Dec 28, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Air Force Falcons wide receiver Brandon Lewis (13) runs for his first of two touchdowns against the Louisville Cardinals during the first half during the 2021 First Responder Bowl at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Air Force topples Louisville in First Responder Bowl

Haaziq Daniels threw for a career-high 252 yards and two touchdowns Tuesday as Air Force crossed up Louisville with a surprising aerial barrage during a 31-28 win in the First Responder Bowl in Dallas.

Daniels completed 9 of 10 passes, averaging 28 yards per completion to offer an emphatic counterpoint to a running game held to 170 yards. He also added two scores on the ground.

The Falcons (10-3) sealed the outcome when Matthew Dapore connected on a 26-yard field goal with 5:28 left in the game, capping a 17-play drive that chewed up 9:36 of clock.

Malik Cunningham tried to bring the Cardinals (6-7) back from a game-long deficit. He drew them within 28-21 with four seconds left in the third quarter when he hit Tyler Harrell in stride for a 34-yard touchdown.

Cunningham pulled Louisville within three points with 2:57 remaining in the game on a 22-yard scoring run, his 20th of the year. But Air Force was able to melt the remaining time.

Cunningham hit 13 of 21 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown while adding 66 yards on 12 rushes.

Air Force entered the day as the top rushing team in FBS at more than 341 yards per game, but most of its 28 first half points were due to its passing game. Daniels’ 40-yard connection to Caleb Rillos set up Daniels’ 5-yard touchdown run at the 2:01 mark of the first quarter.

The next time the Falcons had the ball, they scored just 46 seconds into the second quarter when Daniels hit Brandon Lewis over the middle for a 61-yard scoring strike. Louisville responded with a drive of nearly five minutes that Trevion Cooley finished with a 1-yard plunge.

Daniels and Lewis made it 21-7 with 5:42 in the half on a short pass that Lewis turned into a 64-yard touchdown, juking two defenders with great cutbacks. However, the Cardinals got that score back on Jawhar Jordan’s 100-yard kickoff return.

Daniels capped a half in which he threw for 199 yards with a 1-yard sneak 54 seconds before the break, giving Air Force a two-touchdown lead.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2021; Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA;  San Diego State Aztecs quarterback Lucas Johnson (7) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Air Force Falcons at Falcon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

No. 22 San Diego State outlasts Air Force

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

Sep 10, 2021; Boise, Idaho, USA; Boise State Broncos wide receiver Stefan Cobbs (5) returns a punt for a touchdown during the first half against the UTEP Miners at Albertsons Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

AAC targeting Boise State, UAB, others for expansion

The American Athletic Conference has identified potential candidates, most from the Mountain West, to join the league after the announced exodus of three teams to the Big 12, CBS Sports reported Thursday.

At the top of the AAC’s wish list are Mountain West programs Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State, along with UAB of Conference USA.

The conference is losing Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to the Big 12. Texas and Oklahoma began the chain reaction of moves with their announcement that they will join the Southeastern Conference in 2025.

The CBS report said the AAC likely will be looking to add four teams to bring the number of members to 12, with Boise State the most coveted addition based on the strength of its football program. CBS reported last week that Boise State, as well as Memphis, also could be top targets for the Big 12 should it choose to expand to 14 teams.

The AAC also has a second tier of teams it could pursue if it is spurned by any of its preferred teams, per the report. It includes FAU and UTSA from Conference USA.

BYU, an independent in football and a Mountain West member in the other sports, is joining the Big 12 in 2023, with the AAC teams expected on board by July 1, 2024.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2020; West Point, New York, USA; Army Black Knights running back Tyrell Robinson (21) celebrates a 15-0 win over Navy in the Army-Navy game at Michie Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Army, Air Force to meet in 2021 Commanders’ Classic

Army and Air Force will play the first-ever college football game at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, when they meet in the Lockheed Martin Commanders’ Classic on Nov. 6, 2021.

The U.S. military academies announced the details of a two-year agreement on Thursday, with the return meeting set for Nov. 5, 2022. The designated home team will be the Falcons in 2021 and the Black Knights in 2022.

The retractable-roof stadium, with a capacity of 40,300, opened its doors this spring. It is home to Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers and was the location of the 2020 World Series, as a neutral site amid COVID-19 protocols.

“We are honored to have Air Force and Army play the inaugural football game at Globe Life Field,” Rangers executive vice president Sean Decker said in a news release. “Honoring our military heroes is very important to the Texas Rangers, and we expect the environment and other activities surrounding this great matchup will make for a very exciting weekend in Arlington.”

Air Force (3-2) and Army (8-2) meet Saturday in West Point, N.Y.

The Falcons hold a 37-16-1 lead in the all-time series.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA; General view of Falcon Stadium during the first half of the game between the Boise State Broncos against the Air Force Falcons. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Air Force cancels game at Wyoming due to COVID-19

The Air Force game at Wyoming, scheduled for Saturday, has been canceled and will not be rescheduled, the program and the Mountain West announced Sunday.

The game will be declared a “no contest,” according to Mountain West COVID-19 protocols.

The game was called off by Air Force because of an upward trend of COVID-19 cases at the Air Force Academy and within the football program.

It is the second consecutive game that Air Force has postponed and/or canceled. The program’s game at Army on Nov. 7 was postponed last week. There have been discussions between the two programs to possibly play that game at a later date.

The Falcons (1-2, 0-2 MW) last played on Oct. 31 in a 49-30 loss to visiting Boise State at Falcon Stadium.

Air Force is scheduled to host New Mexico on Nov. 20.

Wyoming (1-2, 1-2) is scheduled to host Utah State on Nov. 19.

“We are disappointed to lose a second consecutive game, but the health and safety of our cadets, staff and community is our No. 1 priority at the Academy,” Air Force athletics director Nathan Pine said in a released statement.

“We have seen continued increase in our COVID numbers within the football program and have again eclipsed our threshold for safe competition,” he continued. “We will pause football practices for now.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 5, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Boise State Broncos quarterback Hank Bachmeier (19) warms up before a game against the UNLV Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State QB Bachmeier sidelined vs. Air Force

Boise State sophomore quarterback Hank Bachmeier didn’t travel with the team and missed Saturday’s road game at Air Force.

Sophomore starting safety JL Skinner also missed the Mountain West contest.

No. 25 Boise State reportedly confirmed one player missed the game due to a positive COVID-19 test but didn’t reveal the identity.

Transfer Jack Sears, a former Southern California starter, took Bachmeier’s place. Sears threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver CT Thomas on the game’s first offensive play.

Sears, a fourth-year junior, started one game for USC. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 235 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions during a 38-35 loss to Arizona State on Oct. 27, 2018.

Air Force sophomore quarterback Haaziq Daniels departed the game in the first quarter with an injury. Junior Warren Bryan replaced him.

–Field Level Media

Nov 30, 2019; Colorado Springs, CO, USA; Air Force Falcons head coach Troy Calhoun gestures in the fourth quarter against the Wyoming Cowboys at Falcon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Revamped Air Force crushes Navy, 40-7

Air Force, with 11 new starters on defense and as many as 30 players having opted out of football for the fall, scored 37 unanswered points en route to a 40-7 win over Navy on Saturday in Colorado Springs.

Air Force scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Sophomore Haaziq Daniels, in his first career start as Air Force quarterback, rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown, and Brad Roberts added 103 rushing yards and a score for the Falcons in their first game of the season.

Fullback Timothy Jackson led Air Force with 118 yards on 19 carries as the Falcons won their ninth straight game dating back to last season. That’s the longest active winning streak in the nation.

Air Force totaled 369 rushing yards on the day.

Teyve Schuettpelz-Rohl made all three of his field goal attempts in the first half, his last one as time ran out in the first half to give Air Force a 16-7 lead. He had four field goals for the game.

Navy (1-2) scored its only points on the first play of the second quarter. Tyger Goslin, in his first start of the season after expected starter Dalen Morris didn’t make the trip, found a wide open Miles Fells for a 73-yard touchdown pass. Fells caught the ball with no one covering him and ran untouched into the end zone.

The Falcons responded by marching down the field 75 yards in eight plays, with Daniels just getting the ball over the goal line for a touchdown and a 10-7 lead.

Goslin fumbled and Air Force recovered deep in Navy territory, but the Midshipmen kept the Falcons to a field goal and 13-7 lead with 6:36 left in the first half.

Goslin finished with 137 passing yards, but Navy was held to 90 rushing yards as a team, their lowest total in a game in four years.

In 13 season openers under coach Troy Calhoun, Air Force has outscored teams 668-143. All but Navy were FCS schools.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2019; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Air Force Falcons offensive lineman Scott Hattok (61) against the Washington State Cougars during the Cheez-It Bowl at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mountain West unveils sked to begin Oct. 24

The Mountain West unveiled an eight-game schedule on Thursday that begins Oct. 24 and will scrap the division format for the 2020 season.

The league will have the two teams with the top winning percentages meet in its conference title game on Dec. 19. The 12-team conference typically uses a two-division format.

“We are excited to get our student-athletes back on the football field this fall,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. “The shift away from a two-division format was necessary to optimize the schedule and allow for maximum flexibility given the various constraints which had to be considered.

“Inasmuch as the season begins with an uneven number of conference games, and the possibility exists additional games may be lost to COVID-19 challenges, the procedures for determining the participants in and location for the MW Football Championship Game were adapted to accommodate a range of outcomes in as equitable a fashion as possible.”

The uneven conference schedule allows Air Force keep its traditional military opponents on the slate. The Falcons host Navy this Saturday and play at Army on Nov. 7.

The Mountain West begins its conference slate with six games on Oct. 24.

–Field Level Media

Sep 7, 2020; Annapolis, Maryland, USA; Navy Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo reacts during the second half of the game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Air Force faces personnel questions for Navy’s visit

Air Force will become the first Mountain West Conference team to play a college football game this season when the Falcons take the field in Colorado Springs against Navy on Saturday.

It’s the first leg in the annual competition for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, contested among the three service academy teams. For the moment, Air Force has only two games on its schedule — this one and at Army on Nov. 7. That will change when the Mountain West Conference announces the schedule for its abbreviated football season, which will resume Oct. 24.

A key challenge for the Falcons, last year’s Cheez-It Bowl champions, will be establishing depth. “Turnbacks,” generally explained as the option to leave the academy for a semester for medical reasons — and in this case, offered to cadets in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — have decimated the football roster, especially on defense.

And on offense, two-year starter Donald Hammond III is not expected to suit up, as he is not in good standing as a cadet, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.

“We’re working through that, and that probably goes for a good number of spots,” Falcons coach Troy Calhoun said Tuesday about situation at the quarterback position. “We’re going to have some guys in certain positions, probably more so on the defensive side of the ball … the other thing that we’re going to have to balance is just the involvement of the special teams part of it.”

Air Force leads the all-time series 30-22 and is 18-7 at Falcon Stadium against the Midshipmen. The Falcons have won eight consecutive games going back to last season, which matches Notre Dame for the nation’s longest active winning streak.

The Midshipmen (1-1) should have a significant advantage having played twice, and they have already been through a season full of emotion. Following their forgettable opener, a 55-3 pounding by visiting BYU on Sept. 7, coach Ken Niumatalolo sent his team through full-contact workouts, blaming himself for backing off contact work in the unusual preseason.

The following week, the Midshipmen promptly fell behind Tulane 24-0. At halftime, Navy was a team that had been outscored 79-3 in six quarters of play.

Yet, the Middies responded oh-so positively after that. Navy put together the largest comeback in school history, scoring 27 unanswered points in the second half to overtake the Green Wave, 27-24.

Now they head to Colorado Springs for one of their two most important games of the season.

Navy has lost three consecutive games in Colorado Springs, but a win on Saturday would be No. 100 in Niumatalolo’s career. He’d be the sixth active college coach to reach 100 wins at one institution.

Niumatalolo has seven career wins over Air Force in his 12 previous seasons. His teams have won six Commander-in-Chief’s Trophies, while Air Force has won four in that time and Army two.

“It’s never about me. I’m just the head coach. It’s a program deal,” he said this week.

Only Air Force cadets will be allowed to attend the game, and the Falcons will wear uniforms inspired by the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.

–Field Level Media

Oct 6, 2018; Colorado Springs, CO, USA; Air Force Falcons wide receiver Geraud Sanders (7) makes a catch ahead of Navy Midshipmen cornerback Jarid Ryan (2) in the third quarter at Falcon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Air Force to host Navy on Oct. 3

Air Force added a second game to its 2020 football schedule and will host Navy on Oct. 3.

Only cadets from the Air Force Academy will be allowed to attend the contest at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., the school announced Monday.

“We have finalized all the necessary steps with Navy, in regards to testing protocols, to be able to play the game,” Air Force director of athletics Nathan Pine wrote in an open letter addressed to “Falcon Nation.”

Air Force had most of its football calendar wiped out when the Mountain West Conference postponed the fall season on Aug. 10 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Falcons were permitted to compete with the other service academies for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. They will travel to face Army on Nov. 7.

–Field Level Media