Football: Falcons end season on a sour note with 38-21 loss to BYU

By Staff Sgt. Don Branum: U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

PROVO, Utah — The Falcons dropped their last game of the season to 22nd-ranked BYU 38-21 in the final game of the season Nov. 21.

The Cougars took advantage Air Force turnovers, scoring two touchdowns from a fumble and interception in the second quarter to take a decisive 24-7 lead at halftime.

BYU took the first possession of the game and drove 60 yards to the Falcons’ 15 before an offensive pass interference pushed them back to the 30. Falcons defensive lineman Ben Garland got a hand on Mitch Payne’s field goal to make the fourth blocked field goal of the season for Air Force.

The Cougars scored their first touchdown in the second quarter after a fumble by Tim Jefferson gave BYU the ball at their 31. The Cougars’ Andrew Rich picked off Jefferson on the Falcons’ next drive and brought it back to the Air Force 16, leading to another BYU touchdown.

“When you win the turnover battle, that makes it really hard for the other team, especially when you do it early,” said Cougars defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen. “Air Force got some late, but the game was pretty much out-of-reach by that point.”

Ben Cochran came in shortly before halftime to replace Jefferson, who suffered a bruised rib. Cochran, a junior and native of Dublin, Ga., scored the Falcons’ only touchdown of the first half, completing a 27-yard pass to wide receiver Josh Cousins despite solid coverage by Cougars defensive back Brian Logan.

“(Cochran) came in and really led the team,” said Falcons offensive lineman Peter Lusk. “He didn’t miss a beat. He hasn’t played much, but he’s someone (whom) everyone looks up to.”

Cochran fumbled in the Falcons’ opening possession of the second half, however, and BYU capitalized, going up 31-7 just 1:22 into the third quarter. The Cougars scored their final touchdown on a 72-yard drive with 5:23 to play.

Air Force scored twice in the fourth quarter on a run off tackle by Falcons receiver Jonathan Warzeka and a four-yard run by running back Savier Stephens. Stephens’ score capped a 71-yard drive, the longest of the day for the Falcons.

The BYU victory gives Cougars quarterback Max Hall the school record for most victories, beating the record previously held by 1990 Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer. Hall picked apart a Falcons defense that was ranked 10th in the nation for pass coverage and seventh overall, going 33-of-45 for 377 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.

“When you’re playing a quarterback of that caliber, you can’t give him any lift,” said Falcons head coach Troy Calhoun. “You have to beat some one-on-one coverage, and you have to watch the (zone coverage) drops.”

Air Force’s fourth-ranked running game managed 211 yards, down from its season average of 279 yards per game. Running back Jared Tew led the Falcons’ rushing attack with 19 carries for 83 yards, including a 29-yard run that set up Cochran’s touchdown pass to Cousins. Cochran ran 13 times for 47 yards, and running back Asher Clark had nine carries for 35 yards.

With the loss, the Falcons fall to 7-5.

“You’ve got to show up, play, and play well (to win),” said Falcons cornerback Anthony Wright Jr., who intercepted Hall in the end zone on fourth and goal from the 2 with 14:18 to play. “You can’t just show up.”

“We let them do a lot of things to us that we’ve made a living doing to other teams: stopping the pass, limiting the yards per rush,” Warzeka said. “BYU was a lot better today than I think anyone expected coming in. They played us a lot better than Utah did. I think TCU is the best team we’ve played, which I think means we didn’t play as well today as we did against TCU.”

The Falcons are scheduled to compete in a bowl game for their final game of the season. The bowl game in which they’ll play has yet to be determined.

“For our seniors, this will be a great chance to go out on a winning note,” Calhoun said. Practice is scheduled to start again Dec. 4, after the Commandant’s Challenge and a five-day Thanksgiving break.

The coach also is looking to carry the Falcons forward into the 2010 football season, when Jefferson, Tew, Wright and others will return to the gridiron.

“We’ve got a foundation in place that I like,” Calhoun said. “To be a program that gets up to the next level, we’ll have to play a game like this, play it to the wire and be able to win.”