96-Yard Fumble Return Fuels Air Force to Victory
New Mexico looked to go ahead 17-0 in a dominant first quarter where New Mexico forced three turnovers, but then Aaron Kirchoff rumbled 96 yards on a fumble return. This play was one of those game changing plays for a team, and after that it was all Air Force for the rest of the game.
New Mexico actually did a decent job of slowing down Air Force's massive running attack. The Falcons managed to hold the Falcons to 227 yards which is 90 yards under their per-game average and the Falcons had a 3.3 yards per carry, and limited the big play by allowing a long rush of 14 yards.
New Mexico just rolled over after that 96-yard fumble return for a touchdown. In the first quarter, New Mexico gained 142 yards in total offense, but only managed 154 yards over the next three quarters. On the Lobos last seven drives they only averaged 22 yards per possession, but that number is inflated by one drive of 62 yards, and if you take that away the Lobos were getting only 15 yards a possession.
Air Force did the complete opposite after the first quarter, forcing turnovers and shutting down New Mexico Rodney Ferguson to only 40 yards after he gained 67 in the first quarter. Offensively, the Falcons were decent and not overly spectacular, but when they were given short fields the Falcons took advantage of this and scored points.
This again shows that teams need good quarterback play to be successful in college football. Yes, Air Force only completed one of two passes, but their offense is geared to running the option and quarterback Tim Jefferson ran for 64 yards and manages the pitch on the option. While New Mexico’s Brad Gruner was so awful in the passing game that coach Rocky Long benched Gruner for Tate Smith, who did not fare much better by going one-for-eight and throwing an interception.
This victory for Air Force made the Falcons bowl eligible for the second straight year under coach Troy Calhoun who is now 15-6 in his two years as Air Force’s coach.
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