Football: Falcons outfight Irish, 41-24

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
U.S. Air Force Academy all-purpose dynamo Chad Hall rushed for 142 yards while quarterback Shaun Carney threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third as the Falcons manhandled the Fighting Irish, 41-24, before a sellout crowd of 80,795 and a national television audience Nov. 10 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.

The victory upped Air Force's first winning record since 2003 to 8-3, doubling its win total from a year ago, and gave a bright outlook for the Falcons to go to a post-season bowl game for the first time since the 2002 San Francisco Bowl.

Notre Dame fell to 1-9, its worst season in the 119-year history of the storied program.

"It was special for me, the team and our program to beat Notre Dame on their home turf," said Carney who grew up a Notre Dame fan in North Olmstead, Ohio. "It's something not many (Air Force) teams have done."

The Falcons are 6-22 all time against Notre Dame. Four of the wins have been in the Irish's back yard, normally one of the most imposing venues for visiting teams in any sport.

Air Force wasn't intimidated by its surroundings. It outplayed the Irish on both sides of the ball, and never trailed.

Defensively, the Falcons sacked Notre Dame freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen six times for 47 yards in losses. They limited Irish runners to 58 yards on 38 carries and forced two fumbles.

Air Force free safety Bobby Giannini striped the ball from the Notre Dame tight end on the first offensive play of the game. The turnover resulted in the first of two Ryan Harrison field goals, the first being a 19-yarder.

Then with 40 seconds left in the first quarter, linebacker John Rabold grabbed a fumble by the Notre Dame fullback out of the air and raced 19 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 Air Force lead after one quarter.

"I was on their tight end and saw the ball pop in the air and was able to get it," Rabold said. "I beat the quarterback to the end zone. Getting a touchdown on defense is a big thing."

Rabold tied teammate Aaron Shanor with a team-high nine tackles, six were solos. Rabold also had one of the sacks and added to his Mountain West Conference leading (12.5) tackles for losses with 2.5 tackles for 13 yards in losses.

Hall, who totaled 272 all-purpose (rushing, receiving and return) yards and Carney, who completed 10-of-16 passes for 120 yards, were the statistical leaders. But, their supporting cast keyed the game's decisive stretch.

The score was 10-10, with 1:09 left in the second quarter, when wide receiver Spencer Armstrong capped a seven-play, 66-yard drive with an 8-yard end around for a touchdown.

On the Falcons opening drive of the third quarter, wide receiver Sean Quintana hauled in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Carney to balloon the lead to two touchdowns.

And late in the third quarter, tight end Keith Madsen caught a 10-yard TD pass from Carney for what would be the eventual game winner at 31-10.

The Falcons offense logged 405 total yards to Notre Dame's 305, had 23 first downs to 19 for the Irish and won the time of possession battle 34:06 to 25:54. The Falcon offensive line did not allow a sack and yielded just four tackles for losses totaling a mere seven yards.

The Notre Dame loss marks the first time since 1944 the Irish dropped two military academy games in one season. The week before, Navy edged Notre Dame, 46-44, in triple overtime.

"We play with our heart every week. It's a complete team effort. That's always the way it's going to be at the Air Force Academy," said Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun. "It'll never be about a single player, coach or fan. We've got a bunch of people who love the Falcons."

Air Force wraps up its regular season Nov. 17 against San Diego State at Falcon Stadium. A win over the Aztecs not only could cement a post season bowl berth, but would give Air Force six MWC victories, the most conference wins in Falcon history. 

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