LOGAN, Utah — Jacobi Owens scored on a 1-yard TD run with 5:06 left in the fourth quarter and Air Force opened the Mountain West Conference season with a 27-20 win over Utah State on Saturday night.
Air Force’s Haji Dunn Jr. set up Owens’ score when he sacked Kent Myers, forced the fumble and recovered it at the Utah State 14. Owens capped the short drive by breaking a tackle and spinning into the end zone to make it 24-13.
The Falcons (3-0, 1-0) then forced a four-and-out to quickly take the ball back and made it a 14-point lead on Luke Strebel’s field goal with 2:57 left.
The Aggies (2-2, 0-1) cut the deficit back to one score with 33 seconds left after a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. But Ryan Reffitt recovered the onside pooch kick to secure the win.
“Forcing turnovers was a huge part of it,” Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun said. “We gave them some yards, but we were able to hold them out of the end zone in the first half. In the second half we played really well defensively.”
Utah State tried a fake field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 18 on the first play of the fourth quarter but came up 6 yards short of the end zone. Utah State held Air Force deep in its territory to set up a short field on the ensuing drive and cut the deficit to 17-13 on Brock Warren’s 23-yard field goal with 12:02 left.
Timothy McVey had a 59-yard kick return in the second quarter that set up a short field for Air Force to tie it at 10.
The Falcons’ Brodie Hicks intercepted Myers’ pass late in the second quarter, setting up a six-play, 88-yard drive that give Air Force a 17-10 lead with 13 seconds left in the half.
“I think that maybe sums up the whole game,” Utah State head coach Matt Wells said. “It was things in the red zone, allowing a kick return to get all the way brought back and put our defense on a short field. We had our eyes in the wrong spot a couple of times in the secondary. They had a couple of wide-open receivers. That happens in the option game, if you don’t have the eyes in the right spot.”
Air Force: The Falcons entered the game nation’s leading rushing offense at 432.5 yards per game. They finished with 213 yards on the ground against the Aggies.
Utah State: The Aggies lost their first Mountain West opener in their fourth season since joining the conference. Ron’Quavion Tarver’s nine catches and 143 yards receiving were both career highs.
NO BIG THING
Tarver downplayed the production.
“Coach (Jovon) Bouknight just called my number, so I made a play. That’s what I’m supposed to do.”
SO FAMILIAR, SO CLOSE
Utah State’s Myers was 29 of 47 for 360 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The junior was 4 yards short of the career high he set last season in a 35-28 loss to Air Force.
BUT THE TURNOVERS
Unfortunately for Myers, Air Force capitalized on both of his turnovers for momentum-swinging touchdowns.
Air Force: The Falcons host undefeated Navy next Saturday for the first service academy showdown of 2016. Air Force’s Weston Steelhammer was disqualified for a targeting call in the third quarter and will miss the first half on the Navy game.
Utah State: The Aggies visit Boise State Saturday night. The Broncos should be in a strong position to crack the Top 25 next week after back-to-back victories over Pac 12 opponents.