FORT COLLINS • Air Force’s offensive players have felt guilty in recent weeks about their unit’s lack of production.
Senior center Mike Hampton even felt the need to ask some defensive players for forgiveness.
“I’d tell them how bad I felt,” he said. “‘Hey, sorry I couldn’t have done more. You’re playing great, and we’re kind of dragging behind.’”
No apologies were necessary Saturday.
In a 34-16 victory over Colorado State in front of an announced crowd of 22,025 at Hughes Stadium, the offense finally complemented a standout defensive performance.
Behind resurgent sophomore quarterback Tim Jefferson, the Falcons offense scored four touchdowns — as many as it had accounted for in the previous five games combined. Air Force picked up a season-high 25 first downs and gained 382 yards — its most since the second game.
“It kind of felt like we’d been letting the team down,” Jefferson said. “Because we have three separate units — offense, defense and special teams — and it almost seemed like the offense was the weak link on the team. Coming out and putting up numbers like today, it really gives us confidence.”
The offense, which had averaged only 281.6 yards in the previous five games, was far more productive with Jefferson igniting the passing game. He completed 7-of-12 passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns, giving the Falcons much-needed balance.
“When you have a quarterback that is on like that and can throw the ball on the spot, it opens up a lot for me,” said fullback Jared Tew, who had a team-high 87 of Air Force’s 271 rushing yards. “Especially when they have to respect the pass instead of just knowing we are going to run.”
The Falcons, who have beaten the Rams four straight times and five times in the past six meetings, improved to 5-4 and 4-2 in the Mountain West Conference and are one victory from becoming bowl eligible for the third straight season. The Rams lost for the sixth time in a row after a 3-0 start and fell to 0-5 in MWC play.
Air Force’s offense was sharp from the start. The Falcons drove 80 yards for a touchdown on their opening possession, with Jefferson capping the drive by hitting junior Kyle Halderman for an 8-yard score. Air Force drove 68 yards on its next possession, with Tew’s 6-yard run giving the Falcons a 14-0 lead.
Colorado State scored on consecutive possessions to cut the lead to 14-10 late in the first half. But the Falcons drove from their 26 to the Colorado State 33 in seven plays, and sophomore kicker Erik Soderberg hit a career-long 50-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.
Air Force added to its lead with a touchdown on its first possession of the second half. The drive seemed doomed after the Falcons lost 8 yards on their first two plays. But Jefferson hit receiver Kevin Fogler for 34 yards on third-and-18 from the 14-yard line.
After the defense stopped Colorado State on a fourth-and-3, the offense drove 64 yards in 10 plays, the last a 14-yard touchdown run by Halderman on fourth-and-1 that put the game away. And allowed the offense to enjoy having more than a cursory role in a victory.
“It just feels nice to have our offense go out there and control the game,” Halderman said. “We’ve been relying on our defense the first half of the season.”