AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) — Quarterback Isaiah Sanders ran for 196 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start, including a go-ahead 10-yard score with 1:38 remaining, and Air Force beat Utah State 38-35 on Saturday night.
Sanders had a school-record 44 carries and his final run of the night put the Falcons ahead on the fourth lead change of the final quarter.
Jacob Stafford added 112 yards rushing and Tim McVey ran for a score for the Falcons (5-7, 4-4 Mountain West), who snapped a three-game losing streak. Kicker Luke Strebel became the all-time leader in points at Air Force.
Air Force was without starting quarterback Arion Worthman due to a knee injury and backup Nate Romine to a broken collarbone. Sanders cut an early deficit to 21-17 with four seconds left in the first half on a 2-yard run and gave the Falcons their first lead since Oct. 28 — against Colorado State — with a 4-yard score midway through the third.
He was shaken up on the decisive drive in the waning minutes but came back to score the winner.
Aaren Vaughns and Gerold Bright each had rushing scores of more than 70 yards in the opening minutes for Utah State (6-6, 4-4), while freshman Jordan Love threw for 284 yards, including two touchdowns to Ron’quavion Tarver in the fourth. Vaughns took an end around and weaved around a backpedaling defense to give the Aggies a 7-0 lead 1:51 into the first quarter. Then, on the Aggies’ next offensive snap, Bright went to the house untouched to make it 14-3.
Following a defensive stop on the goal line, Love led a 99-yard drive with a 46-yard pass to Savon Scarver and a 24-yard TD to Tarver to make it 28-24. Air Force retook the lead when Grant Ross’ strip-sack of Love was recovered in the end zone by Santo Coppola a few minutes later. But the freshman quarterback again responded – putting the Aggies up with a 22-yard TD to Tarver with 5:28 remaining.
Utah State: The Aggies were carried by their running game early on, but their freshman quarterback carried the load late. They will return to a bowl game for the sixth time in seven seasons.
Air Force: The Falcons, who are not bowl eligible for the first time since 2013, may have found their future quarterback in Sanders.
Utah State: The Aggies will have to wait to find out their bowl pairing.
Air Force: The Falcons host Stony Brook to open the 2018 season.