Donny Hageman kicked a tie-breaking 46-yard field goal with five minutes, 10 seconds to play to give San Diego State a 27-24 victory over Air Force in the Mountain West Football Championship Game on Saturday at Qualcomm Stadium.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Christian Chapman threw for 203 yards and a touchdown in his first college start and Dakota Gordon and Rashaad Penny both ran for touchdowns helping the Aztecs (10-3) to their first outright conference championship since 1986 when they were a member of the Western Athletic Conference.
The victory was the ninth straight for San Diego State, its longest streak since a 10-game winning streak from 1976-77.
The field goal came four plays after the Aztecs’ longest play of the game, Chapman’s 48-yard pass to Mikah Holder, gave them a first down on the Falcons’ 25-yard line. A six-yard loss by Chase Price and a holding penalty backed the ball to the Air Force 42.
Chapman’s 13-yard pass to Eric Judge advanced the ball to the Falcons’ 29-yard line, setting the stage for Hageman’s second field goal of the game. The senior kicked a 22-yarder 1:44 before halftime, tying the score, 10-10.
The Falcons (8-5) had the ball three times after the go-ahead field goal, with the Aztecs’ defense forcing them to punt on each of the first two possessions.
Air Force began what proved to be its final possession on its 22-yard line with 36 seconds left. Karson Roberts passed for first downs on each of the first plays. The Falcons advanced to San Diego State’s 49-yard line, but Roberts’ fourth-down pass on the game’s final play fell incomplete.
The Aztecs outgained Air Force, 436 yards to 340, led 17-14 in first downs and 31:16-28:44 in time of possession before a crowd announced at 20,959.
Chapman completed nine of 14 passes and was selected as the game’s most valuable offensive player. He started in place of senior Maxwell Smith who missed the game because of a knee injury sustained in last Saturday’s 31-14 victory over Nevada that will require surgery, according to coach Rocky Long.
Donnel Pumphrey was held to 90 yards on 16 carries after rushing for at least 121 yards during each of the first eight games of the winning streak. He caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Chapman on the first play of the second quarter, tying the score, 7-7.
Jacobi Owens ran for a game-high 156 yards on 17 carries for the Falcons. Roberts completed five of 11 passes for 35 yards.
San Diego State never trailed in the second half during its previous eight games, but fell behind after Air Force took the kickoff to begin the third quarter and drove 75 yards in 10 plays, all runs, culminating with Timothy McVey’s three-yard run for a 17-10 lead.
The Aztecs re-tied the score on the ensuing 13-play, 80-yard drive, with Dakota Gordon running the final yard.
San Diego State took its first lead on Rashaad Penny’s 28-yard touchdown run, 38 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Air Force tied the score, 24-24, with 11:49 left when McVey ran two yards for his third touchdown of the game.
The Aztecs had taken a 24-17 lead 2:33 earlier on Penny’s 28-yard run.
McVey opened the scoring on an 8-yard touchdown run with 4:01 left in the first quarter, two plays after Jacob Onyechi recovered a fumble by Holder on San Diego State’s 10-yard line, the game’s only turnover
Luke Strebel kicked a 21-yard field goal 4:42 before halftime for the Falcons’ only points of the second quarter.
The championship was San Diego State’s 20th, and second since it joined the Mountain West Conference. It finished in a three-way tie with Boise State and Fresno State for the title in 2012.
The Aztecs have as many conference titles over the past four years — two — as they had over the previous 25 years.
The 10 victories are San Diego State’s most in a season since it was 10- 1 in 1977. The school record for victories in a season is 11, set in 1966 when it was 11-0 competing on what is now the Division II level, and matched in 1969 when the Aztecs were again 11-0 in their first season on what is now the Division I level.
— City News Service
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