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Worthman and Hicks Spark Falcons 31-21 Comeback Win over Fresno State

Four interceptions by the Air Force defense and a spark from backup quarterback Arion Worthman after an injury to starting quarterback Nate Romine helped the Falcons squeak out a 31-21 victory.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Fresno State Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

An interception by Brodie Hicks in the end zone during the second quarter provided the Air Force Falcons signs of life for the first time in the game and helped the Falcons get some momentum as they would earn a hard fought 31-21 victory over a spirited and hungry Fresno State Bulldogs football team under interim coach Eric Kiesau. The Falcons improve to 5-3 overall and 2-3 in the Mountain West. The Bulldogs drop to 1-8 overall and 0-5 in Mountain West play.

Things started fast for a motivated Fresno State team as they would jump out to a 14-0 lead behind the passing of Chason Virgil, who would throw for 303 yards on the night and three touchdowns. Virgil would find dynamic wide receiver KeeSean Johnson twice on throws of 36 and 2 yards to help the Bulldogs dominate the first quarter and a half of the game. With the Fresno State offense deep in the Air Force red zone again threatening to extend their lead, Hicks interception in the end zone game Air Force temporary life. His second interception and return to near the fifty yard line would set up the first points of the night for the Falcons.

Nate Romine would find Ronald Cleveland on a wheel route and Cleveland would make three defenders miss to get into the end zone with under a minute left in the second quarter to help cut the lead to 14-7 going into the half. The Falcons would add a field goal early in the third quarter to make the game 14-10. The third Virgil interception on the night would come right after the field goal drive when senior linebacker Patrick Healy would come up with a pick-six from 35 yards out to give the Falcons 17 straight points and their first lead of the night.

Johnson and Virgil would respond right away with a beautiful pitch and catch for 52 yards over the trailing Weston Steelhammer to give momentum right back to Fresno and a 21-17 victory. At that point, bad luck would hit both Air Force and Fresno State on the very same play.

Romine would have his ankle rolled on an outside keeper that would see him exit the game for the night. Romine’s ankle being rolled would set the stage for sophomore quarterback Arion Worthman to enter the game and capture the spotlight. Fresno State defensively had executed a very good game plan of making Romine beat them on the evening. However, that game plan would not work against the quicker and more elusive Worthman, who would run for 102 yards and two touchdowns in his quarter and a half of playing time. Worthman’s running would completely change the tone of the game and proved to be the biggest difference for the Falcons, who would end the night with 327 yards rushing and a much needed win to end a three-game losing streak.

Air Force will now be heading east to West Point to try and capture the Commander-in-Chief Trophy while Kiesau will try to build on a disappointing but promising start to his head coaching duties when the Bulldogs travel to face Colorado State in Fort Collins.