(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
AIR FORCE ACADEMY -- A balanced offensive attack and stingy defense led BYU to a 33-14 victory over Air Force (3-4, 3-2) on Saturday. With the victory, the Cougars improve to 6-2 overall and maintain the conference lead with a 4-0 record against Mountain West opponents.
"We just need to stay the course and continue to improve," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "There is room for improvement and we'll point that out to our players. They'll embrace that because they want to win. We'll tell them exactly what they need to do, very bluntly, very candidly and they'll respond to that."
The win was the fifth consecutive victory for the Cougars who become bowl eligible for the second consecutive year with their sixth win on the season. It is the first time BYU is bowl eligible for two straight years since the 1998 and 1999 seasons.
"BYU has a good football team," Air Force head coach Fisher DeBerry said. "Their defense is a little bit stronger than I thought it was coming into the game. I thought their linebackers played extremely well. They're a good tackling football team. They're as good a defensive football team as we've seen."
BYU rushed for 153 yards while John Beck had another efficient outing, completing 74 percent of his passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns.
Entering the game, Mendenhall said he was concerned about the Falcons' ability to convert on third down and control the clock. Air Force converted 8-of-14 third-down attempts while the Cougars converted 75 percent (9-of-12) of their third-down tries. As a result, BYU won the time-of-possession battle, holding the ball for 30:34 to 28:59.
"Going into the game, I believe we were in the top-10 in the nation in third-down conversions," he said. "So what you saw today was a continuation of that. But, our main concern was not only that, but Air Force was ranked first in the nation, converting 59 percent on third down. We knew third down was going to be critical in terms of time of possession."
For the fourth straight game, BYU got on the scoreboard on its first possession, marching 81 yards on 14 plays to put the Cougars ahead, 7-0. BYU's drive ate 7:07 off the clock and was capped when Fui Vakapuna bulled into the end zone from six yards out. BYU converted three a big third-and-eight on a 10-yard pass from John Beck to Vakapuna.
Air Force moved the ball effectively on its first drive before the Cougars defense stiffened at the BYU 35. The Cougars forced a fumble that Cameron Jensen fell on to end the Falcons threat.
"Obviously, BYU did an outstanding job on that first drive and got ahead," Air Force coach DeBerry said. "We came back and went for it on fourth and three, but we fumbled the football and gave BYU good position. Then we threw an interception."
After the Cougars were stopped on their second drive, the BYU defense came up with another big play. Air Force quarterback Shaun Carney dropped back for a pass and was drilled by Bryan Kehl as he threw the ball. The ball popped up into the air and was brought down by BYU's Aaron Wagner.
The Cougars capitalized on the second Air Force turnover, marching the ball 44 yards on five plays before Beck hit Michael Reed on a quick slant for an eight-yard touchdown connection.
BYU's defense held the Falcons' option attack for the third consecutive time, forcing a punt with seven minutes remaining in the first half. The Cougars' offense took advantage of a short field after a poor punt and marched 64 yards for another touchdown. BYU chipped away down the field before Beck found Jonny Harline for a one-yard touchdown pass.
"In the first half, we just didn't tackle as well as I think we can as a team," DeBerry said. "Of course, the poor punt we had also gave them great field position and accounted for them being able to drive the ball and get up 21-0 at halftime."
After the Cougars' defense pushed Air Force back inside its on five-yard line with a sack by Jan Jorgensen to start the third quarter, BYU forced a quick Falcon's punt. The first BYU drive started inside Air Force territory. The Falcons then held the Cougars to a Jared McLaughlin career-best 53-yard field goal to go ahead 24-0.
Air Force responded with its first scoring drive of the game, marching 80 yards with Carney sneaking the ball in from the one-yard line. With the extra point, the Falcons cut BYU's lead to 24-7.
"I am very proud of the fact that our guys did not quit," DeBerry said. "We were limited because we had some guys get hurt early in the game. We've been somewhat of a bruised football team for a good while."
After a kick return miscue that put the Cougars on the six yard line, BYU's offense went 94 yards on 12 plays and scored when Beck scrambled and found Vakapuna just before he was hit. Vakapuna ran the ball in to give the Cougars a 30-7 lead.
"There were some acrobatics on the part of their quarterback," DeBerry said of Beck's toss to Vakapuna.
The Cougars added a fourth-quarter field goal to push the lead to 33-7. Air Force scored its final touchdown with :27 seconds remaining.
BYU will make a return trip to Colorado next week when the Cougars travel to Fort Collins to take on Colorado State. Kickoff is set for 4:30 (MDT) and will be broadcast on the mtn.
Box Score (Final)
BYU vs Air Force (Oct 28, 2006 at USAFA, Colo.)
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score
----------------- -- -- -- -- -----
BYU................. 7 14 3 9 - 33 Record: (6-2,4-0)
Air Force........... 0 0 7 7 - 14 Record: (3-4,3-2)
1st 07:53 BY - VAKAPUNA 6 yd run (MCLAUGHLIN kick)
2nd 10:12 BY - REED 8 yd pass from BECK (MCLAUGHLIN kick)
00:58 BY - HARLINE 1 yd pass from BECK (MCLAUGHLIN kick)
3rd 11:08 BY - MCLAUGHLIN 53 yd field goal
03:54 AF - CARNEY 1 yd run (SASSER kick)
4th 13:40 BY - VAKAPUNA 4 yd pass from BECK (MCLAUGHLIN kick blockd)
06:38 BY - MCLAUGHLIN 27 yd field goal
00:27 AF - SUDER 3 yd run (SASSER kick)
FIRST DOWNS................... 22 16
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 34-153 49-190
PASSING YDS (NET)............. 258 39
Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 31-23-0 10-4-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 65-411 59-229
Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards............ 1-26 0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 2-21 2-31
Interception Returns-Yards.... 1-0 0-0
Punts (Number-Avg)............ 1-40.0 3-44.0
Fumbles-Lost.................. 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards............... 8-50 1-10
Possession Time............... 31:01 28:59
Third-Down Conversions........ 9 of 12 8 of 14
Fourth-Down Conversions....... 0 of 0 1 of 2
Red-Zone Scores-Chances....... 5-5 2-2
Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 2-11 0-0
RUSHING: BYU-VAKAPUNA, Fui 12-52; BROWN, Curtis 10-42; BECK, John 4-28; TONGA,
Manase 7-23; SEMANOFF, Joe 1-8. Air Force-KENDRICK, Jacob 14-58; CARNEY, Shaun
10-50; OLLIS, Jim 4-25; WILLIAMS, Ryan 4-16; PEEPLES, Scott 4-13; HALL, Chad
6-13; SUDER, Beau 3-6; McCARTHY, Kip 2-5; THOMPSON, Victo 1-3; HANDLEY, Justin
PASSING: BYU-BECK, John 23-31-0-258. Air Force-CARNEY, Shaun 2-6-1-16; OLLIS,
RECEIVING: BYU-HARLINE, Jonny 4-68; REED, Michael 4-47; BROWN, Curtis 3-22;
TONGA, Manase 3-17; COLLIE, Zac 2-26; COATS, Daniel 2-21; VAKAPUNA, Fui 2-14;
MEIKLE, Nathan 1-16; MAHUIKA, Bryce 1-14; ALLEN, Matt 1-13. Air Force-THOMPSON,
Victo 2-16; ROOT, Mark 1-16; SUDER, Beau 1-7.
INTERCEPTIONS: BYU-WAGNER, Aaron 1-0. Air Force-None.
FUMBLES: BYU-None. Air Force-KENDRICK, Jacob 1-1.
Stadium: Falcon Stadium Attendance: 35521
Kickoff time: 12:06 pm End of Game: 3:02 pm Total elapsed time: 2:56
Officials: Referee: Rich Kollen; Umpire: Doug Wilson; Linesman: Tim Schlenvogt;
Line judge: Randy Campbell; Back judge: Gregory Wilson; Field judge: Brad Robinson;
Side judge: Mike Cuttone;
Temperature: 62 Wind: SE 10 Weather: mostly sunny
BYU vs Air Force (Oct 28, 2006 at USAFA, Colo.)
SACKS (UA-A): BYU-JORGENSEN, Jan 1-0; KEHL, Bryan 1-0. Air Force-None.
TACKLES (UA-A): BYU-JENSEN, Cameron 3-10; WAGNER, Aaron 2-6; KEHL, Bryan 3-2;
POPPINGA, Kelly 2-3; GABRIEL, Dustin 0-5; NIXON, David 0-5; CRIDDLE, Ben 4-0;
FUGA, Romney 2-2; BOLDEN, Chris 3-0; GOOCH, Quinn 1-2; PAONGO, Hala 1-2;
JORGENSEN, Jan 1-2; TIALAVEA, Russe 2-0; STAFFIERI, Mark 1-1; ROBINSON, Justi
1-1; ANDERTON, Judd 0-2; TEAM 1-0; HOOKS, Terrance 1-0; UNGA, Harvey 1-0;
BUCHANAN, Kayle 1-0; DOMAN, Shawn 0-1; HODGKISS, Corby 0-1; JACOBSON, McKay 0-1.
Air Force-FOWLER, Drew 7-6; GIANNINI, Bobby 3-5; THOMAS, Chris 2-6; RYBAK,
Garrett 2-4; RABOLD, John 1-5; THOMAS, Grant 1-4; MEISSEN, Brad 1-4; SUTTON,
Chris 2-2; MADRID, Julian 1-3; KELLER, Joey 0-4; KEMP, Ryan 2-1; RANDLE, Austin
1-2; PEREZ, Gilberto 1-1; SMITH, Nathan 0-2; BIRD, Carson 0-2; KIRCHOFF, Aaron
0-2; BAXLEY, Jared 0-2; ZANOTTI, Adam 0-2; MARVIN, Jared 1-0; ALTMAN, Hunter
1-0; CLAYTON, Josh 0-1; GARLAND, Ben 0-1; GONZALES, Ryan 0-1.