Football: Bowl-bound Falcons dominate regular season finale

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • U. S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Air Force put an exclamation point on its 2007 regular season renaissance by humbling San Diego State, 55-23, before 34,227 boisterous fans Nov. 17 at the Academy's Falcon Stadium.

The bluesuiters erupted for 670 yards in total offense, third most in the program's history, including 569 rushing. For the first time since 1988, the Falcons sported three runners who each gained more than 100 yards in the same game.

Jim Ollis ran for a career-high 163 yards and two touchdowns, Chad Hall scampered for 151 yards and two scores and Ty Paffett had a career game with 107 yards and three touchdowns, one a 73-yarder which was the eventual game winner.

The offensive show capped a regular-season campaign that saw Air Force finish 9-3 overall. Its 6-2 Mountain West Conference record is its best ever after nine years in the league. The Falcons went undefeated at home, 6-0, for the first time since 1998 and for only the third time in Academy history. The turnaround followed three straight losing seasons.

The win made Air Force a lock in the post-season bowl picture for the first time since 2002 when the Falcons appeared in the San Francisco Bowl.

Although officials of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl will make the official announcement later in November, Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun confirmed at the post-game news conference the Academy has been invited to represent the MWC in the Dec. 31 game in Fort Worth, Texas.

"That's the way it was conveyed to us," Calhoun said when told the bowl committee had made up its mind to pick the Falcons. "We're going to get the opportunity to play a pretty good football team."

San Diego State (4-6, 3-3 MWC) was a pretty good football team early, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter before they self-destructed.

Falcon linebacker John Rabold recovered an Aztec fumble and two plays later Ollis raced for a 54-yard touchdown to tie the game.

On SDSU's next possession Air Force free safety Bobby Giannini intercepted a Kevin O'Connell pass. Two plays later Paffett's 4-yard touchdown gave the Falcons their first lead, 14-7, after one quarter.

The back-to-back turnovers and subsequent touchdown drives took a combined 41 seconds and completely shifted momentum to Air Force which snowballed from that point.

"The turnovers and the response to the turnovers were key plays," Calhoun said. "They were huge."

Of the eight Falcon touchdown drives, seven took less than 3-minutes to complete.

Engineering the efficient offense was quarterback Shaun Carney, who rushed for 77 yards and completed 8-of-14 passes for 101 yards.

"When we started to push the tempo, they were really sucking oxygen (at altitude)," Carney said. "That's when we knew we could keep going. Those drives were short but there were a lot of running plays so we didn't let the play clock run. The guys up front did a great job controlling the line of scrimmage."

While the offensive line did their part, Hall, whose superior play this season had fans chanting for him as a Heisman Trophy candidate, was happy to share the day's spotlight with Ollis, Paffett and company.

"At the beginning they were keying on me a little bit," said Hall who logged 271 all-purpose yards. "We've got so many people on this team that can make plays. I'm glad they showed it. Everyone played well."

Playing a bowl game in Texas will be a homecoming for many of the Falcons. Twenty-five players on the roster were recruited from the lonestar state. Only North Carolina has as many as 10 on the team.

"Playing in a post-season game is huge for our program," Calhoun said. "Those are extra practice days. Morale-wise it means something, especially for our younger guys and the cadet wing. I've got a feeling we're going to have a bunch of Air Force fans and graduates there.

The Academy Athletic Department sent a letter to Air Force supporters asking them to show their Falcon pride by purchasing bowl game tickets by calling (800) 666-USAF (8723) or online at

Amid the hoopla of the Falcons bounce back season, Hall put it into perspective.

"It's unreal, to see Air Force men and women overseas know who we are and cheer for us," Hall said. "When they're fighting and we win it does boost their morale. I've heard it first hand. There's nothing I want to do more than win for them. We'll represent the conference and everyone in the armed forces well. We go out every week, not just for us, but for them." 

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