AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) — There was no Minnesota moment for the South Dakota Coyotes this time.
A year after stunning the Golden Gophers 41-28 in Minneapolis, the lower division school spent all but the game’s first 16 seconds playing catch-up in a 37-20 loss at Air Force on Saturday.
Mikel Hunter scored on an 80-yard reverse on the game’s first snap.
“Our kids were so amped up and so excited to run, and our best football player ran over the top,” Coyotes coach Ed Meierkort said. “You guys would have scored on that reverse. That’s what Air Force does: they use your own anxiety against you. We talked all day about how we had to run to the football, and they ran a reverse into the wind and there’s your first seven points.”
Hunter said the Falcons (1-0) were intent on not letting the Coyotes (0-1), of the Great West Conference, stick around long enough to imagine another upset of a top-tier school like last year.
Hunter put the Falcons on top for good when he took the handoff from fellow wide receiver Jonathan Warzeka, raced around the left side and then scooted down the Air Force sideline to the end zone.
That first play was scripted, so Hunter had a lot of time to ponder the possibilities.
“I expected something big,” Hunter said. “I’ve been thinking about it all week, actually.”
Hunter struck almost as quickly the second time he got into the end zone, taking a short pass over the middle from Tim Jefferson on third-and-2 and racing into the end zone for a 55-yard score that made it 37-7.
“We were still playing hard at that point,” Hunter said. “Yeah, that’s one thing we’ve still got to work on, closing out games.”
Hunter agreed with Jefferson that the Falcons might have started looking toward TCU’s visit next week once they went up by 30 points because they got sloppy on both sides of the ball after that.
The Coyotes made it respectable by scoring on Marcus Sims’ 4-yard run and Jeremy Blount’s 35-yard TD catch from Dante Warren, which came two plays after Tyler Starr forced and recovered Wes Cobb’s fumble at his own 36.
Starr punched the ball out of Asher Clark’s arms on Air Force’s next drive, but Clark scooped it up at his 25.
“We’re a team full of seniors, and we weren’t going to give up being down, and I think we showed that,” Warren said. “I expect that out of our guys. We came out (in the second half) and put one up on them. We were fighting the whole game.”
They just couldn’t overcome Hunter’s 80-yard scamper that set the tone shortly after Falcon Stadium was rattled by the roar of a flyover.
“This is a first-class place, and we played against one of the 25 or 30 best teams in the country,” Meierkort said. “We can take some positives out of it, but a loss is a loss. In the fourth quarter, if we could have put another one in, we might have gotten them to blink a little. They got out of the gate on us pretty good.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)