Air Force 28, New Mexico 23
Air Force linebacker Alex Means single-handedly turned the tide
with an interception return for a touchdown he said was pure luck,
then snuffed out New Mexico’s comeback with a fourth-down stop in
the closing minutes.
The senior reached high with his right hand to tip B.R.
Holbrook’s pass to running back Chase Clayton in the right flat
during the first half Saturday night, gathered in the fluttering
football and sprinted 65 yards untouched for his first career
Then, he helped seal the Falcons’ 28-23 win by stuffing Lamaar
Thomas for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-4 from the Falcons 12 after
missing a series while shaking off the effects of a chop block.
Thanks to Means’ pair of big plays and a trio of 1-yard TD runs
by Wes Cobb, the Falcons (4-3, 3-1) overcame Kasey Carrier’s
Mountain West Conference-record 338 yards rushing and three
Means was particularly fond of his fourth-down stop.
”I think that was a more critical point of the game,” he said.
”The interception, I actually didn’t run the right play. We had a
little miscommunication on what the play was. I kind of ran it late
and I was in no man’s land and … we got lucky, but we’ll take
Late on a blitz call, Means found himself between the
quarterback and the receiver in the backfield and used every bit of
his 6-foot-5 frame to make sure Holbrook’s floater didn’t reach its
”I just put my hand up, and it tipped and popped up in the air,
and the whole time I said, `No way, no way, no way!’ ” Means
recounted. ”And the next thing I know, I was in the end zone about
to have a heart attack.”
The Falcons won despite losing Cody Getz, the nation’s
second-leading rusher, on their first snap when he aggravated a
sprained left ankle. They ended up rushing for 291 yards to New
The Lobos (4-4, 1-2) lost Holbrook to a concussion just before
halftime and mostly ran the ball in the second half behind backup
quarterback Quinton McCown and with Carrier and Thomas, a wide
receiver, taking some direct snaps.
Trailing by five, the Lobos reached the Air Force 18 after a
strip by Tim Foley of Falcons receiver Ty MacArthur. But Carrier
had to take a breather on the sideline and then gained just 1 yard
on third-and-5. Then, he watched Thomas get stuffed by Means on
The Falcons took over and chewed up the final 3:57 to secure
their fifth straight win over New Mexico.
Under coach Bob Davie, the Lobos have already halted a 24-game
road losing streak, put a stop to a 26-game skid outside of New
Mexico and ended an 18-game losing streak on the road in league
”That’s a good team now,” Means said. ”That’s not the New
Mexico that I’m used to. No disrespect to that program, but I
remember my freshman, sophomore, junior years, they were not nearly
that good. And I think that’s probably the coaching staff. They had
the athletes and this year, that coaching staff has done wonders
with that team.
”They’re not looking to lose. This is not the old New Mexico.
This is a good squad.”
And Carrier’s a heck of a ball carrier, Means added.
He ran the ball 39 times, scored on runs of 1, 1 and 37 yards
and was chased down after runs of 68 and 59 yards that set up New
Mexico’s first two scores.
Carrier, whose 37-yard TD run in the third quarter pulled the
Lobos to within 28-23, broke New Mexico’s single-game rushing mark
of 265 yards set by Quincy Wright against Weber State 10 years ago.
He also surpassed the conference mark of 285 yards set by Gartrell
Johnson of Colorado State against Fresno State in the 2008 New
By halftime, he had amassed 227 yards on 22 carries, surpassing
his career high of 191 yards set just two weeks ago against Texas
State. The Lobos, however, trailed 14-10 at the break thanks to
Means’ first career touchdown.
Carrier stepped through the line and raced 68 yards on his first
carry before Steffon Batts chased him down and knocked him out of
bounds at the 7.
”It definitely set the tone for the game and our offense,”
Carrier said. ”We came out running the ball and that’s what we do.
That first play just gave us some momentum.”
The Lobos, however, had to settle for Justus Adams’ short field
Carrier also was chased down just shy of the goal line minutes
later when he burst up the middle for a 59-yard run, tripped up by
Christian Spears at the 1. This time, Carrier took it in from there
for a 10-0 lead.
Carrier capped New Mexico’s first drive of the second half with
a 1-yard TD that put the Lobos back on top 17-14 before Cobb scored
”A game like this definitely makes us a lot stronger,” Foley
said. ”We’re coming together as a team really well. We’re meshing
really well and were anticipating the rest of the five games this
season to be like this and … we’re going to work to come out on
top next time.”
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