Updated: November 9, 2013 at 7:57 am
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. • For all that Air Force did on offense Friday night, New Mexico did more.
Despite another big game from Anthony LaCoste and a breakthrough performance from quarterback Nate Romine, the Falcons stood defenseless against yet another conference opponent in a 45-37 loss to the Lobos.
New Mexico ran for 451 yards and had only one possession that didn’t result in points.
The Lobos’ lone pass completion went for a 28-yard touchdown.
Air Force (2-8, 0-6 Mountain West) nearly kept pace, but a three-and-out on its first possession and a turnover on downs late in the fourth proved too much to overcome as its defense allowed precious little margin for error.
The defensive woes continue a seasonlong trend, though this was the first time a running team had exposed it to this degree.
Kasey Carrier led the onslaught with 179 yards on 27 carries.
He had 338 against the Falcons last season.
The Lobos jumped ahead 14-0 and had a chance to put a major dent in the game before halftime when the Falcons posted their lone stop, capitalizing on a holding penalty and netting consecutive sacks from David Harris and Jordan Pierce.
Given a bit of life, Air Force took advantage. The Falcons tied the game at 21 on their first possession of the second half and briefly led at 28-27.
On any other night, the Air Force offense certainly would have been the story. Romine completed 10 straight passes at one point — fourth-best in team history — and joined Tim Jefferson as the only Falcons quarterbacks during the Troy Calhoun era to pass for three touchdowns in a game.
Romine finished 15-of-25 passing for 188 yards and the three scores.
He also ran for 40 yards and a touchdown.
LaCoste, fresh off a 263-yard outburst the week before against Army in a victory that snapped a seven-game losing streak, ran for 177 yards on 21 carries.
His 440 yards in two games are the most ever for Air Force. LaCoste, a senior, had 406 career yards before last week.
Will Conant also connected on his third 52-yard field goal of the season, a boot in the final minutes that put the game in the hands of an onside kick that New Mexico recovered.
Conant joined Ryan Harrison as the only kickers in team history with three field goals of 50-plus yards in a season.
But again, as good as the offense was the defense was worse.
The Lobos (3-7, 1-4) ran 65 plays, only 12 of which were third- or fourth-down plays. When a team is ripping off 7 yards per play it doesn’t take long to move chains.
Quarterback Cole Gautsche joined Carrier in going over 100 yards, as he ran for 140 on 20 attempts. Jhurell Pressley added 87 yards thanks largely to a 61-yard touchdown run.
Air Force does not play next week, then finishes its season with a home game against UNLV on Nov. 21 and a trip to Colorado State on Nov. 30.