FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Arion Worthman and the Air Force offense found a perfect pace — methodical, almost to the point of monotonous.
Above all, it couldn’t be stopped.
Worthman threw a 56-yard TD pass early in the fourth quarter, Taven Birdow scored twice and Air Force’s ground game kept Colorado State’s high-powered offense on the sideline for big chunks of time in a 45-28 win over the Rams on Saturday.
A thing of beauty for the Falcons (4-4, 3-2 Mountain West). A source of frustration for the Rams.
“It’s kind of weird, really,” Colorado State standout receiver Michael Gallup said. “You’re sitting there, and you don’t really know if you need to get up and walk around, need to stretch. Then, you listen to coach going over all these plays and then he goes over it again. It gets kind of boring.”
Air Force rushed for 413 yards and dominated time of possession (41 minutes, 38 seconds to 18:22). Worthman completed just two passes, both in the fourth quarter and the last a strike to Ryan Reffitt with 11:53 remaining to make it 38-28. After a Rams punt, the Falcons went on a game-sealing 13-play, 98-yard drive that chewed up 7:09 and culminated with Worthman’s 7-yard scamper.
“We had a really good game plan going in and what they were going to give us as far as a defensive look,” said Worthman, who finished 2 of 4 for 64 yards, one TD and an interception. “We were in rhythm.”
This game pitted the grind-it-out style of double-digit underdog Air Force against the explosiveness of Colorado State (6-3, 4-1). The Rams had the ball only five times in the second half, including once with seconds remaining and the game over.
“We are told not to watch the scoreboard, only to think about our next possession and put up some points,” Colorado State quarterback Nick Stevens said.
That’s difficult to do when the Rams couldn’t seem to get the ball back.
The Falcons had a 17-play drive in the third quarter that consumed 9:59 and led to a 20-yard field goal by Luke Strebel, which made it 31-28. That one drive was longer than Colorado State had the ball the entire first half (9:28).
Worthman finished with 117 yards rushing for the Falcons, who captured the Ram-Falcon Trophy that’s been awarded annually since 1980.
Stevens threw two TD passes to give him 63 for his career and move him one shy of tying the school mark held by Garrett Grayson (2011-14). Stevens also threw three interceptions.
It was the Rams’ first loss inside their new $220 million on-campus facility that opened this season.
“There is no hiding the fact we got our (rear) kicked today,” Colorado State coach Mike Bobo said. “It should hurt. It ought to be embarrassing.”
There were plenty of big plays in this game:
— Air Force linebacker Shaquille Vereen had a 30-yard interception return for a TD in the second quarter.
— Rams running back Dalyn Dawkins broke off a 76-yard TD run for the Rams.
— Gallup hauled in a 55-yard TD catch on a trick play where Stevens took a pitch and heaved it down the field. Gallup finished with seven catches for 161 yards.
Air Force: The Falcons are 72-8 under coach Troy Calhoun when taking a lead into the fourth quarter. They’ve also scored at least 30 points in five straight games.
Colorado State: Suffers a big setback in trying to capture the Mountain division.
THIS & THAT
Colorado State running back Cecil Sapp and receiver David Anderson were among the eight members recently inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame. The class was recognized after the first quarter. … The Falcons didn’t punt until 22 seconds remaining in the game.
In the locker room after the game, the Falcons celebrated by throwing around water and Gatorade. Vereen came prepared, though, by carrying scuba goggles.
“It’s madness,” he said of the locker room scene after the win.
Air Force: Host Army on Saturday. The Falcons can’t win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy outright, but still has a chance to retain it. They have to beat Army and then root for the Black Knights against Navy on Dec. 9. Air Force lost at Navy 48-45 on Oct. 7.
Colorado State: Travels to Wyoming on Saturday. The Rams are 58-45-5 all-time against the Cowboys, including back-to-back victories in Laramie.