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Almost, but no cigar as San Diego State rallies past Air Force

October 10, 2013 Updated: October 11, 2013 at 12:14 am
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San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey pushes past Air Force defensive back Christian Spears and into the end zone for the game winning touchdown during Air Force's 27-20 loss to San Diego State at Falcon Stadium Thursday, October 10, 2013. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

San Diego State spent three quarters allowing opportunities to slip away.

The Aztecs made up for it in the fourth quarter to escape with a 27-20 victory at Air Force on Thursday night.

San Diego State failed to convert on two PATs, it missed a 37-yard field goal and passed on a chip-shot field goal to instead go for it on a failed fourth and goal from the 4.

In the end, it didn’t matter as Air Force’s defense couldn’t provide a stop as it allowed 21 fourth-quarter points and extend its losing streak to six games.

“We’ve got guys right now who are pretty disappointed,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “Any time you’ve got guys who really apply themselves, that’s what’s going to happen.

“We played our souls out.”

Air Force played with its fourth quarterback, but that looked more like a spark than a detriment as Nate Romine ran for a 16-yard touchdown on his first drive and later connected with Sam Gagliano for a 71-yard touchdown pass that was Air Force’s longest play of the season and longest pass in four years.

I thought he had good poise for a guy who hasn’t played a bunch of snaps,” Calhoun said. “You could tell he had a little bit of fun playing football.”

Romine came in after starting quarterback Karson Roberts left with a head injury.

Roberts was already Air Force’s third quarterback of the season, thrust into action after Air Force’s original starter Kale Pearson went down with a knee injury and his backup, Jaleel Awini, was lost to ineligibility for an academy infraction. Making his third start, Roberts struggled Thursday as he lost a fumble on the first drive and nearly lost another on an errant option pitch on the second. He spent time on the trainer’s table after that possession and did not return.

“We’re not messing around,” Calhoun, but he wasn’t sure it was a concussion.

Air Force led 20-6 as it entered the fourth quarter before San Diego State proved unstoppable, gaining 111 yards in the span of four plays at one point.

“The tackles we missed turned into huge plays for San Diego State,” linebacker Spencer Proctor said.

Anthony LaCoste eclipsed 100 yards rushing, giving Air Force its fifth player this season with 100 rushing yards in a game — Awini, Jon Lee, Broam Hart and Roberts were the others. No other team in the country has more than four 100-yard rushers this season.

Lee played sparsely on Thursday because a bursa sack had limited his action during a short practice week.

“It’s as difficult as it comes,” LaCoste said of the loss.

Will Conant made field goals of 52 and 48 yards for Air Force, making him the first Falcons kicker with multiple field goals of 50-plus yards in a season since Ryan Harrison in 2007.

San Diego State quarterback Quinn Kaehler went 15-for-26 with three touchdowns. Donne Pumphrey scored a pair of touchdowns, including the go-ahead score from 10 yards with 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining.

Romine went 5-for-11 for 111 yards and ran for 15 yards on eight attempts.

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