Up to this point in the season, the Falcons had used a familiar script to achieve a solid 6-1 record; that is to get a couple quick scores on the board and rely on ball control and the defense to keep the opponent at arms length the rest of the way. Unfortunately, that pattern was blown up on the third play of the game when Aztec linebacker Dallas Branch made a leaping one-handed interception of a Haziiq Daniels pass and returned it to the Falcon 9 yard line. The Falcon defense stood up the Aztec offense and forced a field goal, but All-World kicker Matt Araiza converted to make it 3-0 just 2 minutes 34 seconds into the game.
After an exchange of punts (41 yards for the Falcons, 81 yards for Araiza), on second down Micah Davis broke into the open behind the Aztec defense, but unfortunately, Daniels’ pass hit him right in the hands and the pass fell incomplete.
On the next drive, the Falcons faced a fourth and one at midfield in a situation that is normally automatic for Air Force. DT Keyshawn Banks made the decision to try to anticipate the snap and jumped early. He guessed right and made the tackle untouched by any Falcon. It was a heads up move; there was little downside if he got called for offside. He tried it later in the game and got called for the offside.
The great field position led to a touchdown for the Aztecs after a 12 play, 42 yard drive.
Again on the very next drive, the Falcons lost a fumble on their own side of the field, which led to a field goal after a 7 play, 12 yard drive.
The second half was marked by a back injury to Haaziq Daniels, a collarbone injury to Micah Davis, and an unspecified injury to Brad Roberts. Losing their top three players ended up helping the Falcons as backup QB Warren Bryan, WR Dane Kinnamon, and FB Omar Fattah led the team on two touchdown drives.
However, the Falcons couldn't quite make up the deficit after a fourth down conversion was called back due to an illegal block with close to 2 minutes left on the clock.
It’s a very simple conclusion for this game.
San Diego State made the three big defensive plays of the game, the interception, the fumble recovery, and the fourth down stop.
Air Force had a touchdown pass dropped early in the game and picked up a penalty (one of only three on the day) that stopped what could have been a game winning drive in the last minutes of the game.
The Falcons now have a bye week to recuperate from some injuries before the deciding game for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy against Army. The performance of the second and third string players has been truly impressive this year, and even if some of the players don’t make it back onto the field for the Army game, I’m sure the Falcons will be able to take the attack to the Black Knights.