Palmer graduate makes himself at home, helps Wyoming dominate Air Force

September 21, 2013 Updated: September 22, 2013 at 6:17 am
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Air Force quarterback Jaleel Awini is sacked by Wyoming defenders Sonny Puletasi, left, and Eddie Yarbrough on third and 15 in the second quarter Saturday, September 21, 2013 at Falcon Stadium. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Dominic Rufran made himself right at home.

The Colorado Springs native and Palmer graduate caught Wyoming’s first two touchdown passes as the Cowboys routed Air Force 52-23.

Rufran, a junior, was playing his final game in the Pikes Peak region and he went into the locker room with seven catches for 107 yards in the first half.

He wasn’t the only Wyoming receiver to have success, as Air Force continued to struggle against the pass.

Cowboys quarterback Brett Smith went 23 of 26 in the first half, tossing 270 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 140 yards in that span, including a touchdown and a 74-yard scamper on the first play that set up the first score that answered Jaleel Awini’s 33-yard touchdown run on Air Force’s first possession.

Air Force led again 10-7 after a 33-yard field goal from Will Conant, but the advantage proved short-lived.

The culprit, once again, was a defense that can’t seem to keep receivers from finding big cushions.

Through Saturday’s first half, the past three starting quarterbacks to face the Falcons — Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton, Boise State’s Joe Southwick and Smith — have completed 82-of-95 attempts, a rate of 86 percent.

Those same quarterbacks, in games against major college competition in games immediately before and after their contests against Air Force have completed just 64 percent of their attempts.

The Falcons didn’t force a first-half punt against the Cowboys and didn’t force one last week against Boise State.

Wyoming ran up 454 first-half yards against the Falcons and converted 7 of 8 third-down attempts.

It also made good on its only fourth-down try, a 6-yard touchdown run for Smith on a fourth and 3.

Air Force’s offense did its part. Jaleel Awini completed 9-of-13 passes for 81 first-half yards.

He also had two passes dropped from receiver Sam Gagliano.

The Falcons ran for 167 yards, paced by 50 yards from Jon Lee.

Smith’s first touchdown put him past Kasey Bremlet and into first on the school’s all-time touchdown pass list. Smith, who pushed his mark to 60 by the end of the first half, needed just 27 games to establish the record.

Bramlet, who played from 2000-2003, did it in 40 games.

Air Force briefly had life after safety Dexter Walker forced a fumble that was recovered by freshman Ryan Watson, but Wyoming held on downs and scored on its next possession.

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