Air Force runs past South Dakota 37-20By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Sports Writer Sunday, Sep 4, 2011
The 14th-ranked Horned Frogs visit Falcon Stadium next Saturday in a showdown of two teams expected to contend for the Mountain West Conference title.
Jefferson would have preferred TCU’s BCS-best streak of 25 consecutive regular season wins hadn’t ended in a 50-48 loss at Baylor on Friday night.
“I was pulling for TCU,” Jefferson said. “I was pulling for them because if they would have won that game, they wouldn’t be angry right now. They’re upset, you can believe that.”
And so are the Falcons.
They beat South Dakota 37-20 Saturday but fumbled four times, committed three turnovers and couldn’t put away the Coyotes after going ahead by 30 points on their first drive after halftime.
“I have a feeling a lot of guys were probably looking ahead,” Jefferson said.
To the angry Horned Frogs.
Jefferson, who tied the school records for wins by a quarterback with 22, said the Falcons “were awful” after the 55-yard TD catch by Mikel Hunter, who began the game with an 80-yard reverse for the longest touchdown by Air Force in 13 seasons.
That first play was scripted, so Hunter had a lot of time to ponder the possibilities.
“I expected something big,” Hunter said. “I’ve been thinking about it all week, actually.”
Hunter said the Falcons (1-0) were intent on not letting the Coyotes (0-1), of the Great West Conference, stick around long enough to imagine another upset of a top-tier school like last year, when South Dakota upset Minnesota 41-38 in Minneapolis.
Hunter put the Falcons on top just 16 seconds into the game when he took the handoff from fellow wide receiver Jonathan Warzeka, raced around the left side and then scooted down the Air Force sideline to the end zone.
“Our kids were so amped up and so excited to run,” Coyotes coach Ed Meierkort said. “You guys would have scored on that reverse. That’s what Air Force does: they use your own anxiety against you. We talked all day about how we had to run to the football, and they ran a reverse into the wind and there’s your first seven points.”
Hunter struck almost as quickly the second time he got into the end zone, taking a short pass over the middle from Jefferson on third-and-2 and racing into the end zone for a 55-yard score that made it 37-7.
“We were still playing hard at that point,” Hunter said. “Yeah, that’s one thing we’ve still got to work on, closing out games.”
Hunter agreed that the Falcons might have started looking toward TCU’s visit next week “because that’s normally how those season openers go because normally (the starters) are done playing by halftime and we were still out there. So, it’s a possibility it could have crept into some peoples’ minds.”
The Falcons rushed for 391 yards and four TDs and improved to 16-0 against schools from the Championship Subdivision.
Jefferson ran 15 times for 69 yards and two touchdowns and was 4 of 9 passing for 96 yards and a TD, but he was picked off twice, leading to his consternation after the game.
The Falcons committed a third turnover when Tyler Starr forced and recovered a fumble by Wes Cobb in the fourth quarter at his own 39. That led to Dante Warren’s 35-yard touchdown throw to Jeremy Blount that made it 37-20.
“We can’t have that kind of stuff against TCU or they’re going to put a lot more points up on the board than what South Dakota did,” Falcons defensive back Jon Davis said. “We just need to finish the game a lot better.
“If we’d have gone out there in the second half and played like we know how to play, we would have blown them off the field.”
Follow AP Sports Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton at twitter.com/arniestapleton