New Mexico hands Air Force 2nd straight loss since Navy win
DALLAS (AP) Jalen Robinette and the Air Force Falcons haven't even led since a win over service academy rival Navy that had them unbeaten and maybe thinking about a national ranking.
Now it's just about survival in the Mountain West Conference.
Teriyon Gipson rushed for 140 yards with a touchdown and caught a pass for another score, leading New Mexico to a 45-40 victory over Air Force on Saturday.
The Falcons (4-2, 1-2 Mountain West) lost their second straight, and have trailed from the opening minutes to the finish both times after a 35-26 loss at Wyoming a week earlier.
''When we were 4-0, there was a lot of hype going around,'' said Robinette, who had his third straight 100-yard receiving game. ''Came up short twice, but those are the ones that hurt because you're right there. With the group we have, we keep our heads up.''
Playing at the historic Cotton Bowl not far from his Dallas high school, Gipson ran 60 yards down the sideline on an option pitch to give the Lobos (3-3, 2-1) a 14-3 lead in the first quarter.
The neutral site game at the Texas state fair featured teams with a combined 51 players from the Lone Star State, including 17 starters.
''I always dreamed about playing in the Cotton Bowl, watching Texas-OU, being from Dallas, it's right up the street,'' Gipson said. ''My first time playing in it, I wanted to make it memorable.''
Nate Romine threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns for the Falcons.
New Mexico's nation-leading rushing offense had 373 yards against an Air Force defense that was No. 2 nationally against the run and had allowed 401 yards all season coming in.
The teams combined for 974 yards – 443 for New Mexico and 531 for Air Force – and eight scoring drives of 70-plus yards.
But both defenses stiffened in the fourth quarter, when the Lobos had just 9 yards rushing and punted four times. Romine was sacked three times after halftime, and Air Force stalled twice in the final 3 1/2 minutes when a touchdown would have put the Falcons ahead.
''When you know it's going to be a shootout game type like that, you've just got to buckle down and know that we've got to score every drive,'' said Jacobi Owens, who led Air Force with 106 yards rushing. ''Sadly at the end, we didn't score every drive.''
Lamar Jordan had a career-high two touchdown passes for the ground-oriented Lobos. After a 12-yarder to Gipson midway through the second quarter, he floated one to a wide-open Q' Drennan for a 45-yard score . It was one of the nine plays of 30-plus yards in the game.
Robinette finished with season highs of seven catches for 182 yards, including a 53-yard score .
Tyrone Owens had a career-high 126 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Lobos, who got two rushing TDs from Richard McQuarley.
It was actually the third neutral site game between these schools from neighboring western states. Two of the first three games in the series were played in Denver in 1957 and 1959, just up the road from Air Force's Colorado Springs campus. The high-scoring game came 57 years after Air Force played one of two scoreless ties in the Cotton Bowl game, against TCU.
After the game, Gipson handed his helmet to 8-year-old nephew Marcell Gipson Jr., one of several family members in attendance. ''That's my biggest fan,'' Gipson said. ''He's been watching me since high school, middle school. He called my name all the time on the sidelines so after the game I had to go show him some love.''
New Mexico: The Lobos bounced back strong from a blowout loss to No. 15 Boise State and might have taken a big step toward a second straight bowl season under fifth-year coach Bob Davie.
Air Force: The Falcons might have been thinking about making a run for the Top 25 after improving to 4-0 with a win over Navy, which handed No. 13 Houston its first loss a week later. But consecutive Mountain West losses have changed their outlook.
New Mexico: Home against Louisiana-Monroe next Saturday.
Air Force: Home against Hawaii next Saturday.
This story corrects previous versions to show 9 yards rushing in the fourth quarter for New Mexico instead of 10 and 182 yards receiving for Jalen Robinette instead of 169.