AIR FORCE ACADEMY Mikel Hunter made two big plays in Air Forces season-opening win. A week later, he was bemoaning a Falcons comeback attempt that slipped through his fingers.
The 25th-ranked TCU Horned Frogs brushed off their own blues an upset loss to Baylor last week and routed Air Force 35-19 on Saturday for their 18th consecutive win in the Mountain West Conference.
Down 21-3, Air Force opened the second half by forcing a three-and-out. But on the ensuing punt, Travaras Battle punched the ball out of Hunters hands, and Greg Burks recovered at midfield. That led to Casey Pachalls second touchdown pass, a 21-yard connection with freshman David Porter that all but put the game out of reach at 28-3.
It happened so fast, said Hunter, who had a 55-yard scoring pass and ran 80 yards for another touchdown in last Saturdays 37-20 win over South Dakota. I feel like I caught it clean, but I dont know if he got a good helmet placement on it or what. I could have caught it and tucked it faster.
It was definitely disappointing. I feel like I let my defense down the most. They had gone out there and worked hard to get a three-and-out and gain momentum, and then that happened.
The Falcons (1-1), who endured their worst loss of last season when TCU beat them 38-7 in Fort Worth, got a little closer this time around, though it didnt feel like it to coach Troy Calhoun.
We got thumped (Saturday), and I think the score is closer than what happened, said Calhoun, who is glad his team is off next week.
We need a bye, and for us to improve as a football team, this is the week were going to have to do it, even before we get back into playing any more games.
Air Force had hoped to reverse its fortunes against TCU (1-1) on its way to winning the MWC crown this season but now will face an uphill climb.
Hunter said Air Force shouldnt dwell on the loss, and the bye should help the team refocus.
We just have to have a short memory, Hunter said. We have a lot of season left. We have a lot of big games left. We got a bye week, so that will definitely help us out. We can definitely make improvements fast. I feel like were that intense of a team to see what weve got to do and practice it and get it right.
The Falcons were driving on their opening possession when running back Wes Cobbs illegal chop block thwarted their momentum.
Defensive end Jon Koontz sliced through to stuff quarterback Tim Jefferson on fourth-and-3 at midfield.
That set up a 49-yard touchdown drive capped by Luke Shivers 3-yard touchdown catch on a rollout by Pachall, who finished the game 20 of 25 for 206 yards.
Matthew Tuckers 1-yard leap made it 14-0, and his second touchdown run came after Antoine Hicks made a one-handed, 21-yard catch. Defensive back Anthony Wooding was whistled for hitting him in the head, tacking on another 15 yards deep in Air Force territory.
Pachall almost was perfect in the first half, when he completed his first 11 passes and 16 of 18 overall for 174 yards and a touchdown. But with the Frogs on the Falcons 30 in the final minute before halftime, he was sacked and stripped by linebacker Jamil Cooks, who recovered the fumble with 20 seconds left.
The Falcons quickly moved downfield but never went for the end zone, and Parker Herringtons 37-yard field goal made it 21-3 at halftime.
It appeared they had carried that momentum out of the tunnel after forcing a quick punt by the Frogs, but Pachall capitalized on the fumbled punt by Hunter to hit Porter for a score that gave TCU a 25-point lead early in the third quarter.
Looking for a spark, Air Force got one when David Baska gained 34 yards on a fake punt. One play later, wide receiver Jonathan Warzeka took the pitch from his quarterback, pulled up and hit Zack Kauth in stride for a 32-yard touchdown, the seniors second career touchdown toss.
Im 2-for-2 against TCU with touchdowns, but obviously the scoreboard says it all, Warzeka said. I dont know if we thought we were a little bit better than we were, but we just didnt come out to play (Saturday). Well lick our wounds right now, but well be all right.
The Horned Frogs put this one away with a 10-play, 80-yard drive capped by Waymon James 4-yard touchdown run that made it 35-9.
With Connor Dietz having replaced Jefferson at quarterback, Calhoun made the curious call to go for a field goal with the Falcons facing fourth-and-goal from the 4 with 8:18 left in the game and his team trailing by 24 points. Herrington split the uprights to make it 35-12.
Dietz led the Falcons on a cosmetic scoring drive in the final minute, taking it in from the 1 with 4 seconds left.