SAN DIEGO – Mistakes doomed Air Force to a 28-9 rout at the hands of San Diego State.
The Falcons outgained the Aztecs, 352-268, at Qualcomm Stadium but were never seriously in contention in the second half. The Falcons could not overcome their sloppy ways as they stumbled to four turnovers.
Coach Troy Calhoun shrugged as he considered the cost of his team’s errors.
“To beat a really good football team, especially on the road, you can’t make any mistakes,” Calhoun said.
Air Force had its chances. The Falcons moved inside San Diego State’s 30-yard line six times, but scored only one touchdown.
“We have to conclude some drives with touchdowns,” Calhoun said. “We had far too many drives with no points.”
This futile visit to Southern California left Air Force reeling with two straight losses. On Oct. 26, Air Force pulverized Nevada, 48-31, at Falcon Stadium. Since then, the Falcons have been outscored 69-30 by Army and San Diego State, and 20 of Air Force’s points in those defeats were scored so late they were essentially irrelevant.
Saturday’s defeat drops the Falcons to 5-5 overall and 4-2 in the Mountain West. San Diego State improves to 8-3 and 6-1.
Offensive tackle Jason Kons remains a believer in his faltering team.
“I’m extremely confident,” he said outside a gloomy locker room. “We’re in a slump right now. … But if any team can bounce back, it’s this one.”
He has a point. The Falcons had lost three of four games earlier this season, including a devastating defeat against Navy, but responded with a three-game winning streak that culminated in the impressive win over Nevada.
Friday’s opponent helps, too. The Falcons will face Hawaii on Friday night at Falcon Stadium. The Warriors entered Saturday’s game against Boise State without a conference win.
The game started smoothly for the Falcons. Air Force drove 66 yards on its first drive to the Aztecs' 4-yard line, where they settled for a 22-yard field goal by Parker Herrington.
On the first play of Air Force’s next drive, receiver Drew Coleman burst into the open in the middle of the field. For an instant, a 10-0 lead looked possible.
“I saw him,” quarterback Connor Dietz said. “He looked pretty open.”
But Dietz could not get his footing on the grass field. He slipped as he threw and his pass, which fell 10 yards short of Coleman, was intercepted by Marcus Andrews. Six plays later, SDSU’s Adam Muema sprinted to a 20-yard touchdown. After a failed Air Force fourth-down gamble, the Aztecs pushed the lead to 14-3 in the second quarter on another Muema run.
The most damaging Air Force mistake put the game out of reach in the third quarter. Dietz retreated in the pocket and raised his right arm to throw.
One problem: The ball had slipped out of his hand. Everett Beed picked it up and sprinted 52 yards to the end zone. The Aztecs led, 21-3, and Air Force never mounted a serious threat.
“The ball came out,” Dietz said, “but the bottom line is it’s my fault.”
As Dietz talked, his teammates walked somberly out of the locker room. Fifteen days earlier, the Falcons were shouting with joy after the dazzling victory over Nevada.
It was virtually silent Saturday.
“We’ve got to rejuvenate,” Calhoun said. “There’s no doubt that we can.”