SAN DIEGO (AP) — Whether it’s in Colorado or San Diego, the San Diego State Aztecs are getting used to lightning delays when they play Air Force.
The result has been the same, too: an Aztecs win.
Ryan Agnew threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to tight end Parker Houston with 6:10 to go and San Diego State beat Air Force 21-17 Friday night in a game delayed 1 hour, 7 minutes by lightning.
A year ago, there was an 88-minute lightning delay at Air Force, and the Aztecs held on for a 28-24 win.
“What a coincidence,” SDSU coach Rocky Long said. “It completely breaks up the whole rhythm of the game. And I thought it was a great game anyway, and it was going along just fine, so I think it kind of ruins the game, basically.”
But it finished the right way for SDSU.
Agnew moved the Aztecs (5-1, 2-0 Mountain West) 94 yards in eight plays after the Falcons had gone ahead 17-14 on Ronald Cleveland’s 4-yard run, his second score of the night.
The Aztecs, coming off a big 19-13 victory at Boise State, won their fifth straight game since losing their opener at Stanford. They also beat Air Force (2-4, 0-3) for the eighth straight time.
The Aztecs were about to start a drive with 5:50 left in the third quarter when lighting was detected within eight miles of SDCCU Stadium, leading to a 30-minute delay. There were more lightning strikes during those 30 minutes. Air Force players returned to the field briefly before heading back to the locker room, and another 30-minute delay began. It rained off and on from early in the game.
“It’s kind of dead in the locker room so we played some music and danced around a little bit,” said Parker Baldwin, who sealed the win with an interception with 3:10 left. “We came out a little slow after the break but we got it going after a while.”
The Falcons took advantage of great field position to go ahead in the fourth quarter, pinning SDSU deep and forcing a punt that gave them the ball at the SDSU 40. Seven plays into the drive, Cleveland took a toss and scored.
But Agnew, a junior filling in for injured senior Christian Chapman, led the winning drive in front of maybe 500 fans left from an announced crowd of 25,326. He twice converted on third down, first on a 32-yard scramble and then on a 32-yard pass to Kobe Smith.
“That kid made two really fine plays on third down,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said.
Houston was wide open up the middle and broke one tackle to score.
“I didn’t think we were ever going to call that play,” Houston said. “But when we did, the O-line executed it, the receivers executed it, the backfield, Ags executed it perfectly and we ended up scoring.”
Said Agnew: “What he’s not mentioning is he made a guy miss. That was probably the greatest part about it. It was a great play call by the coaches for them to trust Parker in that situation because it’s not an easy one to execute.”
Chase Jasmin ran for one touchdown for SDSU, and Trenton Thompson returned a blocked punt 19 yards for a score.
Air Force quarterback Donald Hammond was knocked out of the game with an injury late in the first half when he was tackled for a loss by Kyahva Tezino. Hammond was replaced by Isaiah Sanders.
San Diego State scored just three plays into the game on Jasmin’s 4-yard run, which was set up by Agnew’s 55-yard pass to Fred Trevillion.
SDSU struggled most of the rest of the half, though. Agnew was sacked by Jordan Jackson for a safety late in the first quarter and then was intercepted in the end zone to set up an 80-yard Air Force drive capped by Cleveland’s 12-yard run for a 9-7 lead late in the second quarter.
Even normally reliable John Baron II was wide right on a 44-yard field goal attempt for the Aztecs.
But SDSU took a 14-9 lead with eight seconds before halftime when Kaelin Himphill blocked Charlie Scott’s punt and Thompson scooped up the ball and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown, giving a nice second effort to get into the end zone.
Air Force: The Falcons dropped to 0-3 on the road this season, including 0-2 in the conference. The Falcons were coming off a home win against Navy.
SDSU: The Aztecs continue to win despite being without Chapman and starting running back Juwan Washington. Agnew made his fourth straight start since Chapman sprained his left knee in a win against Sacramento State on Sept. 8. Jasmin is filling in for Washington, who broke his right collarbone on Sept. 22.
Air Force is at UNLV next Friday night.
SDSU hosts San Jose State next Saturday night.
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