U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. – A second half surge lifted Air Force to a 38-35 come-from-behind victory in the home finale against Utah State, Saturday night at Falcon Stadium. In his debut appearance, sophomore quarterback Isaiah Sanders rushed for 196 yards and three touchdowns in 44 carries, setting an all-time program record for the most carries in a single game. Senior kicker Luke Strebel notched a field goal and five extra points to set the new program record for career points at 254.
Utah State got ahead of the Falcons early as Aaren Vaughns rushed for a 71-yard touchdown in just under two minutes of the opening drive.
The Falcons responded with persistent ground attack led by Sanders in his first time at the helm of the Air Force offense. The Falcons’ drive ended with Strebel notching a 32-yard field goal to put Air Force on the board. The field goal put Strebel within striking distance of the all-time career points record (252), jointly held by Dee Dowis (QB 1986-89) and Beau Morgan (QB 1994-96).
In their next possession, the Aggies took another strike at Air Force's sweet-spot as Gerold Bright took the ball up the gut for a 75-yard touchdown rush to put Utah State up, 14-3.
With 22 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Tim McVey punched in an 11-yard touchdown rush to narrow the Aggies’ lead to four. Utah State’s LaJaun Hunt responded with an 11-yard run for the end zone with just under six minutes remaining in the second half.
Sanders led the Air Force offensive charge in the first half, running for 117 yards in 23 carries, including a two-yard touchdown rush in the waning seconds of the first half, narrowing the Aggies’ lead to four. The Falcon offense put up 228 first-half yards.
Air Force took its first lead of the game in the third quarter as an 80-yard scoring drive was closed with Sanders’ second rushing touchdown from four yards out. Strebel tied the career points record with the ensuing extra-point.
Utah State reclaimed the lead six plays later with a 99-yard scoring drive that came to an end with a 24-yard pass connection from Jordan Love to Ron’quavion Tarver.
A three-and-out Falcon possession yielded a 72-yard punt by Charlie Scott, pinning the Aggies on their own two. The fired-up Falcon defense capitalized on the field position as Grant Ross sacked Love in the end zone, forcing a fumble and subsequent recovery by Santo Coppola for six, lifting the Falcons to a 30-28 lead with 10 minutes remaining. Strebel claimed the program’s career points record with the ensuing extra point.
The Love-Tarver connection responded with a 22-yard touchdown pass with just over five minutes remaining, lifting Utah State to a 35-31 lead.
Sanders continued to lead the charge, commanding the Falcons to a 75-yard scoring drive that ended in his third rushing touchdown of the game with 1:38 remaining, regaining the Falcon lead, 38-35.
An electrifying defensive stand by Air Force kept Aggies out of the end zone in their final possession, yielding the ball to Air Force on their own 42 with 1:11 remaining. The Falcons rolled out in the victory formation to run the clock to expiration.
Ross led the defense with nine tackles to his credit; he had the only sack of the game for Air Force. Lakota Wills tallied eight tackles while James Jones and Jack Flor notched six apiece.
The Falcons, with an overall record of 5-7 and a 4-4 mark in Mountain West play, conclude their 2017 campaign with the victory.