Rams get run out of the Academy, outdone by Falcons again in final contest

Luke Zahlmann

There were no secrets as to what Air Force would attempt against Colorado State University.

As the top rushing team in the Mountain West Conference, the Air Force Academy Falcons were guaranteed to operate in their triple-option system once again. Despite changing their defensive system to adjust prior to the contest, the Rams were bested 27-19 on the road Thursday.

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From their first possession, a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, the Falcons were in control of the game’s tempo. The drive took just under six minutes, with a trio of passing plays to offset their 10 rushes.

After a pair of three-and-outs forced by the Rams’ defense, the Falcons once again flexed their rushing game. Starting their second scoring drive with a 56-yard run by junior fullback Cole Fagan, the hosts drove down the field in only four plays, taking a mere 1:35 off the clock. The drive was capped by a leaping grab courtesy of senior wideout Marcus Bennett.

Down double-digits early in the second quarter, the Rams were in familiar territory.

“We dig ourselves a hole over and over again,” Head Coach Mike Bobo said. “We’re not talented enough to dig ourselves out of those holes.”

Coming into the game, the Rams had allowed 449.9 yards and 37.6 points per game. While the scoring defense held the Falcons below their average, the Rams were consistently gashed on third down. With a mix of pitches and dives out of the option, the Falcons kept the much-maligned Rams off balance.

“We game-planned this (game) ever since our bye week,” sophomore Livingston Paogofie said. “It’s a little frustrating for them to put up that much yardage on us.” 

Attempting to keep pace, the Rams’ offense put up a pair of scoring drives led by redshirt junior wideout Preston Williams outside. As redshirt sophomore quarterback Collin Hill’s favorite target in the contest, Williams put up a pair of touchdowns and 171 yards in the first half alone.

Colorado State wide receiver Preston Williams (11) makes the catch from quarterback Collin Hill on his way to a touchdown against Air Force in the first half. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

Following a Falcons’ missed 54-yard field goal as time expired, the Rams trotted into the locker room trailing 17-13 at the half.

After the intermission, Fagan took over once again for the Falcons. On their opening drive of the third quarter, he added 41 more yards to his already triple-digit total. But, the defense garnered a stop on fourth down at the goal line, halting Falcons’ sophomore quarterback Donald Hammond III’s sneak attempt.

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Despite their stop and subsequent drive to the red zone, the Rams gave the ball right back with a Hill interception.

“(This game) was pretty much a microcosm of our whole season. Too many mistakes, turnovers, we lost the turnover battle. We didn’t execute well enough to win.” Coach Mike Bobo

After the drive, Hill was ruled out with a concussion, allowing redshirt senior K.J. Carta-Samuels to enter his first contest since the teams’ week-eight matchup against Boise State.

Proceeding his inception into the game, Samuels found Williams yet again for the wideout’s third touchdown of the game, this time from 31 yards out. Down 20-19, the Rams had their extra point blocked, the second missed opportunity for the point-after-touchdown unit.

A final score sealed the game for the Falcons, a final blow to the Rams’ chances of ending a downtrodden season on a positive note.

Leading the offense, Fagan became just the second fullback in program history to eclipse the 200-yard mark, finishing with a positional school record of 260 in the contest. As a team, the Falcons accumulated 393 rushing yards in the game to add to their final total of 474.

A lone bright spot in the game, Williams finished with a season-high 248 yards, fourth in program history, and three touchdowns. 

Williams’ efforts were for naught as the Rams failed to convert a pair of extra points, turned the ball over twice and accrued eight penalties for 75 yards, two of which were roughing the passer calls. 

“(This game) was pretty much a microcosm of our whole season,” Bobo said. “Too many mistakes, turnovers, we lost the turnover battle. We didn’t execute well enough to win. (Mistakes) were our nemesis this year.” 

Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.