3:00 PM ET, November 13, 2004
Falcon Stadium, Usaf Academy, CO
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -- A driving snow falling and Air Force driving for the winning score, Kirk Morrison came up with the play that ended San Diego State's six-game losing streak.
Kevin O'Connell threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns in frigid weather and Morrison intercepted Shaun Carney's pass with 13 seconds left, helping the Aztecs end their longest losing streak in 16 years with a 37-31 victory over Air Force on Saturday.
"The ball came right to me and I was glad I was able to hold onto it," Morrison said. "With the ice and snow, we knew the ball was going to be slippery and we just had to make sure we held onto it."
San Diego State (3-7, 1-5 Mountain West) won its first conference game with a balanced offense -- 232 passing, 224 rushing -- and opportunistic defense.
O'Connell was 17-for-32 despite steady snowfall, Brandon Bornes ran for 104 yards and two TDs and the Aztecs stuck to their game plan despite the weather to win three straight over Air Force for the first time in school history.
The defense gave up plenty of yards (486), but set up the offense for a decisive, 17-point third quarter with two turnovers and a blocked punt. San Diego State forced six turnovers in all, none bigger than Morrison's pick at the 3.
"A big sigh of relief," San Diego State coach Tom Craft said. "I think it's fitting that our defense was on the field at the end and helped win it for us."
Adam Fitch ran for a career-high 135 yards and two touchdowns before getting hurt in the third quarter, but shoddy defense and four fumbles and two interceptions assured Air Force (4-6, 2-3) of its first losing season since 1993 -- third in coach Fisher DeBerry's 21 seasons.
The Falcons got little pressure on O'Connell and missed numerous tackles, giving up more than 400 yards (456) for the fourth straight game. That was tough, but it was the turnovers that really hurt.
"I'm going to go home later and shoot my brains out maybe, but the bottom line is that it all comes back to one thing," DeBerry said. "I don't care who you are, you (lose) the ball six times and you get a kick blocked, you don't win the game against a good football."
Air Force led 21-17 at halftime despite three turnovers, but couldn't overcome its mistakes in the second half.
The Falcons forced a fumble on San Diego State's first drive of the third quarter, only to give it right back when Justin Handley was stripped by Blake Lobel. O'Connell hit Robert Ortiz on a 27-yard touchdown pass the next play.
Air Force's Anthony Butler then fumbled the kickoff, setting up Garrett Palmer's 37-yard field goal that put the Aztecs up 27-21.
The Falcons' next gaffe came -- no surprise -- on a punt.
Coming around the right end, Freddie Keiaho went in untouched and blocked Donny Heaton's kick out of bounds at Air Force's 15. DeBerry tossed his hat in disgust after watching his team give up a blocked punt for the fourth time in three home games, and Bornes' 4-yard run three plays later made it a 13-point lead.
"We shouldn't have let the kid just run in uncontested," DeBerry.
Air Force answered with Michael Greenaway's 22-yard field goal and cut the lead to 34-31 on a 10-yard touchdown run by Carney, who came in after Fitch bruised his ribs late in the third quarter.
Palmer followed with a 29-yard field goal to make it 37-31 and Air Force had one final drive in driving snow, but Morrison came across the middle to nab Carney's final pass.
"I saw him, it was just that we've got to win the game," Carney said. "I tried to make a play and it didn't happen. He made a good play."
The Aztecs didn't seem bothered by the frigid conditions in the early going, moving 53 yards in five plays for O'Connell's 17-yard touchdown pass to Eric Miclot. San Diego State then went up 14-7 7 seconds into the second quarter on Bornes' 1-yard dive off right tackle.
Not bad for a team used to playing in balmy weather.
"We knew it was going to probably have snow flurries and it was going to be cold, and we talked about these things psychologically," Craft said. "The guys did a great job it's something we can draw back on and use in the future."
Air Force, on the other hand, took a little while to get warmed up.
Fitch's lob pass down the sideline on the game's first play was intercepted by Heath Farwell and the Falcons didn't have a first down in the first 12 minutes.
Air Force finally got rolling when Fitch broke a tackle at the line and took off up the middle for 63-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. Air Force moved 67 yards in 12 plays its next drive, capped by Fitch's 4-yard run on an option right.
Adam Cole added a 3-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes left.