Lobos Fall To Air Force 28-23
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  10/09/2004
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Oct. 9, 2004

Final Stats |  Notes

AP Sports Writer

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) - Air Force quarterback Shaun Carney made a bunch of good decisions in the crunch Saturday night to help the Falcons overcome an embarrassing special-teams debacle and hold onto a 28-23 victory over New Mexico.

The Falcons (3-3, 2-1 Mountain West) won despite nearly blowing a 21-0 halftime lead and having two punts blocked for touchdowns.

The second TD for the Lobos (2-4, 0-2) cut Air Force's lead to five at 28-23 with 4{ minutes left, but Carney ran Air Force's option to perfection for a pair of first downs that ran out the clock.

The clinching first down came on Carney's handoff to Adam Cole, who took it straight up the middle and barely got the tip of the ball past the marker.

Carney was even better earlier in the fourth quarter, when the game really looked to be slipping away.

After Air Force got its first first down of the second half courtesy of a roughing-the-punter penalty, Carney threw back-to-back completions - 33 yards to Greg Kirkwood and 30 yards to Alec Messerall to set up the touchdown that made it 28-16.

Carney finished just 4-for-9 for 95 yards, but maybe coach Fisher DeBerry should think about letting him throw it more. The freshman came in as the sixth-rated passer in the nation and on this night, he proved he had the knack for making the big throws.

And given where this game seemed headed, the completions were, indeed, huge.

The New Mexico defense, awful in the first half, stopped Air Force three-and-out on five straight possessions to open the third quarter. Meanwhile, the punting game was atrocious. Donny Heaton had shanks of 16, 19 and 18 yards, which gave the Lobos field position to cut it to 21-10.

His fourth punt of the quarter was blocked by Cody Kase and recovered in the end zone by Tyson Ditmore. A 2-point conversion failed, but the lead was only five and the Falcons were having trouble simply getting the ball back to the line of scrimmage when they ran their trademark triple option.

Later in the fourth, Joe Selander scooped up the second blocked punt and ran 46 yards to cut it to 28-23. It was New Mexico's fourth touchdown off a blocked punt in its last 12 games and it made Cole's third-and-1 plunge on the next possession that much more important - there was no way the Falcons wanted to punt again.

Heaton punted eight times for an average of 19 yards, including a 12-yarder in the first half - possibly his best kick of the night considering he had to run 25 yards to chase down a snap that flew over his head.

DonTrell Moore returned from an injury and ran for 110 yards for the Lobos.

It went for naught, and New Mexico had plenty of people to blame.

A defense that makes a living stuffing the option got burned twice in the first half - on a 58-yard run by Darnell Stephens and a 28-yard run by Anthony Butler, who each went untouched down the sideline for touchdowns.

Also, coach Rocky Long passed up field-goal tries on fourth-and-goal from the 1 and fourth-and-10 from the 21, and the Lobos were forced to punt in the third quarter after getting called for false start before a 52-yard attempt. Had Wes Zunker, who made a 45-yarder in the third, converted on two of those kicks, the Lobos would have had the winning points.