Air Force 45, Colorado St. 21

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Zack Kauth took two strips of white athletic tape and put them across his chest before kickoff Saturday so that quarterback Tim Jefferson could have a nice target.

"I made an X, and I put it right here on my jersey, and I said, `Hey, I'll make it real easy for you. Put the ball right here," Kauth recounted.

Jefferson did just that.

"I hit him in the chest a lot today," Jefferson said.

Well, only three times, but each one went for a touchdown.

Kauth's trio of TDs covered 33, 40 and 50 yards in Air Force's 45-21 rout of Colorado State on Saturday night that made the Falcons bowl eligible for a fifth straight year under coach Troy Calhoun.

Kauth, a senior who came into the game with just one TD this season, said his mother texted him Saturday morning saying, "I've never seen you score in person."

"So, I had to get at least one," said Kauth, whose previous career best was two TDs in a game -- against Colorado State last year.

Jefferson threw for 221 yards and contributed 38 of Air Force's 344 yards on the ground as Air Force piled up a season high 565 yards of total offense.

All three of his TD tosses to Kauth came in the second quarter, when the Falcons adjusted to an unconventional Rams defense and turned a 7-0 deficit into a 31-7 lead.

"I've never seen them do it like that," Falcons defensive back Jon Davis said of the Jefferson-Kauth connection

"It looked like a video game out there. They were putting on a clinic."

Jefferson thought so, too.

"Honestly, this is no offense to Colorado State, but if felt a little bit too easy," Jefferson said. "We drove the ball down the field way too easily against a D-I defense. So, I guess that's a tribute to how good our offense can play."

The Rams ditched their usual 4-3 defensive alignment for a front that included a nose guard, two tackles and two outside linebackers, but the Falcons quickly adjusted.

The Falcons (7-5, 3-4 Mountain West) were expected to have their best season under Calhoun but a spate of injuries left them battling for a bowl on their season finale instead. Their resounding win marked the first time in the program's history that Air Force has won seven or more games in five straight seasons.

The Rams (3-8, 1-5) lost their seventh straight game overall and their sixth in a row to the Falcons despite sophomore Chris Nwoke's career-best 269-yard rushing performance that included TD runs of 62 and 2 yards and came two weeks after his 232-yard game against San Diego State.

"It is a good feeling to get the yardage," Nwoke said, "but it is disappointing that we didn't get the win."

Asher Clark ran for 111 yards and a touchdown for the Falcons, who rolled downfield on the game's opening drive before linebacker Mychal Sisson punched the ball out of Jefferson's hands.

Linebacker Max Morgan recovered at the Colorado State 13, and the Rams then drove 87 yards and freshman Garrett Grayson hit Byron Steele with a 4-yard touchdown toss.

Colorado State would only gain 12 more yards the rest of the first half before trudging to the locker room down by 24 points thanks to Kauth's three receptions for 123 yards.

Air Force tied it on the first play of the second quarter when Kauth raced past cornerback Shaq Bell and hauled in a 33-yard TD throw from Jefferson, who was creamed by linebacker James Skelton.

"It was huge, because he got thumped," Calhoun said of Jefferson standing up to the rush.

"I didn't know he was coming until he hit me," Jefferson said. "It was completely from the blind side. As soon as I threw it, I got hit."

Kauth lined up on the left side on the Falcons' next drive, slipped past cornerback Momo Thomas and hauled in Jefferson's 40-yard touchdown toss in stride to put Air Force ahead for good.

Kauth's 50-yard TD catch made it 24-7.

"It was right on the money," Kauth said. "He left it fly."

Grayson, a freshman subbing for injured starter Pete Thomas (knee) scrambled for a big gain on the Rams' next drive but instead of sliding, he stayed standing as he was gang-tackled and lost the ball, his first of two fumbles that were recovered by the Falcons.

The Falcons, who responded to Nwoke's 62-yard TD with 3-yard touchdown runs by Mike DeWitt and Clark, now await a bowl bid.

"It means everything," Davis said. "We don't care who we play. We're just happy that football's not over for us yet."

The Rams host Wyoming next week in their quest to end their long losing skid dating to a 35-34 win at Utah State on Sept. 24. Coach Steve Fairchild has a year and $750,000 left on his contract and athletic director Paul Kowalczyk reiterated Saturday that he'll review his head football coach's status after the season.

Kowalczyk told The Associated Press that the NCAA's recommendation for $2,000 annual stipends for student athletes beginning in the next academic year would cost CSU about $300,000 in scholarship boosts but that would have no effect on his decision whether or not to stick with Fairchild.

Game notes
Air Force LB Jordan Waiwaiole suffered what appeared to be a serious injury to his right arm. ... Nwoke's 269 yards are the third-most by a Rams rusher and the most by any player in the 227 games played at Hughes Stadium.


Connect with AP Sports Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton


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