It’s not entirely fair to call Friday night’s game against New Mexico a must-win for Air Force. However, after the month the Falcons had, it certainly felt like it was time for something to break their way.
And break the Falcons way it did, to the tune of a 28-0 victory at home over the lowly Lobos.
Both teams entered the contest looking for their first Mountain West win of the season, though they traveled very different roads to get to that point. We all know the Air Force story — two conference losses followed by a postponement against Army and a flat-out cancelation against Wyoming the week after. The Lobos, on the other hand, dropped three in a row away from home despite scoring 20 points each week.
Friday’s showdown couldn’t have started better for the Falcons if they tried. Air Force marched to three straight touchdown drives of 86-yards, 72-yards, and 66-yards to jump to a quick 21-0 lead.
Haaziq Daniels punched in the first score on the back of two Matthew Murla runs — one for 16-yards and the other for 25. After that, Brad Roberts took over on the ground, tallying the next two touchdowns in a row. The Lobos had their chance to get on the board late in the second quarter, but George Steinkamp’s 50-yard attempt couldn’t find the uprights.
As much as the first half played out to perfection, the second half got a bit rocky for Haaziq and the gang. Air Force punted their first possession away and then proceeded to fumble their next three possessions in a row before turning the ball over on downs. You might think that this gave New Mexico a chance to get back into the competition but no — George Steinkamp missed two more field goals and backup kicker Andrew Shelley missed an attempt of his own.
Air Force then took advantage of a New Mexico turnover on downs, and Brad Roberts completed his touchdown hat-trick with a 44-yard scamper on first down. Corvan Taylor put the final nail into the coffin as he picked off Trae Hall with just over four minutes left in the game. The Falcons bled the clock down to triple-zeros and made it back to .500 for the season. Best of all, Air Force’s social team put out this sweet graphic just in case you forget the score:
Bit by the fumble bug
When you run the ball 63 times per week, there are bound to be fumbles. It’s just a part of life. However, four fumbles in a single week is simply too many. Worse, the Falcons couldn’t come up with three of them. Haaziq Daniels put two on the turf, losing one, while Joshua Stoner and Matt Murla each lost their lone mistakes. This week’s mistakes put Air Force up to eight on the year, with five going to the other team.
New week, new leading rusher
The Falcons love to spread the ball around, so it’s not too surprising to see yet another name at the top of the rushing list. This week, Brad Roberts takes top honors with a whopping 177 yards on 28 carries and his aforementioned three touchdowns. Murla finished second on the team with seven totes for 64 yards — good for a 9.1 yard-per-carry average. Haaziq Daniels added 12 carries of his own for 55 yards and a score.
Yes Virginia, there is a passing game
Daniels didn’t just pitch in on the ground this week, he also showed that the Falcons can sling the rock as needed. He didn’t go off for 300-yards or anything, but a four-of-five day for 66 yards is nothing to scoff at. Especially when you’re dropping dimes like this one:
Which was better the pass or the catch? pic.twitter.com/DkfBynQfJX— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) November 21, 2020
A century for Coach Calhoun
Last of all, Friday’s win marked 100 victories for coach Troy Calhoun. Not much else to say other than it puts Calhoun at second all-time for Air Force career wins.