Air Force Football Escapes Wyoming Defeat With Second-Half Comeback

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Trey Taylor shed a few tears, but they soon dried up.

The fourth-quarter extra point try he stopped helped Air Force defeat Wyoming 34-27 on Saturday. And the senior defensive back couldn’t help but recall his feelings following the defeat in Laramie the year before. Taylor vowed not to allow the same thing to happen in this year’s match because he and the other returning players had let the outgoing seniors down.

His first blocked kick since middle school occurred just two weeks after he had scored his first touchdown since that time.

John Eldridge III, a fellow senior, shared this sentiment and tried his best to assist by scoring the game-winning touchdown on a 58-yard touchdown run. With 12 minutes remaining in the game, starting quarterback Zac Larrier quit the game after four plays.

Larrier had till that moment directed two touchdown drives to open the second half. The first score, which gave Air Force a 24-21 lead after trailing the entire game, came on a 17-play, more than 10-minute drive to open the third quarter.

His 111 rushing yards, a club record, assisted the Falcons in overturning a 14-point deficit early on.

Owen Burks was the perfect complement for the signal caller’s comeback efforts. Coach Troy Calhoun saw the early 14-point deficit, and he saw a defensive unit struggling to get a stop out of the bye week. In the first half alone, the Cowboys (267) surpassed the average yardage given up by Air Force this year (223.8).

Instead of ceding another possession to start the second quarter, he ran the team’s first fake punt of the year. Burks took a direct snap around the right side of the line for 39 yards, a first down and an Air Force red zone opportunity, a “perfectly drawn up” play the Falcons had worked for “weeks.” They converted it into a 17-yard touchdown pass from Larrier to Eldridge III to tie the game back at 14-all.

“I thought they were absolutely on fire offensively,” Calhoun said. “I can’t imagine what it would do to a goose if you gave it Ex-Lax, but they were running right through us.

“We had to find a way to hang in the game.”

The Falcons defeated Wyoming 20-13 after the fake and limited the Cowboys to only 54 yards in the second half. Jones’ first fumble inside his own 30-yard line resulted in Wyoming’s lone score in the last 30 minutes.

After winning, Air Force is in charge of the Mountain West league.

For the first time in the history of the program, the Falcons are 4-0 to open conference play and will avoid Fresno State this season because the Cowboys defeated that club last week, which helped the host team’s rankings. On a smaller scale, it also made guaranteed that Air Force would be eligible for the bowl for the 14th time in the previous 17 seasons.

All that separates them from a spot in the third league championship game since the program entered the Mountain West is a two-week stretch of games against UNLV and Boise State to close off the regular season. In the standings, the two teams are exactly behind Air Force.

Although Calhoun’s team is at the top of the standings and is looking down, he is aware of how fast the Falcons could have fallen Saturday and how quickly the bounces they relied on could have gone the other way.

“We can’t play that way again and count on that kind of result,” Calhoun said. “I think our guys have enough maturity to know that.”