Well Grounded

QB Adam Fitch made his first career start for Air Force and led the Falcons to a, 31-22, win over Army at West Point to help AFA stop a two game losing streak.

GROUNDED. After rallying his team to three fourth quarter TDs against Wyoming one week ago, Adam Fitch earned the starter's berth for this afternoon's game versus academy rival Army. Fitch ran 22 times for 115 yards and 1 first half TD and completed 7 of 8 passes for 84 yards to lead a balanced Air Force attack.

Army RB Carlton Jones ran wild in the first half before running out of gas in the second. Jones tore through the AFA defense for 22 carries, 202 yards and a pair of scores in the opening thirty minutes of play. In the second half he added just 11 more on the ground.

Air Force spotted Army a, 9-0, first quarter lead, established in part on a 69 yard sprint by Jones on the third play of the game. The Black Knights' defense held the Falcons to three successive "three and out" possessions early in the game before succumbing to AFA's relentless ground attack led by Fitch and HBs Darnell Stephens and Anthony Butler.

Trailing 9-0 at the end of the first quarter, Air Force mounted a seven play, 72 yard drive which culminated in a 16 yard TD run by Fitch, his third such score in two weeks.

Army's ensuing possession included seven consecutive carries by Jones before AFA DB Chris Sutton intercepted a pass and returned it forty-five yards to the Army 40 yard line. From there, Butler broke loose on a 35 yard gain before being penalized for grabbing an Army defender's facemask. Justin Handley, Stephens and Fitch combined on rushes to move the ball to the five yard line from where Stephens powered it into the end zone in unimpeded fashion to give AFA a,14-9, lead.

Jones figured prominently in Army's next drive as he carried four times on the Black Knights' 78 yard march. The junior halfback took the ball for the final five yards as Army regained a, 15-14, lead before LB Kenny Smith tackled Jones as he attempted to convert a two-point play.

FULLY ENERGIZED. The Falcons scored a TD on a third consecutive possession, when Fitch led his team on an 80 yard, ten play drive with FB Jacobe Kendrick scoring on a four yard burst. AFA's 21-15 lead lasted less than three minutes as Zach Dahman hurried Army's offense to a quick response. Dahman found WR Jacob Murphy uncovered in the corner of the end zone with a 16 yard scoring strike with 22 seconds remaining in the first half as Army grabbed a, 22-21, lead before the teams retired to their locker rooms.

An Air Force offense, which had failed to score a third quarter point in 14 of 25 games entering today's contest, accounted for the only points of the quarter as Air Force assumed a lead it would never relinquish.

The teams' defenses started the second half in impressive style as each stopped the opposition from converting fourth down situations. The visiting Falcons took control of the ball on their 27 yard line after stopping Army on fourth down. Fitch engineered a 73 yard drive aided ably by Stephens and Butler as that trio gained 48 yards on the ground, before Stephens scored his second TD of the game on a five yard run and staked AFA to a, 28-22, lead.

The Air Force defense led by Sutton and LB John Rudzinski--who had a key fumble recovery in the fourth quarter--led an immense effort which shut out the cadets during the second half. An Air Force defense that had been overworked in recent games, as the team had lost four of five games prior to facing Army, came up with a performance which enabled the Falcons to defeat Army for the eighth consecutive year and fifteenth time in sixteen years.

The win by Air Force (4-5/2-3) assures Navy of retaining the Commander-in-Chief's trophy for a second straight year. Army dropped to (2-6/2-4) for the year. Air Force returns to Mountain West Conference action next week against San Diego State while Army faces Tulane in Conference USA action.

ODDS AND ENDS. Michael Greenaway kicked a 25 yard FG to close the scoring for AFA. Army's defense--ranked dead last in division 1-A and allowing 515 yards a game--limited AFA to 449 yards. AFA ran the ball 66 times for 345 yards and scored all four of its touchdowns on the ground. AFA's rushing total was its highest of the season. The win prevented AFA from being swept by Army and Navy for the first time since 1996. If AFA wins its final two regular season games against SDS and Colorado State it will become bowl qualified.

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