A defense that forced five turnovers, a superb kicking game and one long run proved to be a winning combination for Air Force.
Kyle Halderman's 74-yard run set up quarterback Shea Smith's 1-yard touchdown run and Ryan Harrison kicked three field goals to lead Air Force over error-prone Wyoming 23-3 on Saturday.
Todd Newell added a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for Air Force (2-0). Smith finished with 43 yards on 16 carries.
The Falcons held Wyoming (1-1) to 216 total yards. Junior strong safety Chris Thomas led the Air Force defense with 13 tackles, including eight unassisted, a sack and a forced fumble.
"Our defense today was good. I thought we played solid. We faced an inexperienced quarterback, but that's going to change in the next few weeks," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "Part of what we're able to do is mix and disguise some looks, and that helped."
Sophomore Dax Crum was 7-for-19 for 72 yards with one interception for Wyoming. He was sacked four times and fumbled three times. The Cowboys struggled on third downs, converting only two of 13 on the day.
"We gave up one big play, but the story is five turnovers -- you just can't do that," Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said. "We were ineffective offensively and struggled with the quarterback."
As he did leading up to the game, Glenn praised the Falcons' Thomas.
"He got under our radar screen in the blitz game a couple of times and was very key on a couple of those turnovers," Glenn said.
Harrison's 40-yard field goal gave Air Force a 3-0 lead before the Cowboys' Jake Scott hit a 47-yarder to tie it later in the first quarter. The game turned in the third quarter. After Harrison kicked a 27-yard field goal to make it 6-3, Halderman took off on his long run.
Smith pitched the ball to Halderman, who appeared to have a clear shot to the end zone before he was caught from behind at the 1. Smith poked through on a keeper on second down to put the Falcons ahead 13-3.
"That really switched the momentum. I felt as if we were with them the whole game, but that last play was something big," Wyoming free safety Chris Prosinski said. "For the most part we defended really well, but that one play really broke down."
After the key scoring drive, the Falcons offense ate up more than six minutes in the fourth quarter with a 12-play scoring drive that led to Newell's touchdown with 2 minutes left.
"I felt like the offensive line did a great job, especially on our last drive of just wearing them down a bit," Smith said.
Harrison added a 44-yard field goal with 10 minutes to play,
"Being a more key part of the team makes it fun," Harrison said. "Growing up my dad went to the Academy and so I'd watch games on TV and I've always noticed special teams was a pivotal part of the program, and I wanted to be a part of that."
Smith credited the win to the Falcon defense.
"When they play that well and get turnovers like they did, we can afford to be a little more conservative offensively," Smith said. "I love grinding away with it."
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