Air Force Uses Second Half Burst In 35-7 Win Over Army

Final Stats: Air Force 35, Army 7

Postgame Notes

USAFA, Colo. – Air Force broke open a 7-7 halftime tie with 28 unanswered points to score a 35-7 victory over Army at Falcon Stadium on Saturday afternoon. It was the Black Knights’ third straight loss, dropping them to 3-6 on the season. Air Force won its second straight, improving to 6-4 overall.

Army outgained the Falcons 138-39, including a 127-4 rushing advantage, in the first half, but Air Force turned the tables in the second half with a 252-98 advantage in total yards which included a 156-65 advantage on the ground. The Falcons ended the game with a 291-236 total offense advantage, while the Black Knights outrushed the Falcons 192-160. Air Force entered the game ranked fourth in the nation with 275.56 rushing yards per contest.

Asher Clark’s 36-yard touchdown run on Air Force’s first possession of the second half started the Falcons’ run. Air Force tacked on a 73-yard touchdown pass from Tim Jefferson to Kevin Fogler in the third quarter, a two-yard Jefferson touchdown run and an eight-yard Clark scoring jaunt in the fourth quarter.

Freshman QB Trent Steelman accounted for Army’s lone touchdown with a 42-yard run in the first quarter. Steelman led the Black Knights with a career-high 102 yards on 18 carries to become the first Army rookie quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards in a game. It was the first time an Army quarterback cracked the century mark since Chip Bowden gained 128 yards at Texas A&M last season. Steelman completed 2-of-6 passes for 17 yards. Senior QB Carson Williams came on in relief and 2-of-4 throws for 27 yards. Senior WR Alejandro Villanueva, senior WR Damion Hunter, sophomore WR Davyd Brooks and sophomore WR Austin Barr each made one reception.

Junior LB Stephen Anderson had a career-high 16 tackles, including 2.5 for loss. Sophomore LB Andrew Rodriguez also posted a career best with 14 stops. Junior DE Josh McNary added a sack to both his Academy single-season (11.5) and career (17.0) records.

Jared Tew ran 25 times for 102 yards to pace the Falcons. Clark added 82 yards and two scores on 13 attempts. Jefferson complted 4-of-7 throws for 131 yards and a score. Fogler caught three of those passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. Tew had the other reception for a gain of two yards.

John Falgout and Justin Moore both reached double-digit tackles for the Falcons with 14 and 11 stops, respectively.

After the two teams went three-and-out on their opening possession, Anthony Wright put the Falcons on the scoreboard with an 88-yard punt return for a score.  It was the second-longest punt return in Air Force history and its first punt return for a score since the 1998 season.  Erik Soderberg’s extra point extended the Falcons’ lead to 7-0 with 11:05 left in the first quarter.

The two teams exchanged punts before the Black Knights got on the board. After taking over at their own 49-yard line, Army needed only three plays to cover 51 yards, capped by a 42-yard scoring run down the left sideline by Steelman, his longest career rush. Alex Carlton’s PAT knotted the score at 7-7 with 4:30 left in the opening quarter. Steelman’s scamper was Army’s longest touchdown run of the season.

While Army held the field position advantage for most of the first quarter, that quickly flipped in the second stanza. After Army forced a three-and-out inside the Air Force 30-yard line, Josh Jones mishandled the Falcons’ punt and was not able to corral the ball until it reached the Army 2-yard line. That play came just after Army was not able to down its previous punt at the Air Force 1-yard line and the ball squirted into the end zone for a touchback. 

The Black Knights were able to push the ball out to the 40-yard line before Bulls hit a 47-yard rugby punt that went out of bounds at the Air Force 12-yard line and give the Falcons another long field.  A sack by McNary forced a fumble, but the Falcons were able to recover at their own 4-yard line. A 63-yard punt gave the Black Knights possession at their own 31-yard line with 7:09 left in the first half. Army could not gain a first down, partly due to a false start penalty, and Bulls’ punt was downed at the Air Force 33-yard line.

The Army defense forced the Falcons into a 3rd-and-18, but Jefferson connected with Fogler for a 33-yard gain that moved the ball to the Black Knights’ 31-yard line. A play for no gain and two straight tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including a sack by Donnie Dixon, made it 4th-and-20 from the Air Force 41-yard line with 31 seconds left in the half. Air Force called its first timeout of the half, and lined up for a 59-yard field goal try. Soderberg’s attempt was short and wide to the right, which gave the Black Knights the ball at their own 42-yard line with 25 seconds left. Army ran a fullback dive for four yards before letting the clock expire.

Army went three-and-out against the wind on the first possession of the second half, and Bulls’ punt was downed at the 50-yard line to give the Falcons their best field position of the game. It took Air Force only four plays to cover the 50 yards to the end zone. Clark did the honors when he went 36 yards untouched off left tackle. Soderberg’s PAT pushed the Falcons back in front 14-7 with 11:33 left in the third quarter. Air Force’s 50 yard on the opening drive was more than the Falcons gained on six first-half possessions.

The Black Knights were able to again push the Falcons onto a long field when Bulls’ second punt of the half traveled 50 yards and was downed at the 1-yard line with 9:07 left in the third quarter. After an Air Force first down, Army was able to make another stop and took over at their own 42-yard line following a nine-yard punt return by Jones.  Army moved into Air Force territory, but elected to punt on 4th-and-3. The kick was fair caught at the Air Force 14-yard line with 3:03 left in the third quarter.

Two plays later, Jefferson found a wide-open Fogler, who deked an Army defender inside the 20-yard line to complete a 73-yard scoring strike that gave the Falcons a two-touchdown lead. The extra point made the score 21-7 with 2:35 left in the third quarter. The Falcons’ 86-yard drive was the longest scoring march of the season against the Army defense.

Army went three-and-out on the ensuing possession giving the Falcons the ball at their own 49 yard-line with under a minute to go in the third quarter. The Falcons posted their third touchdown of the half when Jefferson bulled in from two yards out to cap an 11-play drive. Soderberg’s fourth PAT pushed the Air Force lead to 28-7 with 10:37 left in the game. Tew provided the big play of the drive, rushing for 19 yards on 3rd-and-12 that gave the Falcons a 1st-and-goal at the Army 4-yard line.

Following Bulls’ career-high 10th punt of the game, Wright nearly broke another return for a score but was tracked down after a 29-yard return that set the Falcons up at the Army 45-yard line with 8:24 left in the game. The Falcons found the end zone for the fourth time in the second half when Clark capped the nine-play drive with an eight-yard scoring run. Air Force converted two fourth downs on the drive, including a 4th-and-9 when Jefferson and Fogler connected on a 23-yard pickup just one play before the touchdown run. Soderberg’s extra point made the margin 35-7 with 2:47 left in the game.

Williams came in at quarterback for the Black Knights and guided the offense down the field, but his Barr was brought down at the 11-yard line as time expired.

The Black Knights have now lost four straight games to Air Force and eight consecutive games versus service academy opponents. Air Force’s win evened their record to 1-1 in CIC play, while the Black Knights are 0-1. Navy is 1-0 in the series after their 16-13 overtime win over the Falcons on Oct. 3.

The Black Knights return home for their final game at West Point next Saturday when they host VMI. Kickoff is slated for 12 p.m. In addition to it being the final appearance at Michie Stadium for the Army seniors, the game has been designated Military Appreciation Day. All active and retired military personnel, along with their families, can purchase tickets for only $10. Call the Army Athletics Ticket Office at 1-877-TIX-ARMY or click here for ordering information.

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