In what was very nearly a revenge game victory for Colorado State force the Air Force Falcons to rally late for what turned into a big victory. In a first quarter that saw the Falcons team look like they expected another bye, post the first 15 minutes of the game coach Calhoun was able to rouse his team for an inspiring win giving the team their best record since 2014.
The CSU offense in the first half could do very little wrong, at times it seemed as though the universe was on the side of the Rams who entering the night needed two victories to qualify for bowl season in December, despite their best efforts they will have to win out the ret of the season to claim that honor. The game began with the Falcons defense still showing their weakness in the secondary as a couple of play action passes had the Rams well into Air Force territory, capped off by a 4 yard throwback screen from Patrick O’Brien to his tight end Trey McBride. That early offensive effort would be followed up by a defensive scoop and score of 63 yards by linebacker Mohamed Kamara. In the span of 12 minutes to that point Air Force found themselves on the verge of not only losing to a team they were better than, but being blown out by a rival as well.
Then in the second quarter the Air Force Offense took flight in a very literal sense as DJ Hammond III finished a 65 yard drive with a 31 yard pass to wide receiver Ben Waters to cut the deficit in half. The Falcons were now wide awake and fighting off both embarrassment and the week of unexpected rest grante to them the week before. The final scoring play of the half came off of the foot of Air Force’s all time leading scorer Jake Koehnke booted a 31 yard field goal to make the score 14-10 at half.
The third quarter was an old school defensive battle as neither offense was able to move the ball much farther than ten yards. Then the dam finally broke early in the fourth as Geraud Sanders caught a 51 yard touchdown from Hammond for the falcons to take their first lead of the game with just over 13 minutes to play in the game. After another defensive stand the Falcons offense capitalized, again through the air, as Hammond found Waters for the receiver’s second score of the day and Hammond’s third. With 7 to go in the game Air Force now held a ten point lead at 24-14. CSU would continue to fight as on the following drive O’Brien found his receiver Dante Wright, a true freshman, from 17 yards out for a Rams touchdown, in the late stages of the game the lead had now been cut to 3. Hammond would respond by leading a 75 yard drive where he finished it off with his fourth score, this time a 1 yard rush, to make the score 31-21 and put the pressure solely on the backs of the CSU offense who had been held in check since their big first drive. Though a spotty performance by the defense and will need to improve as the regular season comes to an end they did have a defining game clinching play to end the game effectively as Zane Lewis intercepted a pass on teh goal line then returned it 99 yards for the final score of the game. Final score Air Force 38, CSU 21.
The final score indicative of the rivalry between these two teams, also leaves plenty of concern as the Falcons move forward in their schedule. The defensive secondary minus the one big play at the end of the game still looked lost as the Rams’ O’brien was abel to total 346 yards in the air and two touchdowns. Once the team seemingly woke up and remembered they were playing a game the talent difference between the two schools showed, this will be a good lesson moving forward as now Air Force will be traveling the Albuquerque to play the Lobos of New Mexico university. New Mexico, coming off a 42-9 loss at Boise State, did not look like themselves following the terrible tragedy they suffered just a couple of weeks ago. Air Force will still need to take this game seriously as it will be a good experience and keep them on the right track to finish the season hosting a very tough Wyoming Cowboys team and continue their great season. As stated earlier in this piece Air Force now 8-2 overall (5-1, Mountain West) is the best record since 2014 and still have a path to the conference championship if Boise were to slip up the next two weeks on the road at Utah State and then at CSU. Either way the Falcons still need to handle their business and see what bowl game they get an invitation to, but so far this has been a very successful year for the Falcons.