AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – No. 25 Air Force added some air to the nation's top-ranked running attack and Jonathan Warzeka returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in a 49-27 rout of Colorado State on Saturday.
Tim Jefferson threw for 160 yards on 5 of 9 passing and hooked up with Zach Kauth for two scores. He also set up the Falcons' first two touchdowns with completions of 51 and 39 yards as Air Force (5-1, 3-0 Mountain West) celebrated its first game as a ranked team in seven seasons with a big win.
Ben Cochran added a 25-yard TD toss for the Falcons on a fake field goal in the second half.
The Falcons' first three touchdown drives averaged just over a minute thanks to Jefferson's big throws and two takeaways by defensive back Reggie Rembert that set up the short field against the Rams (1-5, 0-2).
Then, just before halftime, the Falcons went back to doing what they do best: chewing up yards and the clock.
Running the ball on every down of a 14-play, 80-yard march that ate up 5:19 and culminated in Jefferson's pitch to Kyle Halderman for a 4-yard TD, the Falcons took a 28-7 halftime lead.
The Falcons turned to trickery in the third quarter when they scored a touchdown on a fake field goal. The holder, Cochran, a backup quarterback, threw to a wide-open Chaz Demerath for a 25-yard score. The senior tight end's first career TD made it 35-7.
With the Rams focused on stopping the run — Air Force came in as the national leader with 374 yards a game — the Falcons went to the air.
Jefferson's 51-yard pass to Joshua Freeman set up Jared Tew's 3-yard TD run just 1:37 into the game, and he hit Kauth for 39 yards, setting up Asher Clark's 3-yard run that capped a five-play, 80-yard drive that took just 59 seconds.
Clark led the Falcons with 125 yards on 17 carries.
The Rams drove down to the Falcons 3 on their next possession but on the 14th snap of the drive, Pete Thomas' fourth-down pass to fullback Zac Pauga was broken up by defensive lineman Bradley Connor.
Later in the quarter, Rembert picked off Thomas' pass and returned it 30 yards before being knocked out of bounds at the 3. That stop loomed large two plays later when Rams linebacker Mychal Sisson stripped Tew near the goal line and recovered the loose ball.
Leonard Mason fumbled at the Rams 33, however, and Rembert was right there to smother it.
This time, the Falcons capitalized on their star defender's takeaway when Jefferson threw a 27-yard pass to Kauth in stride at the goal line for the junior receiver's first career touchdown catch and a 21-0 lead.
Derek Good's 70-yard kickoff return set up Lou Greenwood's 13-yard score on a reverse to put the Rams on the board. That's when the Falcons ran the Rams ragged with their 80-yard TD response, all on the ground.
Colorado State was without leading rusher Raymond Carter (knee) but still managed to outrun the Falcons 285 yards to 248 with Mason gaining 139 yards on 22 carries.
Mason's 4-yard TD run made it 35-13. The extra point was blocked, and Warzeka returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a 42-13 Air Force lead.
Jefferson hooked up with Kauth again for a TD, this time from 19 yards out, when he put the ball just above the fingertips of cornerback DeAngelo Wilkinson at the goal line to make it 49-13.
Kauth finished with three catches for 85 yards.