AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) Air Force shifted its tailback to fullback. The Falcons quarterback played more like a battering ram near the goal line. Their receiver threw with the accuracy of a QB.
Sound confusing? Trying being Fresno State’s defense.
Quarterback Karson Roberts rushed for four touchdowns and caught another on a trick play, helping Air Force overcome a sluggish start to beat the Bulldogs 42-14 on Saturday.
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”Worked out well for us,” said Roberts, whose five total touchdowns ties for the second-most in school history, one behind the mark set by QB Dee Dowis in 1989.
Indeed, it did. The Falcons (4-3, 3-1 Mountain West) had to improvise a little bit to earn their 10th straight home win. With their top fullbacks sidelined by injuries, coach Troy Calhoun moved 195-pound tailback Jacobi Owens to the all-important spot in the option offense. In goal-line situations, Roberts stuck his helmet into the middle of piles.
As for receiver Jalen Robinette, well, he keeps showcasing his arm. He spun out of a tackle on a reverse and threw his second TD pass of the season – a 20-yard strike to a wide-open Roberts.
”It’s always great to win. But when we get to do a little bit of trickery and stuff like that, that’s a blast, too,” said Robinette, who also had three catches for 79 yards. ”This whole day was just fun.”
Especially for Roberts. His big afternoon included three TDs from the 1-yard line and another on a 6-yard scamper. He’s the first Falcons quarterback to rush for four TDs in a game since Shaun Carney in 2005. Roberts finished with 92 yards rushing and another 108 through the air.
Fresno State (2-6, 1-4) jumped out to a 14-0 lead on long runs by Marteze Waller and Dustin Garrison, only to have the Falcons respond with 42 unanswered points.
”They changed some things up on defense,” Fresno State freshman quarterback Kilton Anderson said. ”We might have got a little complacent with the two scores.”
Bryan Driskell finished with 144 yards rushing for Air Force and Owens added 137, along with a score. Even without injured fullbacks Shayne Davern (knee) and D.J. Johnson (ankle), the Falcons still rushed for 458 yards.
Just don’t refer to Owens as a fullback. He prefers hybrid.
”I did actually (enjoy it),” Owens said of the position switch. ”Make one cut and you’re gone.”
The play that woke up Air Force’s sleepy offense was a 54-yard run by Driskell late in the first quarter. Until then, Air Force struggled to get on track.
”When he broke that run, it did something for the offense,” Owens said.
Roberts felt the same way.
”From there, we (stuck) it in and got us going a little bit,” Roberts said.
After some early trouble, the Falcons defense settled into a groove, allowing 77 yards and just five first downs after the first quarter. They sacked Anderson twice and intercepted him once.
”Something changed. They felt it, too,” linebacker Claude Alexander III said.
The Bulldogs led by two touchdowns early when Waller raced 64 yards for a score and Garrison soon followed with a 60-yard TD burst. It marked the first time this season Air Force has trailed at home.
Stampeded for 234 yards in the first quarter, Air Force’s defense clamped down and held the Bulldogs for minus-9 yards in the second quarter. Defensive back Roland Ladipo stepped in front of a receiver deep in Bulldog territory and picked off an Anderson pass to set up Roberts’ game-tying quarterback sneak.
Roberts gave the Falcons the lead for good when he trotted in from 6 yards with 5:58 remaining before halftime.
This was a homecoming of sorts for Fresno State coach by Tim DeRuyter, who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1985. He served as the defensive coordinator under Calhoun from 2007-09.
”I respect what those guys do, it’s my alma mater,” DeRuyter said. ”But it doesn’t matter, I hate losing.”
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