• Graham Knight

After Loss, Air Force Welcomes FAU In Week 4

by Graham Knight

Both the Air Force Falcons and the Utah State Aggies came into the game 2-0 for the year, but if you were looking for defense, you were watching the wrong game.

There were five lead changes in the game, and more than 1,200 yards of offense, combined, in Utah State's 49-45 win over Air Force.

The Falcons put up 619 yards of offense, the ninth-most in program history, including 437 yards on the ground. But Utah State earned 628 yards, the eighth-most all-time against the Falcons, with 438 of those yards through the air.

"Credit to them," Air Force Head Coach Troy Calhoun said of the Utah State team, "I thought, 'Golly man, they are highly, highly skilled.' You just look at how dynamic they are in the open field. And they did a good job once they got out in the open field . . . but, we need to tackle better."

In fact, Utah State's two 4th quarter touchdowns came on plays of 72 yards and 61 yards to erase an 11-point lead. A porous defense and costly turnovers contributed to the loss. There were five lead changes throughout the game, but it came down to an Air Force fumble with 2.5 minutes left that secured the win for the Aggies.

To start the game, the Falcons struck first when Micah Davis ran in from 5 yards out for the first of his two touchdowns, just 3:14 into the game. The big play of that drive was a 59-yard Haaziq Daniels' pass to tight-end Kyle Patterson on the 5th play of the game.

The Falcons tacked on a Matthew Dapore field goal to make it 10-0, but Utah State then took a 13-10 lead on back-to-back touchdown drives.

Air Force Falcons' tight end Kyle Patterson stiff-arms a Utah State defender while carrying the ball during the game on Sept. 18, 2021 at Falcon Stadium

That's when Daniels threw his first touchdown pass of the season. It went to Davis for 56 yards and the Falcons were back on top, 17-13. Air Force added a 3-yard touchdown run from Dane Kinamon on their next possession to take a 24-13 lead at halftime. Then Utah State scored three 3rd quarter touchdowns to get ahead, 34-21.

Air Force answered back on the strength of a 55-yard touchdown run by little-used running back Emmanuel Michel to again lead 38-31 at the end of the third quarter.

"I kinda expected my number to be called today and I just wanted to be ready to go," Michel told reporters after the game.

Daniels added a 39-yard touchdown run to give Air Force an 11-point lead, 45-34, with 10-1/2 minutes left in the 4th. But Utah State answered back, with 2 touchdowns in a total of 9 plays and went ahead with just under 4 minutes left.

That's when the Falcons marched down the field. With the score 49-45 Aggies, Daniels was stripped of the ball by Utah State's leading tackler, Justin Rice, and Utah State recovered on their own 25-yard line. It was Daniel's second turnover of the game.

"Saw a running lane, tried to get the extra yards, fight for extra yards," Daniels lamented. "Ball was just stripped out. Gotta be tougher with the ball. Nothing too complex about it."

Utah State ran out the clock for the final 2-1/2 minutes to win by 4.

Michel had a break-out day, leading the Falcons with 134 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns.

Fullback Brad Roberts added 113 yards. Davis had two touchdowns: one rushing, one receiving. Finally, Daniels passed for 182 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He also added 97 yards and two scores on the ground.

Even though the defense gave up nearly 50 points, there were some bright spots on that side of the ball. Safety Corvan Taylor had six tackles and an interception and linebacker Vince Sanford led the team with nine tackles, including two sacks.

The loss drops the Falcons to 2-1 for the season, and they know why they lost.

For defensive tackle Jordan Jackson, there's motivation going into this week's contest against Florida Atlantic: "I think it's kinda good we had this now. I'd rather have this happen earlier in the season than later in the season, get us back on track. You win two games, you think you're untouchable, maybe, so, taking this loss now, getting it on the chin . . . [we] bounce back next week and that's the only thing we can do."

The loss to Utah State was just the third time in program history that Air Force scored 45 points in a loss.

The Florida Atlantic Owls, who visit Falcon Stadium in week 4, are coming off of two straight wins.

edited for web by Joe Harman