WEST POINT, N.Y. - After a practice in October, quarterback Connor Dietz summarized this season’s Falcons.
“We can beat any team,” he said. “And we can lose to any team.”
On Saturday, Air Force showed the truth of Dietz’s analysis. The Falcons lost, 41-21, to an Army team that had stumbled into the game with a 1-7 record.
This demolition came eight days after the Falcons' dazzling 48-31 victory over Nevada. The Falcons rushed for 461 yards against Nevada. They rushed for 103 yards, averaging 2.4 yards per carry, against Army.
Linebacker Alex Means looked stunned a few minutes after the game.
“They hit us in the mouth and they kept hitting us and we didn’t respond,” Means said.
The beating leaves Air Force with a 5-4 record. The defeat means the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy, on display on the Air Force campus the past two years, will soon be shipped to Army or Navy.
“They did everything that we didn’t,” Dietz said.
With 10:55 left, and the Falcons trailing 35-7, Air Force tight end Marcus Hendricks broke open and was running alone under a Dietz pass. He lost his footing and stumbled to the turf. The play summed up Air Force’s journey to West Point.
Army’s domination was total in the first three quarters. The Black Knights outgained the Falcons 384-166 while doubling Air Force’s time of possession. Air Force delivered a mild rally in the fourth quarter, scoring twice to make the score look more respectable, but the Falcons had fallen into much too deep of a hole.
It was coach Troy Calhoun’s first loss to the Black Knights.
“One side played really, really well, and one side didn’t,” Calhoun said.
The Black Knights controlled the first half, grabbing a 20-7 lead while Air Force struggled with turnovers and a questionable goal-line call.
Army took the opening kickoff 66 yards to a touchdown, with quarterback Trent Steelman going the final 4 yards. Air Force answered with a 57-yard drive, aided by personal-foul and pass-interference penalties on Army.
The Falcons looked ready to take the lead on the third play of the second quarter. Air Force had driven to the Army 1-yard line, and Calhoun took a risk on fourth down and went for the touchdown.
Dietz appeared to cross the goal line, but officials ruled he had fallen a half yard short. A power outage at the stadium meant officials could not review video of the play.
Army immediately drove 96 yards to set up a 20-yard field goal by Daniel Grochowski. The Black Knights led, 10-7, and would never again trail.
Dietz has thrown three interceptions in his Air Force career. He threw two of those interceptions in the second quarter, including a crippling throw with 58 seconds left in the half. Air Force had been driving, hoping to cut into Army’s lead. Instead, Army went on a rapid drive that ended with Grochowski kicking a field goal.
The Black Knights led, 20-7, and Air Force never again made a serious threat.