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Takeaways: Air Force finds winning ways, tops Colorado State 35-21

The Falcons never trailed during their 500-yard offensive explosion.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Colorado State Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t the most coveted prize of the year, but the Ram-Falcon trophy is headed to Colorado Springs.

Air Force finally shook off its two-game skid, putting Colorado State away with a dominant rushing performance. This is the nation’s number one rushing attack that we’ve expected from the Falcons, and the gains came from all angles.

Both Brad Roberts and DeAndre Hughes eclipsed the 100-yard mark, with Hughes taking just eight attempts to do so. Before we get into the takeaways, here’s how it all played out:

The Falcons wasted no time shutting the Rams down early, forcing a quick three and out to take the ball at their 23-yard line. Haaziq Daniels guided the offense down the field on a fast, five-play drive that ended with a 16-yard touchdown scamper by John Lee Eldridge III.

Milton (Tre) Bugg III then picked off Colorado State’s Todd Centeio to set the Falcons up with a short field at the Rams’ 42-yard line. Air Force slowed things down with seven Brad Roberts runs before Roberts punched in a 6-yard score on 4th and 1 for the 14-0 advantage.

Both squads traded punts before Colorado State found paydirt on a 15-yard Centeio keeper to cut the deficit in half. The Falcons’ next possession looked doomed from the start, as a couple of penalties had them in 1st and 27 from their 8-yard line. Then, Haaziq Daniels decided to show off his arm, unleashing a 92-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Lewis — his only catch of the day.

Colorado State responded with its own 14-play, 75-yard slog down the field that cut 5:01 off the clock before David Bailey ran for a 1-yard score. The teams traded punts once again, and a missed Matthew Dapore field goal try saw the halftime score stay at 21-14.

After halftime, Air Force and Colorado State traded touchdown drives, with the Falcons taking 7:09 to march down the field. Haaziq Daniels hit Dane Kinamon on a 20-yard touchdown pass — his second of the day. The Rams started their ensuing possession from near midfield, taking less than two minutes to reach the endzone. Bailey scored his second of the day, but it wouldn’t be enough.

Air Force launched another slow, methodical drive that drained nearly six minutes from the clock before Brad Roberts punched in his second score of the day. The trading continued, this time with Trey Taylor picking off Centeio, followed by Robert Floyd taking one away from Haaziq Daniels. This time, the Rams could not turn their possession into points, and the Falcons killed the remaining eight minutes, yes, eight minutes with a 15-play, 60-yard drive to the Colorado State 15-yard line.

Now, for some takeaways:

Offensive explosion

NCAA Football: Air Force at Colorado State Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Things had not gone well for the Falcons in the last two weeks. They were effectively shut down by both San Diego State and Army, despite leading the Black Knights in just about every statistical category.

Not this week.

The collective Air Force rushing attack put together 388 yards behind a combined 259 from Roberts and Hughes. Haaziq Daniels even connected on 4-11 passing attempts for 121 yards and two scores. All told, the Falcons put up 509 yards of offense while allowing just 308. Also, Air Force totaled 69 rushing attempts — nice.

Back on track

NCAA Football: Air Force at Colorado State Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Air Force saw one loss turn into two when it fell to Army in overtime. Both games played out in eerily similar ways — an early hole followed by a comeback that fell just short. This week, the Falcons dictated the proceedings, grabbing an early touchdown and never looking back.

Air Force established its running game yet found room to air out the passing attack and twice put together back-to-back touchdown drives. Although the Falcons allowed 21 points to the Rams, the offense returning to its early-season form kept the David Bailey scores from mattering too much.

All-around defensive effort

NCAA Football: Air Force at Colorado State Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The defense may have bent a bit at times on Saturday night, but it refused to break. Air Force racked up 77 total tackles with 21 solo efforts, and Camby Goff topped the list with 10 total tackles. Trey Taylor and Tre Bugg finished with 8 and 7 stops, respectively, to go along with their interceptions.

The Falcons strung together a single combined sack with three tackles for loss, even when Alec Mock and Vince Sanford saw themselves kept mostly in check.

What’s next?

The Falcons will head to Nevada’s Mackay Stadium for a late-night showdown against the Wolf Pack. Kickoff isn’t scheduled until 9:00 p.m. ET, and ESPN’s FPI currently favors Nevada with a 65.6% chance to win. Both teams enter with a 7-3 record and a 4-2 mark in the Mountain West.