3:00 PM ET, November 20, 2004
Falcon Stadium, Usaf Academy, CO
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -- With nothing left to play for, Air Force put together its first complete game of the season.
Shaun Carney threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns, and Air Force scored four touchdowns in the second half to turn a close game into a 47-17 rout Saturday over Colorado State in the season finale for both teams.
"I told them that we ain't going nowhere and this game we don't have to worry about what if we don't do this and what if we don't do that, so let's just go out and play the game," Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said. "Our players really approached the game like that and went out and had fun like they were at the grammar school."
It was a stark contrast to the week before.
Needing to win against San Diego State to keep its streak of winning seasons alive, Air Force was tentative and tight, turning the ball over six times and allowing a blocked punt for the fourth time in three home games.
The pressure off in the season finale, the Falcons played as well on both sides of the ball as they had all season.
Anthony Butler and Adam Cole ran for two touchdowns apiece, and Air Force (5-6, 3-4 Mountain West) scored on seven of its first eight possessions to end a three-game losing streak to Colorado State. The Falcons also had a season-high 576 total yards and held the Rams scoreless in the second half.
The resounding victory against their instate rivals had to feel good to the Falcons after a disappointing season. Air Force finished with a losing record for the first time since 1993 and just the third time under DeBerry.
"Being the last game, it's kind of a bittersweet thing," said senior Dan Shaffer, who keyed Air Force's option with 52 hard yards from the fullback spot. "You always want to go out on top and I was really glad for me and my teammates that we were able to do that."
Colorado State (4-7, 2-5) had a big first half offensively, but couldn't keep it going in the second to close out its worst season since going 3-8 in 1991. The Rams had just 30 yards in the third quarter and were horrible defensively -- again -- giving up 373 yards rushing.
"Bottom line, we had to stop them and we didn't do that," Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick said.
After a surprisingly high-scoring first half in frigid conditions, Air Force pulled off another surprise by pulling away in the third quarter instead of wilting.
The Falcons had been outscored 102-48 during the third period in their first 10 games, but that trend didn't continue Saturday.
They went 80 yards on their first drive and capped it with Cole's 2-yard touchdown run, then pushed the lead to 34-17 on Carney's 5-yard touchdown pass to J.P. Waller after Colorado State failed on a fourth-and-3 from the Rams' 45.
Darnell Stephens scored on a 2-yard run early in the fourth quarter, and Cole added his second score midway through on a 2-yard run that put the Falcons up by 30.
"I thought in the first half we were down 21-17 and we felt we were still in the game if we could make an adjustment defensively to stop them," Lubick said. "But we had to make a stop and get some good field position offensively so we'd have a chance to score again and we didn't."
Snow was coming down sideways and the wind chill was 13 degrees at the start, and it only got colder as the game progressed. Neither team seemed to have much trouble with the conditions, particularly the quarterbacks.
Carney hit Stephens on a 31-yard pass on Air Force's first drive to set up Butler's 7-yard touchdown run, then found Waller for a 35-yard touchdown pass to put the Falcons up 14-10 early in the second quarter.
Carney also took the Falcons 80 yards for Butler's second touchdown, a 3-yard run with 4 seconds left that put Air Force up 21-17 at halftime. He was 6-for-12 for 123 yards in the first half -- more than he had in four games this season -- despite several drops by his receivers.
Carney finished 11-of-18 and ran for 93 yards on 17 carries.
Caleb Hanie completed his first eight passes and hit Kory Sperry on a 31-yard touchdown pass on Colorado State's first drive. He added a 30-yard completion to Marcus Houston late in the second quarter that set up Johnny Walker's 20-yard reverse for a 17-14 lead.
Hanie finished 17-for-27 for 229 yards, but was just 6-of-14 for 53 yards with an interception in the second half.
"It was jokingly said that their quarterback had never played in these conditions, but I thought their quarterback played very well and made a lot of good plays in the early part of the game," DeBerry said. "But I don't think they've had the bad weather up there in Fort Collins like we've had here."