Aztecs blow halftime lead, fall to Falcons

by Staff

David J. Oleander / Photo Editor

Even head coach Chuck Long, normally Mr. Optimistic, couldn’t paint this one in a positive light.
In front of 43,630 fans at Qualcomm Stadium on Saturday night, the San Dingo State football team blew a 10-7 halftime lead and fell apart on both sides of the ball in the second half, losing to Air Force, 35-10.
“It was a tale of two halves in tonight’s football game and our second half was just not very good at all,” Long said. “We had a great first half, especially on offense, and then we just didn’t do anything in the second half on offense and we didn’t do much on defense either. Our tackling got sloppy. It is discouraging, considering the first half that we had.”
SDSU (1-5, 0-2 in MWC play) came out strong in the first half, disrupting the Falcons (4-2, 2-1) vaunted rushing attack while junior backup quarterback Drew Westling did an exceptional job filling in for injured redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Lindley.
After allowing a methodical, 78-yard touchdown drive in which Air Force rushed the ball on every down, the Aztecs’ defense stepped up and played lights-out football for the remainder of the half, allowing just 55 more yards on the ground and no additional scores before going into the break.
Offensively, SDSU made some big plays as well. Westling went 14-of-18 with 93 yards passing and scored a touchdown on a third down run from the one-yard-line while senior wide receiver and former quarterback Darren Mougey had some success under center in a couple gadget plays.
With a three-point lead and the biggest home crowd the Aztecs have seen all year, SDSU was noticeably fired up going into the locker room at halftime. But for their opponent, the intermission was far from pleasant.
“I think the first half we played on eggshells,” Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun said. “It just seemed like we had a bunch of guys in the locker room waiting for someone else to spark us. If you go to Air Force Academy, you don’t wait, you need initiators, leaders and guys that are assertive.”
Those attributes of the Academy men finally showed on the field as the Falcons appeared to be a different team coming out of the break. Two of their first three and four of their total seven possessions in the second half resulted in touchdowns while their defense completely shutdown Westling and the Aztecs’ offense, holding them scoreless in the final two quarters.
“All of a sudden we got in long yard situations again,” Long said. “We didn’t run the ball hardly at all. (Air Force) adjusted well. They started to blitz more and for some reason we had a hard time with protection.”
Westling’s solid first half seemed a distant memory as he was a miserable 4 for 17 in the second half with two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“The big thing is that we really got out of rhythm,” Westling said. “We were in a good flow, mixing things up, but we really just got out of rhythm. With a team like Air Force, they did such a good job with ball control, but when you get behind, it’s tough.”
One of the few bright spots in the game was senior safety Corey Boudreaux’s 21 tackles, which falls just short of the school’s all-time single game mark of 22, set by senior linebacker Russell Allen last year against Utah.
After blowing a lead in a key conference game at home, the team’s confidence, or lack there of, will be something to monitor going into last week’s matchup with New Mexico.
“Our confidence is not only shaken, but we are a beat up football team,” Long said. “That is the big challenge for us at this point in time. We have gone from a moving forward mode each week to almost a survival mode just based on trying to put a lineup together.”

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