COLORADO SPRINGS, Col. (ABC4 Sports) – Utah State attained bowl eligibility last week, but the Aggies wanted to finish the regular season with a winning record.
Air Force quarterback Isaiah Sanders made sure that didn’t happen.
Sanders ran for 196 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start, including a go-ahead 10-yard score with 1:38 remaining, and Air Force beat Utah State 38-35 on Saturday night.
Jordan Love completed 17-of-30 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns for the Aggies, but the Falcons scored with 1:38 remaining in the game to pull out a wild victory.
There was still enough time on the clock for Utah State to drive down the field for a potential game-winning touchdown or game-tying field goal. The Aggies took over on their own 25 with 1:38 to go and following a 33-yard pass to Braelon Roberts, they were across midfield at the Falcons’ 42.
Love’s next four pass attempts fell incomplete, though, and Utah State turned the ball over on downs.
With the loss, Utah State closed out the regular season with a 6-6 overall mark and 4-4 record in Mountain West play.
Utah State trailed 24-21 entering the fourth, but a 24-yard touchdown pass from Love to Ron’quavion Tarver put the Aggies back on top. The six-play, 99-yard scoring drive was set up by the defense, when linebacker Kevin Meitzenheimer stopped Sanders on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1.
The Falcons regained the lead 3 1/2 minutes later when they recovered a fumble in the end zone, but again, the Aggies rallied. Love found Tarver for the second time in the quarter, this time from 22 yards out, to make it 35-31 with 5:28 to go.
Too much time was left on the clock for Air Force, which drove 75 yards on 13 plays for the game-winning touchdown.
Gerold Bright led the Aggies in rushing with a career-best 102 yards on nine carries, including a career-long 75-yard touchdown run that gave Utah State a 14-3 lead midway through the opening quarter.
Aaren Vaughns, added a career-high 69 yards rushing and one touchdown on two carries. He scored on a 71-yard reverse less than two minutes into the first quarter for the game’s first touchdown.
LaJuan Hunt produced the Aggies’ third rushing touchdown of the first half on an 11-yard run with 5:56 to go in the second quarter, giving Utah State a 21-10 lead.
It appeared as if the Aggies would head into the locker room with that 11-point advantage, but the Falcons drove 91 yards on 11 plays, capped by Sanders’ 2-yard touchdown run with four seconds remaining until the break.
Tarver led Utah State in receiving with four catches for 86 yards, while Roberts finished with three receptions for 64 yards.
As a team, the Aggies gained 521 yards of total offense – 284 through the air and 237 on the ground. Conversely, Air Force had 440 yards of offense, the majority of which came on the ground to the tune of 422.
Linebacker David Woodward led Utah State’s defensive effort with a career-high 13 tackles, including 1.0 tackles for loss. Suli Tamaivena added 11 stops.
Utah State will now await for an invitation to play in its sixth bowl game in the last seven years, and the 12th all-time in school history.