By Staff Sgt. Don Branum
Academy Public Affairs
The U.S. Air Force Academy football team fought hard against 10th-ranked Texas Christian University, but lost 20-17 Oct. 10 at Falcon Stadium here.
An 8-yard rush by Falcons quarterback Connor Dietz brought the Falcons within three points with less than a minute to play, but the Horned Frogs recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
“Both teams played their hearts out,” said Falcons head coach Troy Calhoun. “What you can see is that our guys love playing football. My gut tells me that we’re going to be a better football team this second half of the season.”
The Academy team’s final drive capitalized on one of three Horned Frogs turnovers of the day. Falcons defensive lineman Kylie Wikstrom forced Horned Frogs wide receiver Jeremy Kerley to cough up the ball, and defensive back Chris Thomas recovered for Air Force. The fumble came one play after the Horned Frogs stopped the Air Force team on 4th and 23.
“That is a good Air Force football team. You can’t turn the ball over against them,” said TCU head coach Gary Patterson. “You’ve got to give Air Force credit. They did what they needed to do. They fought … but we were lucky enough to make a couple of plays more than they did.”
TCU controlled the ball for most of the game, leading Air Force nearly two-to-one in time of possession going into the fourth quarter. The Horned Frogs ran 80 plays, compared to 63 for the Falcons.
TCU’s go-ahead score was a 27-yard field goal from Evans Ross, which put the Frogs up 20-10 with 2:49 left to play.
Air Force broke a two-game offensive scoring drought in the second quarter with a 16-yard pass from wide receiver Jonath Warzeka to wide receiver Kevin Fogler, who was wide open in the end zone. The touchdown was the first pass of the sophomore’s career.
The Horned Frogs’ first touchdown of the game came on a one-yard run by tailback Joseph Turner with 3:32 to play in the first quarter. Its second score came on a two-yard outside run by Kerley with 3:44 remaining in the second quarter.
The Falcon’s rushing attack, ranked second in the nation, gained 229 yards against TCU, which had the nation’s top-ranked rushing defense and allowed only 47 yards per game coming into this contest.
Connor Dietz looked comfortable in the Falcons’ offensive lineup, accounting for 71 rushing yards on 15 attempts and going 6-of-17 for 42 yards through the air.
“I really thought he (Dietz) did a fine job for a guy who made only his second start,” Coach Calhoun said. “He made some plays. What I love most about him is just his spirit and his leadership. He’s a guy who, when you go play a game, you can tell it means something to him.”
TCU’s offense rushed for 195 yards on 52 carries. TCU quarterback Andy Dalton was 16-of-28 for 198 yards with one interception.
The Falcons’ defense has 20 takeaways so far this season and has forced two or more turnovers in 18 of its last 22 games. Ben Garland had two sacks on Dalton for 14 yards; defensive lineman Rick Ricketts and linebacker Wale Lawal shared credit for a third sack. Senior linebacker Justin Moore had a career-high 12 tackles, topping his 11 tackles against Navy Oct. 3.
The pregame ceremony featured the presentation of a game ball that traveled halfway around the world from Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, where it survived being accidentally run over by a 14-ton mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle. The Air Force-TCU game was the third game in a tripleheader broadcast by the CBS College Sports Network that also included Army’s 16-13 overtime victory over Vanderbilt and Navy’s 63-14 thrashing of Rice.
The temperature at kickoff was 19 degrees, the coldest weather in which the Horned Frogs have played since joining the Mountain West Conference in 2004. The victory puts TCU at 5-0, their best start since 2003, and 1-0 in the MWC. Air Force drops to 3-3 (2-1).
“Hats off to TCU — that is a tremendous football team,” Coach Calhoun said. “They came in here, played well under some circumstances that were probably a little bit different in terms of the climate, and they handled it exceptionally well.”