"I'm really proud of our team, the way they played," said a relieved CSU Head Coach Sonny Lubick. "We scratched and clawed to get back, and those two plays on special teams, the blocked punt and the long kick-off return by (Pete) Rebstock, those were really the big plays of the game."
Despite two first half turnovers, the Rams had broken out to a 14-0 lead, and led 14-7 at the half, courtesy of two Duan Ruff touchdown runs and two AFA missed field goals. The game was tied at 14-14 in the middle of the third period when Air Force faced a fourth and one at midfield. It appeared the Falcons were set to go for the first down, but opted instead to try to draw the Rams offsides. That failed, and AFA elected to punt. It turned into disaster when CSU's Justin Gallimore came off the corner to block the punt and his identical twin, Jason Gallimore, scoped it up and went 30 yards for a TD. Lubick credited special teams coach Brian Schneider, who "put in the punt block, and it worked to perfection.
"Those Gallimore brothers, they are special," Lubick said of his twin seniors. "They play with so much heart and character." Jason Gallimore finished with 15 tackles and Justin with 14 - both career highs.
After AFA's Zach Johnson partially blocked Kent Naughton's 34-yard field goal try, Air Force drove for a tying score. Boyea broke loose on a 49-yard run and, six plays later, dived in from 8 yards out with 9:27 to tie it at 21-21.
Rebstock, one of 20 Rams seniors playing their final home game, took the ensuing kick-off back 73-yards to set up Henri Childs' 1-yard scoring run with 6:46 left to give the Rams another seven point lead. Rebstock said "all 10 guys blocked for me. It was a huge hole. My grandma could have run through there."
DeBerry said he has "the greatest admiration and respect for Pete Rebstock, and I'm so glad he's graduating this year. He's been a thorn in our side. When you play at this level of football, a lot of times the winning edge comes down to the kicking game," he added. "Certainly tonight they had the winning edge in the kicking game."
Rebstock had two touchdown catches to help beat Air Force in 1999 and caught nine passes for 168 yards and three scores while playing on a broken leg against the Falcons last year. "I don't know why," Rebstock said. "It seems like I get the ball a lot against them and good things happen."
Air Force was kept in the game by the sterling play of senior quarterback Keith Boyea, who rushed for 188 yards and three touchdowns.
"Keith Boyea did an outstanding job," DeBerry said. "He was on a mission tonight. He did a masterful job of getting our team in the right play all night." Boyea's 14-yard scoring run capped an 80-yard drive to open the second half, making it 14-14.
But after the Rams had taken the 28-21 lead in the final quarter, Rams nose tackle Lucas Smith snuffed Air Force's final threat, sacking Boyea on fourth down at the Colorado State 23 with 1:15 remaining.
Air Force (5-4, 2-3) absorbed its third straight conference loss despite outgaining the Rams 481-300, posting 30 first downs to the Rams' 13 and holding a two-to-one edge in time of possession (38:05 to 21:55) and offensive plays (91-43).
AFA had three long drives in the first half, one of which ended on Boyea's 2-yard scoring run. Another fizzled on a missed field goal by Brooks Walters, and a third ended when Boyea was stopped for a 2-yard loss by defensive end Peter Hogan on fourth-and-1 from the Colorado State 17.
The Falcons squandered still another scoring opportunity late in the half. Safety Larry Duncan intercepted a pass and returned it 18 yards to the Rams 38, but Walters was wide right on a 39-yard field goal attempt.
Colorado State's opening drive ended on tight end Joel Dreessen's fumble and Duncan's recovery at the AFA 14, but the Rams went 80 yards in eight plays on their next possession for a 7-0 lead.
Ruff, who carried 19 times for 108 yards in his final game at Hughes Stadium, had a 31-yard run, setting up his 12-yard score late in the first quarter. Bradlee Van Pelt's 32-yard pass to Rebstock set up Ruff's 1-yard scoring run two minutes into the second quarter.
With the victory, Colorado State kept alive its hopes of becoming bowl-eligible. The Rams have one game remaining, at New Mexico on Nov. 17.
The Rams are 20-4 in the month of November under Lubick.