Oct. 30, 2010
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) - Utah's defense forced five turnovers and stopped the Falcons twice on downs in the final quarter, helping the eighth-ranked Utes hold off Air Force for a 28-23 win Saturday to set up a showdown with No. 4 TCU next weekend.
Safety Greg Bird came up with one big hit after another and Eddie Wide scored twice as the Utes ran their record to 8-0 for the third time in the last seven years.
Utah (5-0 Mountain West) will face its biggest challenge so far this season when it hosts TCU next Saturday, a marquee matchup between two hopeful BCS busters.
Tim Jefferson passed for 201 yards and ran for another 67 as the Falcons (5-4, 3-3) dropped their third straight game. He also threw two interceptions.
Trailing 28-10 in the fourth quarter, Jefferson rallied the Falcons. He turned in a career-long 59-yard touchdown run and later threw a 49-yard TD pass to Kyle Halderman to make it a 28-23 game with 10:22 remaining.
The Falcons went for the 2-point conversion, but Bird stuffed Jefferson at the goal line. Bird later had a big hit on Asher Clark on fourth-and-3, giving the ball back to Utah, which drove into field goal range.
But Joe Phillips' 42-yard attempt clanged off the right goal post, keeping the score 28-23 with just over 3 minutes left. It also halted Phillips' streak of 18 straight makes.
The Falcons again turned the ball over on downs when Jefferson was stopped short on fourth-and-3 at the Falcons 33.
Air Force got the ball back one last time at its 1-yard line with 19 seconds left. The Falcons drove out to the 35, but Jefferson was sacked by Chaz Walker on the game's final play.
These two teams are accustomed to playing close games. Of the previous 13 meetings, only one has been decided by double digits, and last season's game went into overtime, before Wide scored the winner.
The Falcons came in with the top-ranked rushing offense in the country and finished with 210 yards against the Utes, who boast one of the top run defenses.
The game was the last meeting of the schools as members of the Mountain West. The Utes are bolting for the Pac-10 next season.
The Utes used a little trickery in the third quarter. On fourth-and-4 from the Air Force 12, holder Sean Sellwood flipped the ball Phillips on a field goal attempt, and he rushed through the heart of the line for the first down. Wide later scored from a yard out to give the Utes a 28-10 lead.
Air Force gained nearly twice as many yards in the first half, but the Utes still took a 14-10 lead into the locker room. They could thank an opportunistic defense that forced three fumbles and 1-yard TD runs from tailbacks Wide and Matt Asiata, who finished with 95 yards rushing.