Three weeks after the San Diego State defense was beaten up by Denard Robinson and Michigan, and only five days after senior quarterback Ryan Lindley and sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman had their worst games of the season against TCU, things could have gotten ugly for SDSU against Air Force in Colorado Springs last Thursday, where the Aztecs hadn’t won in seven years.
Instead, Hillman rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns while Lindley – who entered the game completing less than 50 percent of his passes – went 15-21 for 209 yards and two scores. The SDSU defense held a triple option Air Force offense which was ranked second nationally in rushing to only 195 yards on the ground in a 41-27 victory.
With the win, the Aztecs improve to 4-2, matching the team’s best record after six games since 1977. But most importantly, SDSU evened up its conference record at 1-1 and kept its goal for a Mountain West Championship alive.
“I believe it was a great win tonight and I believe it was a total team effort,” head coach Rocky Long said. “I thought the defense played extremely well, especially considering how explosive Air Force is on offense … I don’t know if Air Force’s defense was quite up to its standard but I think our offensive line was able to hold them and capitalize on mistakes made.”
With the score tied at 17-17 at halftime, the Aztecs scored on four straight possessions and capitalized on turnovers to break the game open in the second half.
With the Falcons up 20-17, defensive back Rene Siluano picked off Air Force’s Tim Jefferson at the SDSU 20-yard line, which set up a 25-yard field goal by Abelardo Perez, which tied the score.
“We gained confidence as the game went along,” Long said. “The interception we made really turned the tide and turned the momentum.”
Then, just eight seconds later, senior defensive lineman Jerome Long nailed the Falcons’ Mike DeWitt and forced a fumble. Senior linebacker Logan Ketchum scooped up the loose ball, and Lindley needed only one play to connect with receiver Colin Lockett for a 28-yard go-ahead touchdown.
“That stretch of only about seven plays, I thought was a pretty significant part of the game,” Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun said.
Hillman broke loose for scoring runs of 22 and 57 yards in the fourth quarter to put SDSU ahead by 21 points, and the Falcons scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Jefferson in garbage time to make the final score 41-27.
“We played a pretty good football team tonight,” Calhoun said after the game. “I thought we’d have to play exceptionally well. There were stretches where we did play well, but not nearly the way that you have to for a full 60 minutes.”
The Aztecs now have 16 days off to enjoy the win before getting back into action against Wyoming at Qualcomm Stadium on Oct. 29