AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) — Tim Jefferson threw for a career-high three touchdowns and Air Force piled up a school record 792 yards of offense in a 63-24 rout of Tennessee State on Saturday.
The Falcons (2-1) were coming off a bye week after losing at home to TCU and the rust showed with four first-half gaffes that might have proven costly were this not such a mismatch.
They made up for their sloppy play early on with a dominant ground game that churned out a whopping 595 yards on 66 carries against the lower division Tigers (1-3).
AFA rushed for six touchdowns, including the first two of junior Mike DeWitt’s career and one by starter Asher Clark, who had 148 yards on 13 carries. The Falcons were on the sideline cheering when freshman Jonathan Lee scampered into the end zone from 49 yards out on his first collegiate carry, which made it 63-17.
The Tigers of the Ohio Valley Conference had never allowed so many points.
Jefferson (13 for 15 for 178 yards) threw a pair of 34-yard scoring strikes, Clark scored on a 7-yard run, DeWitt took it in from 4 yards out and Wes Cobb added a 2-yard TD run for the Falcons, who led 35-10 at halftime.
It could have been much worse.
Air Force defensive back Anthony Wooding Jr. allowed Calvin McNairl to blow past him and haul in an 80-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, and Falcons running back Anthony LaCoste was stripped a foot before crossing the goal line on a 22-yard run in the second quarter.
Tigers linebacker John Jones ripped the ball from LaCoste’s arms just before he strode into the end zone. The play was originally ruled a TD but reversed to a touchback on automatic review.
The Falcons, however, forced a three-and-out, Jon Davis returned the punt 19 yards to midfield. Three plays later, Mikel Hunter made a leaping catch of Jefferson’s 34-yard TD pass that made it 21-7, and the rout was on.
About the only time the Tigers held up after that was when Lamar Wallace recovered DeWitt’s fumble at the Tennessee State 5.
The Falcons scored on their first two drives of the second half to erase any doubt that might have remained. Jefferson threw a 7-yard strike to Josh Freeman and Darius Jones scored on a 23-yard run to make it 49-10.
The Falcons, who also beat South Dakota in their opener, improved to 17-0 against teams from the Championship Subdivision. They put Tennessee State on their schedule to fill a hole that was left when Utah and BYU bolted the Mountain West Conference and only Boise State joined.
Tennessee State, which also was looking for a game this weekend after a matchup in the Atlanta Football Classic against Florida A&M had fallen through, accepted a $370,000 guarantee from Air Force.
Tigers coach Rod Reed brought the Tigers to town a day early in hopes of getting them acclimated to Falcon Stadium’s 6,620-foot elevation, but they were gasping for breath chasing the Falcons’ ball carriers.
Clark’s 49-yard run on the last play of the first quarter was a career long and pushed him over 100 yards, and after three more carries he took the rest of the day off.
The Tigers came in yielding just 84.6 yards on the ground — but that was a byproduct of their poor pass defense. They had surrendered a dozen TD passes coming into the game.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)