• Graham Knight

#22 Aztecs Stop Falcons' Streak, Army Up Next For Air Force

by Graham Knight

The Air Force Falcons were on a 4-game winning streak heading into week 8, and their #1-ranked rushing offense had seemed unstoppable at times, but as they hosted the #22-ranked San Diego State Aztecs they faced their toughest test of the season.

It was an inauspicious start to the game for Air Force as junior quarterback Haaziq Daniels threw an interception on the 3rd play of the game that San Diego State returned to the Falcons' 9-yard line. It was the first of a series of miscues on the night.

The Falcons defense held tough after the interception, holding the Aztecs to a field goal.

But, the San Diego State defense was ready for the Falcons' rushing attack. Ranked 5th in the nation in total defense, the Aztecs held the Falcons, the nation's top rushing offense, to just 90 total yards in the first half -- all on the ground.

Part of that defense was also their punter. Junior Matt Araiza, who leads the nation in punting, pinned the Falcons deep in their own territory time and time again, including his second 80+ yard punt in two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Aztec offense scored on three of its five first-half drives to take a 13-0 lead at halftime, then increased it to 20-0 to start the 3rd quarter.

Daniels was injured in the 2nd half, and senior back-up Warren Bryan came in for the Falcons. Bryan led two touchdown drives, his first coming on a 13-yard pass to senior back-up tight end Dalton King. It was King's first catch of the year, and Bryan's first TD pass of the season -- a back-up to back-up connection.

"We have a lot of dudes who have been the back-up and they're in bigger roles now," King said, "and Warren was the one that's been with us in throughout, and so it was really cool."

Dane Kinamon added a 4th quarter 3-yard touchdown run with just under 4 minutes left to cut the deficit to six points, but that's as close as the Falcons would come. Air Force ended with more yards gained than San Diego State, but two turnovers, plus dropped or missed passes, were too much to overcome.

"I wish you could go back and change it but it is what it is," Bryan said. "As I said earlier, you kinda just take it on the chin and suck it up, and if I get the opportunity again, soon, anytime, you know we gotta take advantage of that opportunity next time."

"I think the overall difference was there were too many mistakes on our part," observed Jordan Jackson, the Falcons defensive end. "They're a great team, and when you're going against great teams, you can't afford to make mistakes like we did."

Now it's a bye week for the Falcons, and getting ready for the Commanders' Classic against Army.

"We know we're a great team," Jackson said. "Wins or loses, we know we're a great team. So, now, we just gotta regroup and bounce back to the next game."

"I think it's just on to the next one," King concluded. "We got a championship to play for in 2 weeks."

edited for web by Joe Harman