FACTS & STATS: Site: Qualcomm Stadium (71,400) — San Diego, California.
Television: CBSSN. Home Record: AF 5-0, SDSU 4-0. Away Record: AF 3-2,
SDSU 1-5. Neutral Record: AF 0-0, SDSU 0-0. Conference Record: AF 4-2,
SDSU 3-3. Series Record: Air Force leads, 19-13.
GAME NOTES: San Diego State finds itself in a three-way tie for first place in
the West Division of the Mountain West Conference standings, as it prepares
for the arrival of the Air Force Falcons in a crucial league battle Friday
night at Qualcomm Stadium.
Tied with both Nevada and Fresno State for the top spot in the division, time
is running out for SDSU to establish itself as the representative for the
division in the conference championship game. The Aztecs are undefeated at
home through four games and should they get by Air Force and then defeat a
floundering San Jose State group, it would be the first time since 1977 that
San Diego State managed to go undefeated at home.
Winners of seven straight home games against non-ranked opponents, the Aztecs
still need a strong finish in order just to become bowl eligible. The team was
in Idaho last week where it lost to Boise State in a wild 38-29 final.
Meanwhile, the Falcons are having one of their best seasons in recent memory,
their four-game win streak the longest since 2010. Air Force is off to an 8-2
start for the first time since 1998 thanks in part to a 45-38 overtime victory
over Nevada at home last weekend.
The Academy could potentially finish the regular season with double-digit
victories, but it will have to defeat San Diego State and take out nationally-
ranked Colorado State next week at home as well.
As far as the all-time series is concerned, Air Force is on top by a 19-13
margin, although SDSU won last season in Colorado Springs by a count of 27-20.
Shayne Davern picked the right time to post his first multiple touchdown
rushing game as he scored the game-winning TD in overtime for the Falcons in
the meeting with Nevada. Davern finished with 97 yards on 21 carries, trailing
only Kale Pearson who registered 109 yards and a TD for a unit that came up
with 342 yards and three scores on 65 attempts.
Pearson also had unprecedented success throwing the ball as he completed all
but four of his 15 passes for 129 yards and three touchdowns, the second time
the Air Force signal caller has tossed three TDs in a game. Jalen Robinette
caught four balls for 36 yards and two scores in the triumph.
Jordan Pierce led the Air Force defense with 13 tackles, while Dexter Walker
logged a pair of tackles for loss and Weston Steelhammer added eight stops and
an interception. Steelhammer has just 37 tackles through 10 games, but he
leads the unit with four picks and is also among the top sack men with three.
Pierce is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the unit with his 94 tackles,
15.0 TFL and 5.0 sacks. Pierce even has a couple of interceptions and a
blocked kick for good measure on a squad that is 41st in the country in
scoring defense with 23.6 ppg allowed.
On offense, the triple-option has certainly served the Falcons well, resulting
in 288.4 ypg on the ground, which is seventh in the country, but Pearson and
the passing attack is again making waves, maybe not so much in terms of
yardage (149.2 ypg), but at least in terms of efficiency. In fact, Pearson
leads an aerial attack that has a rating of 168.52, fourth-best in the FBS
entering play this week.
Against Boise State on the blue turf, the Aztecs appeared to be well on their
way to a comfortable win with a 20-0 advantage in the first half, but then
they woke up a sleeping giant and the Broncos went on the attack and captured
the nine-point home win.
Donnel Pumphrey ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, but during
the later stages of the fourth quarter he was not on the field, presumably
because his pass protection was not as strong as that of Chase Price.
Quarterback Quinn Kaehler converted 17-of-29 passes for 173 yards and a score,
but he was sacked twice and intercepted once.
Defensively, Malik Smith led the way for the Aztecs with 10 tackles, while
J.J. Whittaker intercepted a pass and returned it 26 yards in the second
quarter, setting up a TD just three plays later. Whittaker now has a pair of
interceptions which ties him for second on the Aztecs behind Calvin Munson who
not only has three picks, he is also second on the squad with both 61 total
tackles and 7.5 TFL.
Kaehler has taken the majority of the snaps for SDSU this season, but is still
averaging only 184.0 ypg as the team leans more on Pumphrey and his 1,363
yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. Unfortunately, the rest of the team combines
for less than 70 ypg on the ground, and only Price (four TDs) has made it into
the end zone.
Even though the Falcons may not be a dominant team on the road, there is still
reason to believe that the recent run of success will probably carry over to
San Diego where the team could get a lift from the local service people who
call the surrounding area home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Air Force 31, San Diego State 20