Utah State jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the game and kept the Air Force Falcons at arms length the rest of the night as they captured a 34-16 victory over the Falcons Saturday night. Utah State improves to 4-2 and 1-0 in conference play while Air Force drops to 4-2 overall and 1-2 in the conference.
Utah State jumped out to a lead so quick that the ESPNU broadcast couldn't even catch the first two touchdowns of the game. Hunter Sharp's touchdown receptions of 75 and 23 yards were lightning quick, and the Falcons never recovered from those early strikes and would never get closer than eight points for the rest of the game. Both Utah State touchdowns would symbolize the night for the Falcons. Utah State had too much speed at the skill positions for Air Force on the evening.
The second touchdown would follow an Air Force turnover, one of four on the night for the Falcons. Combine the turnovers with the play making ability of Sharp, Joe Hill and JoJo Natson against a taxed but feisty Air Force defense and Utah State proved to be too much on the night. The Falcons defense made enough plays to give the team a chance to win, but the three play makers along with sophomore quarterback Darell Garretson found big plays at the right time to keep the lead for the Aggies.
Quarterback Kale Pearson has been a great asset to the Falcons this season, bringing a stability to the position and being a big cog in the Air Force resurgence, but he struggled mightily Saturday night. Utah State had a lot to do with his struggles, especially the linebacker duo and brothers Nick Vigil and Zach Vigil. The Vigil's were everywhere Saturday as they led a disciplined, well organized defensive effort against Pearson and the Falcons. The Falcons would be limited to 155 yards rushing and the Aggies kept their lanes and never over pursued the Air Force runners. The Falcons found yards in the air (224 yards) but couldn't find the promised land enough to challenge Utah State, especially with two extremely untimely interceptions. Pearson was in and out of the lineup as well, as the Aggies punished him in the running game. Backup Nate Romine struggled in his first major appearance this season.
Air Force will need to rebound quickly as they return to Colorado Springs to face the New Mexico Lobos next Saturday afternoon. The Falcons need to find two more victories to become bowl eligible, and New Mexico is one of the opponents that the Falcons should be favored against on the schedule. Game time is at 1:30 p.m. MDT and is being televised on ROOT Sports.