Defense, we don’t need no stinkin’ defense. And what better place to see a shootout then at the Air Force Academy?
Due to the nighttime kickoff, we got a quick helicopter fly-by, which dropped seven skydivers before an offensive shootout ensued, with Air Force defeating Colorado State 49-46. It was a new record for points scored in the CSU-Air Force rivalry, surpassing the 80 points scored in 2000.
The first half was wild and wooly, and even wacky at times. Nick Stevens of Colorado State was extremely efficient, and Dalyn Dawkins’ 61-yard score gave CSU the 7-0 lead. Air Force tied it up with Timothy McVey running it in from their infamous triple-option.
Then, Izzy Matthews punched the ball home, but that lead was short-lived as well, as McVey ran in untouched from six yards out, 14-14. That touchdown was helped by the officials not marching a holding penalty off correctly, but more on that later.
Stevens struck deep – 49 yards to Michael Gallup to the Air Force 19 – but that drive died and turned into a 38-yard field goal. Then, in the biggest defensive play of the game, Justin Sweet stole a pick-six, running through would-be tacklers for the 24-14 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Falcons didn’t take long to score back, though, with backup quarterback Arian Worthman rumbling 54 yards for a score.
Then, the play of the first half happened when Stevens rolled out and was intercepted, being hit as he thew. Air Force plucked the ball out of the air, yes, but Stevens was targeted after the interception, as it was called originally. That was wrong, though. He was hit hard – if it was not targeting, it should have been roughing the QB – but after review, the targeting was negated and Air Force kept the ball. McVey scored for the Falcons and gave them the 28-24 lead four plays later and took that lead into the break.
The Falcons scored again early in the third quarter when McVey fumbled just before the end zone but it was recovered in the end zone by Air Force lineman Dylan Vail to push the lead to 35-24 for the home team.
Colorado State didn’t roll over though – even with all the adversity of losing, on the road, with multiple bad calls going against them – and Stevens connected with Robert Ruiz perfectly for a nine-yard score despite the receiver being covered. After forcing a punt, Air Force’s first of the game, Dawkins scored his second touchdown of the night, giving the Rams the lead back at 38-35.
That was short-lived, though, as Tyler Williams scored from five yards out and Air Force stole the lead back at 42-38 entering the last quarter of football.
That wasn’t all the scoring, though: McVey ran his fourth touchdown of the game in, that one from eight yards out, pushing the lead to 49-38 Air Force, setting the new record in the series for scoring.
Again, the Rams fought back, with Stevens finding Michael Gallup in the end zone. Then, Stevens hit CSU’s best receiver on the two-point conversion to bring the game within three points, 49-46 Air Force with 6:43 to play.
The Rams defense came up with another stop, only the second punt for the Falcons all game, setting the table with 2:25 to play needing only a field goal to tie. And CSU was driving too, as Stevens connected with Gallup, but Gallup had the ball ripped from his hands, giving AFA the ball back and the win.
Air Force improved to 7-3 on the season, 3-3 in the conference, while Colorado State fell to 5-5, 3-3 in the Mountain West.
Nick Stevens set a career-high with 374 yards passing.
Michael Gallup’s touchdown score in the fourth quarter was his sixth straight game with a touchdown. He also set career-highs with 13 catches for 213 yards.
Dawkins went over the century mark with 102 yards and two touchdowns.
Matthews now has nine touchdowns on the year, leading the Rams.