Air Force 63, Tennessee St. 24

Tennessee State was ready for the Air Force running game, it

just couldn’t stop it.

Tim Jefferson threw for a career-high three touchdowns and the

Falcons piled up a school record 792 yards of offense – 595 on the

ground – in a 63-24 rout of the Tigers on Saturday.

A week after giving up 58 points to Murray State, the Tigers

tied the school record for most points allowed against Air

Force.

”It’s tough but at the same time we’ve got to get over it,”

linebacker John Jones said. ”It hurt.”

The young Tigers had a size advantage but struggled with the

Falcons’ quickness and the altitude. Tigers coach Rod Reed brought

the Tigers to town a day early in hopes of getting them acclimated

to Falcon Stadium’s 6,620-foot elevation, but they were gasping for

breath chasing the Falcons’ ball carriers.

”This was a game we knew would be tough for us, especially

coming from Tennessee to this altitude,” coach Rd Reed said. ”We

had guys coming out on the first series who couldn’t breathe.”

Air Force (2-1) capitalized, scoring on its first two

possessions to go up 14-0. The Tigers responded when Air Force

defensive back Anthony Wooding Jr. allowed Calvin McNairl to blow

past him and haul in an 80-yard touchdown catch from Mike German in

the first quarter.

”That was a big play,” McNairl said. ”That got us going a

little bit.”

The lower division Tigers had a chance to tie the game after a

big defensive play when Falcons running back Anthony LaCoste was

stripped a foot before crossing the goal line on a 22-yard run in

the second quarter.

Jones ripped the ball from LaCoste’s arms just before he strode

into the end zone. The play was originally ruled a TD but reversed

to a touchback on automatic review.

”If the offense would have come through after that it would

have been a different ballgame,” Jones said.

The Falcons, however, forced a three-and-out, Jon Davis returned

the punt 19 yards to midfield. Three plays later, Mikel Hunter made

a leaping catch of Jefferson’s 34-yard TD pass that made it 21-7,

and the rout was on.

”It was a matter of execution,” Reed said. ”We knew we had

our work cut out for us and we knew we needed to control the clock

a little bit more, which we didn’t do in the first half to keep the

defense off the field.”

About the only time the Tigers held up after that was when Lamar

Wallace recovered DeWitt’s fumble at the Tennessee State 5.

”They were really sucking wind on defense and we left them off

the hook twice,” Jefferson said of the Falcons’ fumbles.

Jefferson (13 for 15 for 178 yards) threw another 34-yard

scoring strike, Asher Clark scored on a 7-yard run, Mike DeWitt

took it in from 4 yards out and Wes Cobb added a 2-yard TD run for

the Falcons, who led 35-10 at halftime.

The Falcons punted just once and scored nine touchdowns on 13

possessions. They were on the sideline cheering when freshman

Jonathan Lee scampered into the end zone from 49 yards out on his

first collegiate carry, which made it 63-17.

”At least we didn’t get beat up as bad as we thought,” Reed

said.

Tennessee State, which also was looking for a game this weekend

after a matchup in the Atlanta Football Classic against Florida

A&M had fallen through, accepted a $370,000 guarantee from Air

Force.

”It’s something we have to look into in the future whether we

want to take a game like this,” Reed said. ”It’s really hard on

the kids and you know it’s hard on their spirits when you give up a

lot of yardage like that.”

The Tigers came in yielding just 84.6 yards on the ground – but

that was a byproduct of their poor pass defense. They had

surrendered a dozen TD passes coming into the game.