U.S. Air Force Academy linebacker Patrick Hennessey and defensive back Josh Hall break up a pass intended for Colorado State University wide receiver Thomas Coffman Nov. 26, 2011, in Fort Collins, Colo. The Academy defense limited CSU to only 125 yards receiving and earned its seventh win of the season by beating CSU 45-21. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle)
U.S. Air Force Academy running back Asher Clark makes a cut Nov. 26, 2011, during a game against Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. The senior carried 13 times for 111 yards and one touchdown and broke 1,000 yards for his second straight season as the Falcons beat CSU 45-21. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle)
U.S. Air Force Academy quarterback Tim Jefferson hands off to running back Asher Clark during a game against Colorado State University Nov. 26, 2011, in Fort Collins, Colo. The pair of seniors led the Academy's rushing game that ran 49 times for 344 yards and three touchdowns as the Air Force Academy beat CSU 45-21. (U.S. Air Force Photo/ John Van Winkle)
U.S. Air Force Academy wide receiver Zach Kauth pulls in his first touchdown of the night while falling in the end zone to put the Academy up 14-7 during a game against Colorado State University Nov. 26, 2011, in Fort Collins, Colo. The Falcons beat CSU 45-21. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle)
by Leslie Finstein
U.S. Air Force Academy, Public Affairs
11/26/2011 - FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- The Air Force Academy Falcons soared to a 45-21 victory on a cold Saturday night here against the Rams of Colorado State University.
Saturday's win brings the Falcons to 7-5-0 overall for the 2011 season and bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive year. This is also the first time in school history that the Falcons have had five consecutive seven-plus win seasons.
The Academy moves to 30-19-1 all-time against CSU. The Ram-Falcon trophy, awarded to the winner of this front-range rivalry, will remain in Colorado Springs for the sixth straight year.
In the first quarter, Air Force moved quickly up the field on their first drive only to lose possession after a fumble in CSU territory. The Rams then went on a twelve-play, 87-yard drive to score their first opening drive touchdown since Sept. 10 of this year.
The game started to turn around for the Falcons after the defense made a key stop late in the first quarter with a sack by linebacker Alex Means. Means leads the team in sacks this year.
Quarterback Tim Jefferson led the Falcons on a 2:30, five-play, 73-yard drive that led to a touchdown on a 33-yard reception by wide receiver Zach Kauth, early in the second quarter.
After that the Falcons defense got rolling, keeping the Rams off the score board for the rest of the half.
Jefferson connected with Kauth two more times, on 40- and 50-yard passes respectively, giving the senior wide receiver his first 100-yard game of his career and his first three-touchdown game.
Almost exactly five minutes after the second Jefferson-to-Kauth touchdown, kicker Parker Harrington tacked on three more points with a 22-yard field goal.
Air Force went into halftime up 31-7 on a 12-yard rushing touchdown from junior running back Cody Getz, his first touchdown this season.
The second quarter was the third highest squaring quarter for the Falcon's this season and ties as the third most in school history.
"We hit a couple of big plays, the two throws to Zach Kauth were huge," said Air Force Academy Head Football Coach Troy Calhoun about the second quarter. "And the defense, I thought we were as stout as could be."
Kauth's three touchdown catchs in a single game were not only a career high, it also made him just the fifth player in school history to do so and the first Falcon to do it since Steve Hoog against Vanderbilt in 1977.
Air Force senior running back Asher Clark ran for 69 yards in the first half which put him over 1,000 yards rushing on the season. Clark is the third player for Air Force ever to go over 1,000 yards twice in their career and the second player ever to do it in back-to-back seasons.
In the second half, CSU scored on a run by sophomore running back Chris Nwoke making the score 31-14, Air Force. Nwoke had over 200 yards rushing in the game, giving him over 1,000 on the season. Nwoke is the seventh player in CSU history to break 1,000 yards as a sophomore or younger.
"He's good," said Calhoun of Nwoke. "He's powerful, hard to tackle, and there were times that he hit us."
Air Force responded quickly to CSU's score with a rushing touchdown by junior running back Mike Dewitt. Air Force took a 38-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
Clark went over 100 yards rushing for the game, capping off a touchdown drive for the Falcons early in the fourth quarter, putting Air Force up 45-14.
Late in the fourth quarter, CSU's Nwoke got a second rushing touchdown to cap off an 11-play, 80-yard drive. Nwoke ran for over 260 yards in the game. That would be the last scoring drive of the game. Jefferson took a knee to close out the Air Force victory.
Asher Clark finished the game with 111 yards, 33-yards shy of setting the all-time Academy rushing yards record held by Dee Dowis (1986-89). Now that the Falcons are bowl-eligible, Clark could have one more opportunity to overtake Dowis.
With four bowls berths up for grabs for the Mountain West conference and five bowl-eligible teams (TCU, Boise State, Wyoming, San Diego State and Air Force), the Falcons could find themselves on the outside looking in.
This season, Mountain West teams are in consideration for the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 17; the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 21; the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22; and the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., on Dec. 26.
Bowl selections are not automatic, and are often affected as much by geography and economics, as they are by a team's record and the number of fans they historically draw to away contests. When it comes time for each respective bowl committee to examine their options, a local team that can fill more seats can often be the most attractive team to invite to a bowl, instead of selecting the team with the best available record.
Air Force has an advantage in this equation, as the Academy has reputation for travelling well and has sold an average of 10,000 tickets for each of its past four bowl games.
The Bowl Championship Series distorts the picture for the Falcons as well. TCU and Boise State are both still alive in the hunt and have outside shots at slipping into a BCS bowl. With a number of games left to be played, the BCS and other bowl berths are as yet undecided.
Bowl berths will be officially announced Dec. 4.
12/7/2011 3:29:30 AM ET @ Paul: You're entering a world of opinionated debate with that careless comment. You probably don't realize that many programs like Falcon Football is self funded and actually brings profit to the school. Another thing you probably aren't considering are all the personnel that are chocked up to ROTC versus making them centralized and consistently commissioning half as many each year. Not to mention the service academies serve as a great recruitment tool to multiply the application of quality volunteer force. notice i didn't attack or demean any other services. There are many students that would prefer the prestige of an ivy league school and have no option for the military. Also realize ROTC at ivy league schools has been largly dead since Vietnam.
12/6/2011 6:50:08 AM ET Looking for a way to trim the DoD budget? How about getting out of the college business? It cost approximately 4 times the amount to produce an officer at a service academy than it does to produce one through an ROTC program. Academies don't produce better officers than any other program. Also, think of how many more manning slots will be freed up when all the officers that are teachers, support and assistant football coaches etc. This is a remnant from the traditional past that is no longer needed.
11/29/2011 5:18:46 PM ET Air Force's all-time leading rusher is Dee Dowis not Dee Dowls. Mistakes like that may seem insignificant, but they quickly make the writer and editor lose credibility in the readers' eyes.