Football: Defense carries Falcons to 26-14 victory over Aztecs
By Staff Sgt. Don Branum, U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
/ Published September 26, 2009
FALCON STADIUM, Colo. -- Air Force won its second straight Mountain West Conference game on the strength of its defense, which scored two touchdowns in Air Force's 26-14 victory against San Diego State University at Falcon Stadium Sept. 26.
Both teams' offenses had trouble finding a rhythm. The San Diego State Aztecs scored the first offensive touchdown with less than four minutes left in the game on a three-yard pass from Aztecs quarterback Ryan Lindley to wide receiver Vincent Brown.
Air Force's offensive difficulties stemmed mainly from penalties. The Falcons were flagged nine times for 75 yards, including a holding penalty that nullified a 46-yard touchdown run by Savier Stevens in the third quarter. Only six points came out of Air Force's three trips inside the red zone.
"Because of penalties, we just left way too many points out there on the field," Falcons head coach Troy Calhoun said. "There were just many more points to be had. But we didn't turn it over, and then we created a bunch of turnovers."
The Falcons picked off San Diego State's Lindley four times, with defensive back Reggie Rembert returning an interception 47 yards for a touchdown. Falcons linebacker Andre Morris recovered a fumble forced by Rembert and returned it 47 yards for a score. Falcons defensive lineman Myles Morales and linebacker Alex Means each accounted for a sack against Lindley, with defensive linemen Ben Garland and Rick Ricketts sharing a third sack against the Aztecs' QB.
San Diego State found its rhythm near the end of the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points in the final four minutes with a no-huddle offense and a series of quick strikes against the Falcons secondary.
"Obviously the game wasn't what we wanted," Aztecs head coach Brady Hoke said. "We made way too many mistakes turning the ball over, and you can't win when you do that."
Reserve quarterback Connor Dietz started the game for the Falcons. Starter Tim Jefferson suffered a sprained ankle in Air Force's 37-13 victory over New Mexico Sept. 19.
"The only guys we're going to play are the guys who can go full-speed," Calhoun said. "For us at the Academy, our guys have to have smoke blowing out of their ears and play like their hair's on fire. If there's any reservation at all, you don't play.
"Everything we asked (Dietz) to do, he did a quality job with. It's the guy's first start as a sophomore. He's going to be a good player," Calhoun added.
Falcons kicker Eric Soderberg put four kicks through the uprights for Air Force on six attempts, including a career-long 48-yard field goal that gave Air Force a 13-0 lead 1:42 into the second quarter. Soderberg became the eighth player in Air Force history to hit four field goals in a game and the first since Joey Ashcroft kicked four field goals in Air Force's 49-30 victory against Army Nov. 9, 2002.
The Air Force special teams unit also gave two points to San Diego State on a punt play on the Falcons' 28. The snap sailed over Soderberg's head and out the back of the end zone for the safety.
Air Force had 294 yards of total offense, including 58 runs for 243 yards and 51 yards on two completions from Dietz, who was 3 of 6 with no touchdowns or interceptions. The Falcons had a 36-percent conversion rate on third down.
Air Force had the edge on time of possession with 33:23.
"We couldn't get a first down, so it was hard to control the clock," the Aztecs' Hoke said. "Besides the drive at the end of the first half with the two quarterback draw plays, I thought our kids did a nice job against them."
San Diego State had 323 yards, with 284 of those coming through the Aztecs' passing game. Lindley finished 25 of 41 with two touchdowns and four picks.
Air Force is now 3-1 on the season heading into a tough match against rival service academy Navy in Annapolis, Md., Oct. 3. The Falcons' conference record of 2-0 is their second such start in three years. Calhoun is 20-10 in his third season, 13-5 in conference play and 11-3 at home.