The Air Force Falcons ended their 2003 season with a, 24-3, loss to the San Diego State Aztecs as a campaign which began with a promising 5-0 start and a national ranking for AFA, came to an abrupt and faltering conclusion.
RECORDS, BUT NOT MEMORABLE ONES. San Diego State combined
Michael Franklin's 122 yards rushing, over 200 yards in passing from QB Matt
Dlugolecki and an air tight defense to post a second consecutive win over the
AFA Falcons--the first time in San Diego State's history the team has posted
back-to-back victories against the Falcons.
Air Force failed to score a touchdown for
the first time since opening day of the 2001 season--when Oklahoma hammered the
Falcons 44-3--and never threatened to reach the Aztecs' endzone until reserve QB
Adam Fitch's final pass of the game fell incomplete in the game's last two
For the fourth time in the 2003 season Air
Force allowed an opposing running back to gain over 100 yards. Air Force lost
each time. Franklin, playing in place of the injured Lynell Hamilton, joined
Navy's Kyle Eckel, CSU's Bradlee Van Pelt and New Mexico's DonTrell Moore in
going over the one hundred yard barrier en route to helping his team post a win
against Air Force.
For the third consecutive season Air Force
finished its year by losing five of its last seven games on the schedule. After
defeating Brigham Young by a, 24-10, score in September, the Falcons limped
through the remainder of this season able to post wins only against hapless UNLV
and Army--the latter now poised squarely on the brink of becoming the first team
in NCAA division 1-A history to compile a 0-13 record on the season.
STUFFED . As when facing New
Mexico last week the Falcons came up empty on offense against a stingy Aztecs'
unit. AFA managed a mere 286 yards on offense, and this from a team which had
been averaging nearly 395 yards on offense entering the game.
The teams battled to a 3-3 halftime score
as J. C. Mejia connected on a 34 yard field goal for SDS while AFA's Joey
Ashcroft booted a 40 yarder at the gun as time expired in the first half. Air
Force was fortunate to even be in the game after thirty minutes as it amassed
just 84 yard of offense through two quarters. The Falcons ran for 67 yards and
could add only 15 through the air in the first half to go with their six first
downs. Wide receiver J. P. Waller led Air Force on the night with 4 receptions
for 45 yards.
Jacobe Kendrick returned a short second
half opening kickoff to the Falcons' 41 yard line, but Air Force was unable to
mount a sustained drive.
On its first possession of the second half
Dlugolecki lateraled the ball Hubert Caliste, who in turn threw a strike to an
uncovered Devin Pitts for a 26 yard scoring pass to give SDS its first TD of the
game, a 10-3 lead and the only points it would need to settle the matter of
determining the game's winner.
Early in the fourth quarter Air Force
mounted a minor drive which reached the SDS 49 yard line, but was
short-circuited when LB Kirk Morrison stripped the ball from AFA QB Chance
San Diego State delivered a knockout punch
in the form of a Franklin touchdown when he sped into the endzone to cap a
seventeen yard sprint with 12:58 remaining in the game.
The Aztecs closed the scoring when Marviel
Underwood intercepted a Harridge aerial and returned it seventy-four yards for a
touchdown with 1:32 left in the game.
DOWNBEAT ENDING. In closing a
third straight season by limping to the finish line with a 2-5 record over the
course of its last season games, Air Force dropped its last four conference
games by a combined 123-78 score. In its final two games this season Air Force
managed just fifteen points and only a single TD--that one on a short run by
Darnell Stephens after New Mexico had iced a victory against the Falcons.
The 2003 Air Force team becomes the first in Fisher
DeBerry's twenty year tenure as head coach to begin a season 5-0 and fail to
earn a bowl bid.
The Falcons produced their two poorest
offensive outputs of the season in closing the season against New Mexico and San
Diego State. The Lobos held AFA to a season low 273 yards while the Aztecs
yielded 286 yards.
DeBerry spent considerable time on radio
talk shows this week voicing the opinion that his team had not yet played its
best game of the year. As it turns out there were probably several instances
which proved to be exactly AFA's "best" effort this year. The
unfortunate fact for the team and its fans is that its "best" turned
out to be not very good, especially in light of an auspicious beginning which
devolved into yet another lackluster finale to the season.