AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) — Quarterback Donald Hammond III rushed for a career-high 136 yards to re-energize the ground game and threw two TD passes to tight end Kade Waguespack as Air Force beat New Mexico 42-24 on Saturday.
Defensive back Grant Theil powered the Air Force defense with an interception and a forced fumble that led to a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter to give the Falcons (4-6, 2-4 Mountain West) some breathing room.
Hammond’s big day also included a 37-yard TD run to help the Falcons snap a two-game skid and keep their bowl aspirations afloat.
At times this season, the Falcons have struggled to get things revved up on the ground. Christian Mallard, Kadin Remsberg and Cole Fagan added TD runs as the Falcons finished with 478 yards rushing — 237 more than their season average.
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The Lobos (3-7, 1-5) dropped their fifth straight game despite a defense that recovered three fumbles. Coltin Gerhart started at QB, but was relieved by Sheriron Jones. Gerhart stepped in again during the fourth quarter.
Air Force was leading 21-17 in the third when Theil picked off a deep pass by Jones. Nine plays later, Hammond dropped back for a rare throw and found a wide open Waguespack for a 43-yard score.
On the next drive, Theil forced a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Kyle Johnson. Hammond and Waguespack connected again, this time for a 9-yard score to make it 35-17.
New Mexico punter Tyson Dyer had an 84-yard punt — the longest in school history — that put the ball on the Air Force 1 late in the third quarter. On the next play, Hammond fumbled and it was recovered in the end zone by Jalin Burrell.
New Mexico: The Lobos are averaging 30.2 points this season, which is among the highest totals in school history.
Air Force: The Falcons have been to a bowl game nine times under coach Troy Calhoun, who took over in 2007. They have a little bit of a safety net should they reach only five wins: The Falcons are among the leaders in the Academic Progress Rate, meaning if not enough teams reach six wins to fill bowl spots, they would be at the top of the list.
An Air Force falcon named Aurora is expected to make a full recovery from injuries she suffered at Army during a prank last weekend. The 22-year-old bird remains on antibiotics and didn’t attend the game Saturday. She’s expected to be back at Falcon Stadium on Nov. 22 when the team hosts Colorado State.
Army officials at West Point apologized for the injuries the falcon suffered and promised a full investigation.
Aurora is the Academy’s official and oldest mascot. She doesn’t fly at football games, but attends most away games to greet fans.
With Gerhart’s second start this season, the Lobos became one of five teams in the FBS to start three or more QBs in multiple games this season. The list also includes Air Force.
New Mexico: Host Boise State on Friday.
Air Force: At Wyoming on Saturday.
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