No. 22 San Diego State took advantage of two early turnovers and built enough of a cushion to hold off host Air Force for a 20-14 victory on Saturday night in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Aztecs (7-0, 3-0 Mountain West) built a 20-0 lead shortly after halftime and prevailed despite totaling only 229 yards of total offense. A Dallas Branch interception and Noah Avinger’s fumble recovery led to the first two scores.
San Diego State is off to its best start since 1975.
Air Force (6-2, 3-2) had its three-game winning streak snapped.
San Diego State, which entered the game with the top-ranked run defense in the nation (61.5 rushing yards per game) held the Falcons’ potent triple-option running attack to only 89 yards on the ground in the first half and 87 overall. Air Force entered the game averaging 336.4 rushing yards per game.
Air Force came storming back in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Warren Bryan led the Falcons back after starting quarterback Haaziq Daniels was knocked out of the game with an injury with 6:04 left in the third quarter.
Bryan entered and finished an 11-play, 57-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Dalton King to give Air Force its first points.
After forcing a punt on its next defensive series, Air Force used another methodical drive (15 plays, 89 yards in 6:33) to cut San Diego State’s lead to 20-14 with 3:59 left on Dane Kinamon’s 3-yard touchdown on a sweep.
San Diego State again was forced to punt and totaled only 49 yards in the fourth quarter.
Aztecs punter Matt Araiza, who had an 81-yard punt earlier in the game, booted a 56-yard punt to pin Air Force back at its own 13. The Falcons appeared to convert on fourth-and-7 from their own 16 with a Bryan completion to Brandon Lewis, but a chop block penalty nullified the play.
The Falcons elected to punt with 1:57 left and two timeouts remaining.
San Diego State ran out the clock, converting a first down on a 9-yard run by Kaegun Williams. Williams and Chance Bell each scored rushing touchdowns for the Aztecs as five rushers combined for 157 yards.
–Field Level Media