Falcons shut out Lobos 42-0

  • Published
  • By John Van Winkle
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Falcon football got back to its winning ways with a 42-0 shutout of the University of New Mexico Lobos Oct. 29 here.

The U.S. Air Force Academy Falcons left defenders in the dust from their first touch of the football, when defensive back Jon Davis returned the first Lobo punt for 40 yards to give the Falcons' offense a short field on their first possession.

Senior quarterback Tim Jefferson spread the ball around to lead the Falcons downfield in eight plays and set them up for the score at the 1-yard line.

But that score was anything but a highlight moment. On a quarterback keeper, Jefferson stretched the ball out to break the plane of the end zone, but a New Mexico defender knocked it free. However, junior tight end Austin Briehl recovered the ball for his first career touchdown on what was his first time with the ball this season.

Air Force came back on the series, in the first act of what became the Mike DeWitt show. DeWitt, the 6-foot-1-inch, 220-pound starting fullback, plowed ahead for positive yardage between the center and guards. He scored his first of four touchdowns on a 4-yard dive and a 5-play drive.

"He's evolved as a runner and is getting better with every game," said senior guard A.J. Wallerstein.

The Lobos' defense didn't make its first stop until the top of the second quarter. Forced to punt, Falcon punter David Baska booted the ball directly to Lobo kick returner, Ty Kirk, who muffed the fair catch. Mikel Hunter recovered the ball in a pile at the 24, giving the Falcons another possession and excellent field position.

On the next play from scrimmage, Jefferson ran the ball to the left side for 12 yards and got a bloody nose for his efforts. That sent him to the sideline, and in came backup quarterback Connor Dietz. On the next play, Dietz handed off to DeWitt, who carried it in for the touchdown. The 18-second scoring drive put the Falcons up 21-0.

Dietz stayed in at quarterback, finishing the day with 87 yards and a touchdown on six carries.

"The opportunity presented itself for me to carry the ball and help this team, so that's what I did," Dietz said. "We had to come in and get back to our fundamentals, play good Air Force football and come away with a win."

Dietz did just that, leading the offense and not missing a beat. He took the defense down the field to set up Dewitt's third score of the day, this time from only one yard out. Herrington made the Falcons' lead 28-0.

The Air Force defense added to the overall effort when Jon Davis intercepted a tipped Lobo pass and returned it 22 yards. That gave the Falcons offense the ball at the Lobos' 41-yard-line.

The Lobos held firm for two plays, putting the Falcons in a third and 8. Dietz took the snap and dropped back in the pocket to pass, read the coverage and took off up the middle. He made a clean getaway from the line and ran untouched into the end zone for another Falcons touchdown, putting Air Force up 35-0 going into the half.

DeWitt added to the Falcons' score at the start of the fourth quarter with a 1-yard dive up the middle for his fourth touchdown of the day. Kicker Erik Soderberg added the extra point to make it 42-0 Air Force.

The Lobos had one final drive, but the Falcons' defense held them on third down and forced the field goal attempt. That attempt went wide right, securing the shutout.

But the game was not without cost. Aside from Jefferson's bloody nose, another injury hit the defense. On the Lobos' third offensive series, Falcons defensive end Harry Kehs went down with a shoulder injury after tackling a running back and did not return to the game.

"We're going to find out how severe that is over the next 24 hours," said Falcons head football coach Troy Calhoun.

The Falcons defense has been riddled with injuries this season, with all the defensive line starters losing time to injury. This was defensive tackle Ryan Gardner's first game back from injury, but with Kehs going out, that left two freshmen starting at defensive end.

The win over New Mexico moves the Air Force season record to 4-4 and preserves the team's bowl chances. Because the Falcons have played two football subdivision teams this season, they must achieve a 7-5 record to be bowl eligible. Their remaining opponents have a combined record of 10-16: Army (2-5), University of Wyoming (4-2), University of Nevada, Las Vegas (1-5) and Colorado State (3-4).

Next up for the Falcons is Army in a game that could decide the home of the Commander In Chief's trophy for the next year.

"They're a big rival, and it's always good to beat a rival, Wallerstein said. "Even more when it's another service academy."

A win against Army on Nov. 5 would secure the trophy for Air Force outright. Army could win the trophy by defeating both Air Force and Navy, a feat it last accomplished in 1996.

"Next Saturday is a completely new challenge, and we'll begin work on that this Monday," said Calhoun.

Kickoff of the Air Force-Army game is 1:30 p.m. Mountain time at Falcon Stadium in Colorado. The game will be telecast nationally by CBS.