AIR FORCE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Emmanuel Michel, junior fullback
It wasn’t just the spark that Emmanuel Michel provided — running for two second-half touchdowns of 50-plus yards in a time in the game that Air Force was desperately trying to keep pace in a track meet — but it was how wholly unexpected it was. Michel had two carries for 6 yards in his career prior to Saturday night. In the first half he carried four times for 8 yards. Then, boom! He ran 51 yards for a touchdown on his first carry of the third quarter. After gains of 5 and 2 yards, he then outran the defense again for 55 yards. He finished with 11 carries for 133 yards and the two touchdowns.
“It was nice,” Michel said. “I kind of expected my number to be called today and I just wanted to be ready to go. I prepared all week.”
SUBPLOTS WE WATCHED
You won’t find a team that doesn’t try to pride itself on its fourth-quarter prowess, but these teams actually have a track record backing it up. On Saturday it was Utah State that made the plays down the stretch and outscored Air Force 15-7 in the fourth quarter. The Aggies also won the second half 36-21. On its final two drives, Utah State covered 160 yards in nine plays, scoring two touchdowns. Air Force’s final two drives went 10 plays for 70 yards and ended in punt and a fumble.
Sure enough, these teams that like to roll the dice on fourth down saw their fortunes change on fourth downs. Utah State scored its first touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play at the 1. Air Force converted a fourth-and-2 from its 37 in the second quarter and scored on a 56-yard pass on the next play. Utah State took the lead in the third quarter when it stopped Air Force on fourth-and-2 from the Utah State 45 and scored the go-ahead touchdown six plays later. Air Force opted not to go for it on fourth and 2 from its 45 with 6 minutes remaining. Utah State did go for it just four plays later from deep in its territory, converted, and then scored the game-winning touchdown with 3:54 remaining.
This was a forgettable day for the whole Air Force defense, but particularly those in the secondary. Granted, Utah State will do this to a bunch of teams with its up-tempo, spread look that is loaded with quick players in the skill positions. But the Falcons gave up a line of 31-of-50 passing for 448 yards and five touchdowns. The defense forced one turnover with a Corvan Taylor interception, and forced three punts, but only one of those punts came in the second half. Receivers routinely beat the secondary on deep routes and Air Force defenders were credited with pass breakups on just four of those 50 attempts.
BY THE NUMBERS
Big plays on special teams for Jace Waters, who stopped Utah State returner Savon Scarver for a 25-yard return on Scarver’s first attempt and then recovered an onside kick attempt later in the first quarter. Scarver, whose six career kickoff returns for touchdowns are one shy of an NCAA record, returned four kicks for 90 yards.
100-yard rushing games for Air Force fullback Brad Roberts in seven career appearances. Roberts ran 21 times for 113 yards on Saturday. In the three games the Denver-area native has failed to reach 100 yards he has gone for 98, 97 and 83 yards.
Touchdown drives of at least five plays and 56 yards for the two teams in the third quarter. Utah State scored on drives of 69, 75 and 56 yards, while Air Force scored on two drives of 75 yards.
Air Force players who had gains of at least 33 yards on plays from scrimmage on Saturday. In the running game, Emmanuel Michel had a long of 55 yards, Haaziq Daniels 39, and Brandon Lewis and Brad Roberts each went for 33. As receivers, Kyle Patterson caught a pass for 59 yards, and Micah Davis had a long of 57.
Consecutive years Air Force has blocked a kick, including at least one in each of coach Troy Calhoun’s seasons with the team and 43 in total during his tenure. Jordan Jackson blocked a PAT in the first quarter for the Falcons.
Total yards of offense for Air Force, including 437 on the ground and 182 in the air.
Total yards of offense for Utah State, including 448 in the air and 180 on the ground.