The New Mexico Lobos outplayed the Air Force Falcons for most of the night and withstood a Falcons comeback attempt late in the third quarter for a key 47-35 victory Saturday night in Albuquerque.
For most of the first half, it was New Mexico looking like the team that was playing for home field advantage in the Mountain West Championship game, as they dominated the line of scrimmage and took advantage of every Air Force mistake. The Falcons twice in the fourth quarter cut the lead to one score, but the Lobos answered every time. And when Karson Roberts threw his third interception of the night with a little over two minutes left in the game, the Lobos sealed the win and improved their record to 7-5 overall. Air Force drops their record to 8-4 with a match-up next week against San Diego State in the conference championship game.
With three minutes left in the game, Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun, who had all three time outs, made the questionable decision to go with the onside kick. New Mexico recovered the kick, ran it back about fifteen yards and then moved the ball half the distance to the goal line when Jalen Robinette was called for a late hit. On the next play, Jhurell Pressley would score his third touchdown of the night to up the score to 47-35 and seal the upset victory.
New Mexico had a brilliant drive after their defense got them the ball back with a little over 10 minutes left in the game. Lobos quarterback Lamar Jordan spurred the drive with some keepers off the option, with a 23 yard run setting up New Mexico with a goal line opportunity. On second and goal, Jordan would keep the ball on a speed option and put the Lobos up for good 40-28.
For Air Force, sophomore running back Timothy McVey was the star of the game as he would account for five touchdowns, two rushing and two receiving, and 262 yards total offense. He rambled through the Lobos defense for long touchdowns of 75 and 61 yards. McVey has only recently started playing significant minutes for the Falcons. He has taken advantage of injuries to fullbacks D.J. Johnson and Shayne Davern which has forced Jacobi Owens into the fullback spot for Air Force. McVey capped off his scoring night with a 56 yard reception that cut the lead with three minutes to go to 40-35.
The Falcons were able to get the game to 34-28 when safety Weston Steelhammer picked off a floated pass by New Mexico quarterback Lamar Jordan. The junior safety returned the ball nine yards and gave Air Force the ball deep in Lobos territory. McVey would score his fourth touchdown of the game when Roberts found him over the top of the defense for a 26 yard touchdown.
New Mexico gashed the Falcons defense in the first half using huge plays that helped them account for 31 points in the half as compared to only 14 for their opponent. Pressley gutted the Air Force defense for touchdown runs of 57 and 75 yards in the first quarter. In the second quarter, it was Richard McQuarley who found the end zone twice from 16 and 44 yards away to help the Lobos really exert their dominance in the first half. Going into halftime, it looked like the Lobos were going to cruise to an easy victory as they outplayed and out executed the Falcons.
Air Force now waits for the final computer decision to see who host the Mountain West Championship game next Saturday. Going into the game, Air Force had a sizeable lead in the computer, but with the loss they wait to see the outcome of the San Diego State vs. Nevada game. As for New Mexico, they will now wait until December 6th to officially see which bowl game attached to the Mountain West will choose them as a conference representative.