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Takeaways: Air Force can’t hold off a strong second half from Utah State

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The Aggies outscored the Falcons 36-21 in the second half on the back of a 448-yard passing performance.

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

Well, that wasn’t the same game we’ve seen between these two teams in the last few years. After a few Air Force beatdowns, it was — apparently — time for Utah State to come out on top.

Of course, I don’t think anyone expected the boat race that this Mountain West opener turned out to be. In fact, each team nearly covered the 54-point over/under on its own.

It was a game heavy on the points, yet light on the field goals, with just one Air Force try sailing through the uprights. It was a surprising passing performance out of Haaziq Daniels, who threw for 182 yards on just six completions. And, as always, it was a game that featured heaps of rushing yards from a Falcons offense that keeps finding hot hands.

Emmanuel Michel turned out to be the rushing leader this week, roaring to 133 yards and a pair of scores on just 11 touches. Brad Roberts didn’t find paydirt this week, though he turned his 21 attempts into 113 yards. Daniels himself also had a solid day on the turf, running for 95 yards and a score.

Air Force probably felt safe heading into halftime with its 24-13 lead, yet the Aggies found a way to explode coming out of the locker room. Logan Bonner cut the advantage to 24-20 with an early third-quarter touchdown pass, followed by a pair of Andrew Peasley passing scores to enter the final frame with Air Force up 38-34.

Haaziq Daniels gashed the Aggies with a 39-yard touchdown run to put the Falcons up 45-34 and give his team a 95.7% chance to win, according to ESPN. It turned out not to be enough, as Andrew Peasley connected on another 72-yard touchdown pass, and a long Utah State rush gave the Aggies their 49-45 victory.

Takeaways:

Offense continues to roll

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

If there’s one unit that did well on Saturday night, it was the offense. Haaziq Daniels and the gang put up 437 yards rushing and five touchdowns on a Utah State defense that has been holding opponents to 23.5 points per game. Daniels also showed his flexibility as a passer, connecting with Micah Davis four times and Kyle Patterson and David Cormier once.

Outside of an interception and a fumble lost, it didn’t look like there was any way to stop Air Force on its home turf. Even the soft bite from the turnover bug didn’t sink the Falcons’ chances.

Punting unit could have stayed home

We mentioned how much practice Charles Bein got in last week against Navy, but he could have nearly taken the day off if he wanted to. Perhaps this is all part of the offensive efficiency above, but there was almost no work for Bein and the rest of the punt crew. He kicked just twice, good for an average of 45 yards per punt. There aren’t any complaints here, no punting is the best punting.

New defensive questions

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

Sigh Well, it couldn’t all go perfectly, otherwise, Air Force would have ended the night with a sweet victory. Despite nine tackles from Vince Sanford and another seven from Ethan Erickson, the Falcons seemed to have no answer for Utah State in the second half. The Falcons struggled to stop the Aggies on third and fourth downs, allowing a 67% conversion rate on both counts.

A lone interception by Corvan Taylor was the only bright spot in the pass defense as well. Otherwise, the trio of Logan Bonner, Andrew Peasley, and Derek Wright had no trouble picking apart the Falcons for 448 yards through the air. Two Aggie receivers eclipsed the 100-yard mark, and five passing touchdowns are more than Air Force had given up combined through its first two games.

What’s next

Air Force has one last break from conference play as Florida Atlantic comes to town on Saturday, September 25. The game is slated to kick off at 8 p.m. ET, and Air Force is currently a 5-point favorite.