miss the rest of the season with a Lisfranc injury. The Falcon backs struggled mightily in his absence, gaining only 65 yards.
Falcon quarterback Kale Pearson looked uncomfortable in the pocket all night and only completed 10 of 22 passes for 171 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also got smacked around a lot tonight, feeling his fair share of SDSU pads on his 14 carries for 59 yards.
Kaehler was SDSU's offensive player of the game, completing 17 of 30 passes for 326 yards, one touchdown and an early interception.
His top target on the night was Ruffin, who snagged seven passes for 126 yards.
Pumphrey kept up his stellar play this season, netting 131 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. That moves his season total to 1,494 yards.
SDSU linebacker Calvin Munson topped the game off with a pick-six in the closing moments to put the Aztecs up 30-14. Munson -- a linebacker, mind you -- leads the team with four interceptions.
Air Force hosts Colorado State next Friday at 1:30 p.m. PT and SDSU hosts San Jose State next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. PT.
SDSU would need both Nevada and Fresno State to lose at least once to win the MW West division.