Air Force 48, New Mexico 23

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Connor Dietz made certain Air Force didn't miss a beat when the Falcons lost their starting quarterback.

Dietz stepped in for injured starter Tim Jefferson, threw for one touchdown, ran for another and helped Air Force overcome a slow start to beat New Mexico 48-23 on Saturday.

"That's big time," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "He's a quality quarterback, especially with what we do. He's a pretty natural fit in our offense."

Asher Clark rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns, and Nate Walker ran for 95 yards and a score as the Falcons (7-4, 4-3 Mountain West) snapped a three-game skid and assured themselves of a winning season.

Stump Godfrey had two touchdowns and James Wright ran for another for the Lobos (1-9, 1-5).

Jefferson was injured on a 12-yard run late in the second quarter. He was tackled by two Lobos defenders and stayed on the ground, finally getting helped off the field with a towel on his bloody nose.

"He got thumped between his eyes, (on) the bridge of his nose," Calhoun said.

With Jefferson out and Air Force holding onto a 14-7 lead, the Falcons turned to their junior backup who hadn't thrown a pass all season. Dietz was ready for the challenge.

"I never had a problem with my role but it was nice to be out there," he said. "I was jacked up."

Dietz led the Falcons on a 10-play, 76-yard drive in the final 2:10 of the first half, hitting Zack Kauth with a 28-yard touchdown pass with 4 seconds left before the break to give Air Force a 21-7 lead.

"It was a beautiful ball," Kauth said.

The touchdown gave the Falcons a much-needed cushion going into the locker room.

"Critical, critical," New Mexico coach Mike Locksley said. "We've got a guy in position to make plays, and we don't make the play."

The Lobos got a 24-yard field goal from James Aho to start the third quarter, but Air Force pulled away behind Dietz. The Falcons responded with a 65-yard drive, all on the ground, and made it 28-10 on Walker's 1-yard plunge with 9:52 left in the third.

Two drives later, Air Force sacked Godfrey on a fourth-and-2 at the Lobos 37. Dietz scored from 14 yards out six plays later to make it 35-10.

"When Tim goes down no one has any doubts," receiver Kyle Halderman said. "He's very comfortable back there."

Calhoun said the trainer cleared Jefferson to return to the game but he stuck with Dietz because he was playing well.

The Falcons also lost receiver Jonathan Warzeka to an injury in the first half but Halderman and Kauth picked up the slack.

"We've faced a lot of injuries this year but it hasn't slowed us down," Halderman said.

The Lobos didn't go away quietly. Godfrey hit Ty Kirk with a 14-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth, but Clark gave Air Force a 41-17 lead with a 2-yard run.

Godfrey, a true freshman starting his second game, scored from 6 yards out with 6:11 left to make it 41-23.

"He's a guy that rode the yellow school bus last year," Locksley said. "Every rep he takes, we'll be better for it."

Early on, it looked like Air Force would struggle against the Lobos. Clark fumbled on the Falcons' first play from scrimmage and the Lobos recovered at the Air Force 24. Five plays later Wright scored on a 1-yard run to give New Mexico a 7-0 lead.

"The offense didn't take care of the ball and we weren't ready to go in at that time," defensive back Reggie Rembert said. "Still, we can't let them score."

After missing a 46-yard field goal, Air Force gained control. Jefferson led the Falcons on a 15-play, 70-yard drive that finished with Clark's 7-yard run to tie it.

Air Force took a 14-7 lead after New Mexico fumbled a punt at its own 37. Jefferson scored from 8 yards out four plays later.