Air Force recovered after their early defensive lapses and put a world of hurt on the Bulldogs with a decisive 42-14 victory in Colorado Springs. As you might expect, the Falcons did it with the running game, as their stable of running backs mauled the Fresno State defense to the tune of 459 yards, their highest team total against an FBS opponent since 2012. Karson Roberts led the way with 92 yards and four rushing touchdowns on 18 carries, but Bryan Driskell and Jacobi Owens also ran for well over 100 yards, as well (144 and 137, respectively).
That same figure, by the way, is reminiscent of the defensive nightmares that Fresno State had against Vai Taua and Colin Kaepernick in 2008 and 2009. They commanded a time of possession advantage so lopsided (42:38 to 17:22), I don't even want to bother looking up whether a Bulldogs offense has been quite so manhandled before.
The most damning indictment, though, the most obvious sign of the Academy's dominance on Saturday afternoon, is the touchdown pass that Jalen Robinette threw to Roberts for a startlingly easy score. He spun out of a potential tackle for loss by linebacker Tobenna Okeke and found the quarterback on a blown coverage. It was out and out trolling, and there was nothing that Fresno State could do about it.
Or maybe it was the ease with which the Falcons converted again and again to extend drives, a problem which has plagued Fresno State all season: Air Force was 8-of-16 on third down and 3-for-4 on fourth down. Maybe it was the ease with which they kept the Bulldogs from doing the same, since Fresno was just 2-of-12 and 0-for-2, respectively.
Or maybe it was Driskell absolutely trucking Shannon Edwards in the red zone, or Weston Steelhammer mauling Marteze Waller in the backfield for one of seven AFA tackles for loss. Take your pick.
In a season full of dominant performances by Fresno State opponents, this one might have been the most egregious because, following the two early scores, the offense essentially disappeared for more than half the game. A run down of Fresno State's drive chart after Air Force scored their first touchdown: interception, three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out, minus-6 yards before the half, three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out.
It may not have been like setting a program low for total offense, as the 'Dogs did against San Diego State, but it was an inspired new kind of abysmal. Aside from the two long touchdown runs by Waller and Dustin Garrison, the Falcons held Fresno to just 10 yards on 15 carries. Kilton Anderson had an afternoon to forget, as well, as the redshirt freshman finished with a 14-39-177-0-1 line -- a 68.89 quarterback rating, for those keeping score at home, which rivals the overall lines from the 2014 season opener at USC and the Hawaii Bowl from that year.
The upside of the performance? At least the coaching staff didn't look tempted to bring Zack Greenlee into the game at any point, content to let Anderson throw his way out of trouble, even when the game had slipped well out of reach.
What does this mean going forward for the Academy? It's difficult to say. The Aztecs have vaulted to the top of the West division since their own dominant defensive showing against the 'Dogs, and Utah State had done more or less the same before their own stumble on Friday. San Jose State has been a mixed bag. What might be telling is that, for as powerful as the ground attack looked, the passing attack still looked shaky here and there, as Roberts floated most of his passes into subpar coverages.
Air Force (4-3, 3-1 Mountain West) makes a trip to the islands next week to face Hawaii on Halloween, while Fresno State (2-6, 1-4) heads back to Bulldog Stadium to play Nevada on November 5.