2:00 PM ET, September 30, 2006
Falcon Stadium, UNITED STATES AF ACA, CO
After rolling to a 24-7 win over the Lobos, the Falcons immediately turned their attention to Navy, which visits Falcon Stadium next week.
Air Force (2-1, 1-0 Mountain West) annually counts as its top goal winning the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy that the Midshipmen have in their possession. The trophy, awarded to the top service academy, had gone to Air Force 13 times in 14 seasons before the Midshipmen won it the last three years.
"That's not going to be hard, I guarantee you," Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said of forgetting all about the good things the Falcons did Saturday. "We had that thing for a long time and Navy feels like it belongs to them now."
Air Force quarterback Shaun Carney said he starting thinking about Navy when time ran out on the Lobos.
"It's really easy to put this behind us and not savor it because we've got a team that we haven't beat in three years and we've got to get these seniors back to Washington, D.C." for a White House visit, Carney said. "As soon as that clock hit 0:00 tonight, everybody knows who's next."
Many of his teammates didn't even wait that long to set their sights on Navy.
"It's hard not to think about it coming out of that third quarter and the crowd talking about, 'We want Navy!" linebacker Drew Fowler said. "It's on. It really is."
The win over the Lobos (2-3, 0-1) was a nice tuneup.
With fellow fullback Jacobe Kendrick leaving the game with an apparent shoulder injury after a 24-yard gain in the first quarter, Ryan Williams ran for 94 yards and a touchdown. Air Force had three scoring drives of less than 30 yards and the Falcons outgained New Mexico 262-41 on the ground, which kept the offense in safe mode all afternoon.
"We didn't really have to throw the ball like we expected to," said Carney, who was 3-of-5 for 19 yards.
Trailing 14-7, the Lobos went for first down on fourth-and-inches at the Falcons 41 late in the third quarter, but quarterback Chris Nelson's sneak came up about an inch shy of the first-down marker.
"That was the momentum changer of the game," Lobos coach Rocky Long said.
In the span of 54 seconds, the Falcons put the Lobos away.
Senior Zach Sasser kicked a career-long 48-yard field goal to make it 17-7 with 12:53 left. Then, Glover Quin flubbed Sasser's kickoff, which was recovered by the Falcons' Aaron Kirchoff at the Lobos 20. Three plays later, Williams took it in from 2 yards out for a 24-7 lead.
Sasser might still have been relishing his field goal, which would have been good from 60-plus, because he hit it flat and low.
"When I saw it corkscrewing through the air, my first thought was, 'Aw, man. I can't believe I did that," Sasser said. "But then when I saw him come to field it, because those knuckleballs are hard to field, I was thinking, 'Man, that's probably not a good idea."
The ball hit Quin's shin at the goal line and ricocheted 20 yards.
Falcons free safety Julian Madrid, who had two sacks, intercepted Nelson's pass at the Air Force 3 with 3½ minutes left to ice it.
The Falcons capitalized on two costly mistakes by the Lobos to take a 14-7 halftime lead.
Air Force jumped ahead 7-0 on Carney's 3-yard keeper less than three minutes into the game after cornerback Chris Sutton's recovery of Rodney Ferguson's fumble at the New Mexico 15.
After the Lobos lost 14 yards on a fumbled option, taking them out of field goal range, Air Force wing back Chad Hall took a pitch from Carney and ran 38 yards for a 14-0 lead.
Ferguson atoned for his early mistake by taking a screen pass from Nelson 58 yards for the score that trimmed the Falcons' lead to 14-7 and briefly quieted the crowd enjoying the Falcons' latest home opener since the 1959 team opened at home on Oct. 10 against Idaho.
"We overcame that first turnover and made it a close game," Long said after the Lobos' lowest output against Air Force since a 10-6 loss in 1973. "But then we didn't get that first down and turned the ball over on the kickoff. Any time you turn the ball over that deep in your own territory, it makes it hard to recover."
And any time Navy's on deck, it makes Saturday easy for the Falcons to forget.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||3-12||9-16|
|4th Down Conversions||3-4||0-0|
|TD||12:18||SHAUN CARNEY 3 YD RUN (ZACH SASSER KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 15 yards.
|TD||14:26||CHAD HALL 38 YD RUN (ZACH SASSER KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 77 yards.
|TD||12:36||RODNEY FERGUSON 58 YD PASS FROM CHRIS NELSON (KENNY BYRD KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 73 yards.
|FG||12:53||ZACH SASSER 48 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 29 yards.
|TD||11:59||RYAN WILLIAMS 2 YD RUN (ZACH SASSER KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 20 yards.