By Staff Sgt. Don Branum
Academy Public Affairs
Air Force Academy Falcons posted their first shutout against a Mountain West Conference opponent in 12 years, defeating the Wyoming Cowboys 10-0 at Falcon Stadium Oct. 17 to end a two-game losing streak.
The Falcons’ defense held Wyoming to 174 yards of total offense, keeping the Cowboys out of the red zone and sacking quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels six times for 46 yards.
The only touchdown of the game came on a 17-yard scamper up the middle by Falcons running back Jared Tew with 10:48 left in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons’ final drive of the game chewed nearly 7 minutes off the clock on 14 plays, including two third-down conversions and one fourth-down conversion. The drive ended on downs when Wyoming senior outside linebacker Weston Johnson stopped Asher Clark for a four-yard loss at the Wyoming 28.
The Cowboys took over with 2:30 left in the game, moving the ball to the Falcons’ 45, but the defensive line pressured Carta-Samuels, who threw four straight incomplete passes. Air Force took over on downs with 0:26 to play.
“I thought today we were extremely resilient and we did what we had to do to win a football game,” said Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun.
The Falcons took a 3-0 lead with 0:37 remaining in the third quarter on a 29-yard field goal by Eric Soderberg.
Senior defensive back Luke Hyder caught the first interception of his career on a pass that bounced out of the hands of Carta-Samuels’ intended receiver. Hyder returned the interception 27 yards to the Wyoming 48, but a personal foul penalty brought the ball back to the Falcons’ 37.
Wyoming attempted a 42-yard field goal with 0:04 left in the first half, but the Falcons’ Zach Kauth got a hand on the ball to block the attempt. It was the third blocked kick for the Falcons so far this season.
The Falcons’ offense established a rhythm in the second half after sophomore quarterback Connor Dietz replaced starting sophomore QB Tim Jefferson, moving the ball 190 yards in the second half compared to 104 yards of offense in the first half.
“He provided a spark,” Calhoun said. “As well as we were playing on defense, you could just tell, we weren’t going to need a lot of points, but we were going to need something.”
The Falcons also controlled the ball almost twice as long as the Cowboys in the second half (19:25 to 10:35).
“Our defense was on the field a whole bunch today,” said Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen.
Penalties hindered both teams, with Air Force committing 13 penalties for 125 yards and Wyoming earning 10 penalties for 71 yards. Three of Wyoming’s first downs came off Falcons penalties.
“We probably had as many penalties today as we’ve had in a long time,” Calhoun said, “but that can’t be the Air Force Academy.”
Air Force had 69 rushes for 267 yards, averaging nearly 4 yards per carry. Tew had 105 yards for on 27 rushes to earn his first 100-yard game of the season. Junior running back Savier Stephens had 46 yards on eight carries, and Jefferson and sophomore running back Asher Clark each had 11 carries for 33 and 39 yards, respectively. The Falcons had only 2 yards in the air on a completion from Jefferson to junior tight end Chaz Demerath in the first quarter.
“We certainly should have been better, but (Wyoming’s defense) had something to do with that,” Calhoun said. “They have good size up front.”
Wyoming had 100 yards on the ground and 74 yards in the air on 14 completions by Carta-Samuels.
“He’s a heck of a player,” Calhoun said. “He’s mobile. He can do things spontaneously that are really impressive for a guy that age, the way he can keep a play alive. Anytime you’ve got a guy who can buy some time, they’ve always got you pulling on your hair. Even when you’ve got them in long-yardage situations, you wonder, ‘Can I keep him hemmed up?'”