We knew this would be Air Force’s toughest test before the two teams took the field on Saturday night. San Diego State’s stalwart running defense was going to be by far the best that the Falcons faced.
Unfortunately, the immovable object triumphed over the unstoppable force this time around.
Things got off to a bad start when Haaziq Daniels threw an interception to Dallas Branch on his first attempt of the night. The Falcons then held the Aztecs to a field goal on the ensuing drive. San Diego State then added a Kaegun Williams touchdown and another field goal attempt to take a 13-0 lead into halftime.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any Air Force highlights to mention from the first two quarters, as two drives ended in punts, one ended with Daniels’ pick, the Falcons turned the ball over on downs, and DeAndre Hughes lost a fumble after a catch from Daniels.
San Diego State came out after halftime and put another touchdown on the board, sinking the Falcons into a 20-0 hole. Haaziq Daniels got one more crack at the Aztecs, though his night ended after they once again stalled and were forced to punt.
Air Force found its lone bright spot, as Warren Bryan stepped in under center and led the Falcons to consecutive touchdown drives. He connected with Dalton King for a 13-yard passing score, and Dane Kinamon punched in a three-yard score on the ground in one of just three rushing attempts on the night.
Given one last chance to make something happen, Warren Bryan found Brandon Lewis on a 14-yard pass as the Falcons faced 4th and 7, but a chop block penalty saw the first down wiped off the board. San Diego State ran out the clock, handing Air Force its second loss of the season.
Winning the yardage battle
While the recap may read as if Air Force was stomped by San Diego State, the Falcons actually outgained the Aztecs on the night. Lucas Johnson completed 11-of-13 passes for San Diego State, though he put up just five more yards than Bryan and Daniels combined.
On the ground, Haaziq Daniels tied the Aztec’s leading rusher, Chase Bell, with 50 yards. In total, ten Falcons combined for 192 yards rushing while San Diego State put together 157 yards on the night. Perhaps the biggest problem was that Brad Roberts struggled to get going, recording just 27 yards on seven attempts.
The early Haaziq Daniels interception turned out to be an omen of issues to come for the Falcons. Three of Air Force’s first five drives ended in a turnover of some sort before they cleaned up the act in the second half. Daniels added a fumble to the stat sheet, as did DeAndre Hughes, and the Aztecs managed to turn all three turnovers into points.
Struggling with long fields
Air Force’s offense was rife with issues on Saturday night, and its starting field position didn’t help matters. The Falcons started precisely one drive beyond their own 25-yard line, a drive in which they managed to score a touchdown. Otherwise, Air Force started inside the 15 following most San Diego State punts, and every kickoff resulted in a touchback.
The Falcons forced the Aztecs into a 4th and 4 situation at SDSU’s own 7-yard line, only for Matt Araiza to boot an 81-yard monster of a punt and force the Falcons to start from their own 12. Araiza followed it up with a 67-yard punt in the third quarter, though the Falcons were lucky to see it sail out of bounds at their 43-yard line.
The Falcons have a much-deserved break this week. Air Force is next in action against Army on November 6 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. If that sounds odd, it’s because Globe Life Park is the home of the MLB’s Texas Rangers. Either way, the CiC trophy is on the line, and Army is already in the middle of a three-game losing streak.