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

Mexico’s 409.

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

fourth down.

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

Mexico Bowl.

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

twice more.

”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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