Air Force 45, Colorado St. 21

Zack Kauth took two strips of white athletic tape and put them

across his chest before kickoff Saturday so that quarterback Tim

Jefferson could have a nice target.

”I made an X, and I put it right here on my jersey, and I said,

`Hey, I’ll make it real easy for you. Put the ball right here,”

Kauth recounted.

Jefferson did just that.

”I hit him in the chest a lot today,” Jefferson said.

Well, only three times, but each one went for a touchdown.

Kauth’s trio of TDs covered 33, 40 and 50 yards in Air Force’s

45-21 rout of Colorado State on Saturday night that made the

Falcons bowl eligible for a fifth straight year under coach Troy

Calhoun.

Kauth, a senior who came into the game with just one TD this

season, said his mother texted him Saturday morning saying, ”I’ve

never seen you score in person.”

”So, I had to get at least one,” said Kauth, whose previous

career best was two TDs in a game – against Colorado State last

year.

Jefferson threw for 221 yards and contributed 38 of Air Force’s

344 yards on the ground as Air Force piled up a season high 565

yards of total offense.

All three of his TD tosses to Kauth came in the second quarter,

when the Falcons adjusted to an unconventional Rams defense and

turned a 7-0 deficit into a 31-7 lead.

”I’ve never seen them do it like that,” Falcons defensive back

Jon Davis said of the Jefferson-Kauth connection

”It looked like a video game out there. They were putting on a

clinic.”

Jefferson thought so, too.

”Honestly, this is no offense to Colorado State, but if felt a

little bit too easy,” Jefferson said. ”We drove the ball down the

field way too easily against a D-I defense. So, I guess that’s a

tribute to how good our offense can play.”

The Rams ditched their usual 4-3 defensive alignment for a front

that included a nose guard, two tackles and two outside

linebackers, but the Falcons quickly adjusted.

The Falcons (7-5, 3-4 Mountain West) were expected to have their

best season under Calhoun but a spate of injuries left them

battling for a bowl on their season finale instead. Their

resounding win marked the first time in the program’s history that

Air Force has won seven or more games in five straight seasons.

The Rams (3-8, 1-5) lost their seventh straight game overall and

their sixth in a row to the Falcons despite sophomore Chris Nwoke’s

career-best 269-yard rushing performance that included TD runs of

62 and 2 yards and came two weeks after his 232-yard game against

San Diego State.

”It is a good feeling to get the yardage,” Nwoke said, ”but

it is disappointing that we didn’t get the win.”

Asher Clark ran for 111 yards and a touchdown for the Falcons,

who rolled downfield on the game’s opening drive before linebacker

Mychal Sisson punched the ball out of Jefferson’s hands.

Linebacker Max Morgan recovered at the Colorado State 13, and

the Rams then drove 87 yards and freshman Garrett Grayson hit Byron

Steele with a 4-yard touchdown toss.

Colorado State would only gain 12 more yards the rest of the

first half before trudging to the locker room down by 24 points

thanks to Kauth’s three receptions for 123 yards.

Air Force tied it on the first play of the second quarter when

Kauth raced past cornerback Shaq Bell and hauled in a 33-yard TD

throw from Jefferson, who was creamed by linebacker James

Skelton.

”It was huge, because he got thumped,” Calhoun said of

Jefferson standing up to the rush.

”I didn’t know he was coming until he hit me,” Jefferson said.

”It was completely from the blind side. As soon as I threw it, I

got hit.”

Kauth lined up on the left side on the Falcons’ next drive,

slipped past cornerback Momo Thomas and hauled in Jefferson’s

40-yard touchdown toss in stride to put Air Force ahead for

good.

Kauth’s 50-yard TD catch made it 24-7.

”It was right on the money,” Kauth said. ”He left it

fly.”

Grayson, a freshman subbing for injured starter Pete Thomas

(knee) scrambled for a big gain on the Rams’ next drive but instead

of sliding, he stayed standing as he was gang-tackled and lost the

ball, his first of two fumbles that were recovered by the

Falcons.

The Falcons, who responded to Nwoke’s 62-yard TD with 3-yard

touchdown runs by Mike DeWitt and Clark, now await a bowl bid.

”It means everything,” Davis said. ”We don’t care who we

play. We’re just happy that football’s not over for us yet.”

The Rams host Wyoming next week in their quest to end their long

losing skid dating to a 35-34 win at Utah State on Sept. 24. Coach

Steve Fairchild has a year and $750,000 left on his contract and

athletic director Paul Kowalczyk reiterated Saturday that he’ll

review his head football coach’s status after the season.

Kowalczyk told The Associated Press that the NCAA’s

recommendation for $2,000 annual stipends for student athletes

beginning in the next academic year would cost CSU about $300,000

in scholarship boosts but that would have no effect on his decision

whether or not to stick with Fairchild.

Notes: Air Force LB Jordan Waiwaiole suffered what appeared to

be a serious injury to his right arm. … Nwoke’s 269 yards are the

third-most by a Rams rusher and the most by any player in the 227

games played at Hughes Stadium.

Connect with AP Sports Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on

Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton