Stevens: Carrier Rolls For 338 Yards, But Lobos Fall 28-23 to Air Force

Oct. 20, 2012

Air Force Falcons 28, New Mexico Lobos 23

Up Next: Fresno State at New Mexico, 1:30 p.m., Saturday - University Stadium

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

If ever a single Lobo -- and a New Mexico offensive front -- ever deserved to leave the field in victory, that night came Saturday at the Air Force Academy.

New Mexico's Kasey Carrier dazzled the crowd and destroyed the Air Force defense for 338 yards on 39 carries, but the Lobos, who played most of the second half without B.R. Holbrook, fell 28-23 in a heartbreaking effort by a team of gutsy Lobos.

The game was marked and marred by players from both teams hobbling to the sidelines and started with UNM's Cole Gautsche out with a concussion. Air Force's Cody Getz, the No. 2 rusher in the nation, made the field for one play, but, nursing an ankle sprain, limped to the sidelines and never returned.

That made Carrier the best ball carrier on the field, but that might have been the case on this night anyway. Carrier was amazing.

The Lobos came out of the locker room down 14-10 and quickly made something happen. The Lobos got the first turnover of the second half when Falcon Don Strickland fumbled a pitch and UNM's Dallas Bollema recovered at the New Mexico 40-yard line. Air Force was on the UNM 31-yard line prior to the fumble and moving the ball well. It was a huge change of possession.

The Lobos picked up where they left off in the first half - rolling on the ground through the Air Force defense. UNM went up 17-14 with the aid of a 1-yard burst by Carrier that put the finishing touches on a 60-yard drive. That score gave Carrier 260 yards on 28 carries. UNM had 314 yards on the ground at that mark.

It was a huge score and drive for the Lobos because it came with B.R. Holbrook on the bench. UNM now had JC transfer Quinton McCown behind the center.

The Falcons knew the Lobos would be running - but couldn't stop them.

The Falcons didn't stay on the short side of the scoreboard for long. The Falcons marched 75 yards in 10 plays with Wes Cobb going over from a yard out. The Falcons were up 21-17 with 3:35 to play in the second quarter.

The Lobos got the ball back but their possession was damaged by a 10-yard holding penalty. A third-and-seven on the UNM 28-yard line went to Carrier on the ground and he was stopped short. The Lobos punted and Air Force took over on its 29-yard line. (Carrier ended the third quarter with 275 yards rushing).

This was a key drive for both teams. The Falcons had a chance to go up by two scores. The Lobos - down to their third-string quarterback - couldn't allow that to happen. Someone had to bend and something had to give.

The Falcons marched 71 yards, scoring with three seconds off the clock (14:57) in the final quarter. Air Force was up 28-17 and had the luxury of knowing the Lobos' offense was without a proven passer.

On this drive, it didn't matter. The Lobos scored. New Mexico got a break on their first series. Air Force had stopped UNM on third down but got flagged for a late hit. The Lobos had new life and Carrier - who else? - made the Falcons pay with a 37-yard scoring run.

UNM went for a two-point conversion, but McCown's pass was incomplete. UNM was down 28-23 with 12:07 to play. Carrier now had 312 yards.

The Lobos now had to stop an Air Force offense that had found new life in the second half. The Falcons' goal was simple: hold on to the ball, score again and burn the clock.

The Falcons fumbled. The miscue was forced by UNM's Tim Foley, who also picked up the ball and returned it 12 yards to the Air Force 46-yard line. The Lobos had life - and Carrier.

The Lobos faced a big fourth-and-one at the Air Force 37. Carrier got the first down, going six yards straight ahead. In a way, what UNM and Carrier were doing was almost ridiculous. The Falcons knew exactly what was coming - Kasey Carrier. They couldn't stop him.

Again, the Lobos had their backs to the wall - fourth-and-four at the Air Force 12-yard line. The Lobos put Lamaar Thomas behind center, but he was caught in the backfield and dumped for a 4-yard loss on the Air Force 16.

The Falcons took over with 3:57 to play and needing a few first downs to drain the game clock away. Air Force got the yardage and sealed the win.

FIRST HALF - AIR FORCE 14, NEW MEXICO 10

You throw out the stats from the first half and this game might have been called for the Mercy Rule. The Lobos dominated - but not on the scoreboard.

UNM had 283 total yards to 117 for Air Force. The Lobos' option chewed through Air Force for 254 yards with Kasey Carrier galloping for 227 yards. New Mexico ran 43 plays to 21 for Air Force and the Lobos had the ball for 21:44 to 8:16 for the Falcons.

Still, Air Force had the 14-10 lead at the half based on one solid drive and a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown.

First Quarter - New Mexico Lobos 10, Air Force Falcons 7

The Lobos almost reached their season rushing average in the first quarter - thanks to Kasey Carrier and the UNM offensive front. The Lobos rushed for 160 yards and held Air Force to 50 yards. UNM won the possession battle, 9:38 to 5:22. The Falcons tried to use the injured Cody Getz, the Mountain West's No. 2 rusher, but he only played one play and went to the Falcons' bench.

UNM's Carrier continued to prove that he is one of the top backs in the Mountain West. He exploded for 68 yards on his first carry to set up UNM on the Falcons' 7-yard line. UNM actually turned a great opportunity into a 20-yard Justus Adams' field goal as Carrier was dumped for a 2-yard loss on third-and-goal at the Air Force one.

The Lobos held Air Force and again Carrier burned through the Falcons' defense. This time the Lobo went 59 yards on UNM's fifth play to place the Lobos on the Air Force 1-yard line. Carrier went over on the next play and the Lobos were up 10-0 at the 8:35 mark of the second quarter.

Air Force then went 78 yards in seven plays to produce a 10-7 score. The quarter ended with that three-point lead for the visitors from Albuquerque.

Second Quarter: Air Force Falcons 14, New Mexico Lobos 10

The Falcons were playing with Getz on the bench and starting quarterback Connor Dietz joined him thanks to a solid hit by UNM's Ugo Uzodinma. His replacement, David Baska, took Air Force on a short drive, but was intercepted by UNM's Destry Berry on the UNM 22-yard line. The Lobos took control of the ball with 8:07 left to play in the half.

The Lobos had a nice looking 11-play drive in the close of the quarter, looking to increase their lead and work time off the clock. That turned sour when the Falcons' Alex Means tipped a Holbrook pass and then hauled it in and headed toward the faraway end zone. He made it - 65 yards and Air Force took that 14-10 lead into the break.