San Diego St. 41, Air Force 27
Ronnie Hillman put the game away with a big finish.
Hillman ran for 103 of his 172 yards in the fourth quarter, including touchdown runs of 22 and 57 yards, and San Diego State survived a series of trick plays figuring in two Air Force scores to pull away for a 41-27 victory Thursday night.
''The offensive line got better and better as the game went on,'' Hillman said. ''I just think we got hats on hats and the holes were just there, and I just ran.''
The sophomore running back shook off a late fumble to finish with his 11th 100-yard performance in 18 career games. He had a 191-yard effort last year in a 27-25 victory over Air Force in San Diego.
''I try to have a big game every game, so that's just a coincidence,'' Hillman said. ''I'm just happy I helped my team win tonight. We've had two tough weeks so this was nice.''
Ryan Lindley threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns, including a go-ahead 28-yard score to Colin Lockett late in the third quarter to help San Diego State (4-2, 1-1 Mountain West) bounce back from consecutive losses. The Aztecs are off to their best start since 1977, when they began the season 5-1.
''I don't think any of us on the offensive side were playing our best football the past two weeks,'' Lindley said. ''We knew we needed to step it up. Hats off to Air Force. They're a team that's going to grind with you for four quarters. We just continued to do our thing. We were running the ball well and kind of worked our play-action game in there, and everything worked out pretty good.''
Tim Jefferson had touchdown passes of 18 and 26 yards to Jonathan Warzeka among his 22 completions in 36 attempts for 224 yards for Air Force (3-3, 0-2).
Air Force kept it close for much of the game. Mikel Hunter helped to break a tie with his second big run on a reverse, gaining 33 yards to the San Diego State 17.
The Falcons advanced to the 14 before Parker Herrington, who earlier kicked a 44-yard field goal, came on to add a 31-yarder for a 20-17 lead midway through the third quarter.
But San Diego State scored 10 points in a 14-second span following two Air Force turnovers.
''There were stretches where we did play well, but not nearly the way you have to for a full 60 minutes,'' Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. ''There's no doubt (the turnovers) were key plays. Fundamentally, there's some work that certainly has to be done.''
Rene Siluano's interception of Jefferson's pass set up Abelardo Perez's second field goal, a 25-yarder that evened the score at 20 with 2:30 left in the third quarter. Then, on the first play of Air Force's next series, Mike DeWitt fumbled after a hit by Jerome Long, and Logan Ketchum covered the loose ball for San Diego State at Air Force's 28. From there, Lindley found Lockett open in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
Hillman added to San Diego State's lead with a 22-yard touchdown run, breaking a tackle at the line of scrimmage and then dragging a defender the final 3 yards into the end zone.
He broke loose for his second score moments later, taking advantage of solid blocking at the point of attack.
Herrington kicked his first field goal, and Air Force pulled into a 17-17 tie in the finishing touch to a pulsating second quarter in which the teams combined for 24 points.
San Diego State went in front 10-7 on Lindley's 27-yard touchdown pass to tight end Alston Umuolo with 14:11 left in the second quarter.
Air Force answered with a scoring drive that featured two trick plays. On a third-and-9 play, Hunter broke free on a reverse for a 29-yard gain to the 11. Air Force managed to get to the 4, where they Falcons lined up for an apparent field goal try on fourth down. But Herrington lined up as the holder and punter David Baska, normally the holder, took his place as kicker. Herrington got the long snap and took off around the right side, pitching the ball back to the trailing Baska, who dove over a San Diego State defender and shoved the ball one-handed over the goal line for the touchdown.
The Aztecs wasted no time responding. Brandon Davis returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and a 17-14 San Diego State lead. Davis bolted up the middle, stepped out of a tackle at about the 25 and quickly veered into the clear down the right sideline, going the rest of the way untouched.