COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – A late San Jose State turnover paved the way for D.J. Johnson’s fourth-quarter surge.
Johnson ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns, all in the final quarter, as Air Force pulled away to beat San Jose State 37-16 on Saturday night.
Quarterback Nate Romine added 116 yards rushing, running for a score and setting up another before leaving late in the game with a leg injury.
Tyler Ervin ran for 121 yards and a touchdown and also caught a 17-yard scoring pass from Kenny Potter for San Jose State (1-1, 0-1 Mountain West).
The Spartans were trailing 17-16 when Potter threw behind Tim Crawley and the ball skipped off his hands into the arms of Kalon Baker, who made his first career interception.
“That was a huge play, a gigantic play,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “The field position that was involved and how quickly we could capitalize on it.”
Air Force (2-0, 1-0) took over at the San Jose State 34 and handed the ball to Johnson four-straight times, including a 13-yard touchdown run that put the Falcons up for good with 12:29 left.
Romine broke loose for a 45 yard run on a subsequent series and, following a pass interference penalty that gave the Falcons a fresh set of downs inside the Spartans’ 5, took a shot to his right knee on a third-down scramble to the 1. He was helped off the field and replaced by Karson Roberts before Johnson hurdled into the end zone with 7:00 remaining.
Johnson closed out the scoring with a 34-yard TD run with 3:43 left to play.
“I thought we didn’t answer the call for playing on the road for the first time,” San Jose State coach Ron Caragher said. “That’s a challenge for our guys and we didn’t answer the call.”
San Jose State was also hurt by the loss of their defensive captain, linebacker Christian Tago, who left with a head injury after taking a helmet to helmet hit on a block by wide receiver Tyler Williams early in the fourth quarter. Williams was flagged for “targeting” and ejected.
“It took out our leader. It took out our captain, and so it was tough for us and painful to see that happen,” Caragher said.
The Spartans pulled to within a point when Ervin broke through traffic at the line of scrimmage en route to a 66-yard touchdown on San Jose State’s opening possession of the second half. Air Force defensive lineman Alex Hansen blocked the PAT attempt by Bryce Crawford.
Air Force took an early lead when Garrett Brown took a pitch from Romine, turned the corner untouched and sped down the sideline for a 63-yard touchdown.
Romine also led a touchdown march that he finished off with a 1-yard run just before halftime.
Air Force has won eight in a row at home.
- By DENNIS GEORGATOS
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