The last time Air Force played at home, Reggie Rembert was sitting in the stands, stewing over his suspension and wishing he could be on the field instead of among the fans.
Back with the Falcons again, Rembert treated those fans to quite a show Saturday and re-established his bond with teammates and coaches by turning in a game to remember.
Rembert returned a fumble 47 yards for a score, the first of Air Force's two defensive touchdowns, and Erik Soderberg tied a school record with four field goals, lifting the Falcons to a 26-14 win over San Diego State.
This sure beat sitting out.
"It was frustrating, honestly," Rembert said.
That frustration stemmed from serving a six-month suspension for an unspecified violation of Academy standards and caused him to miss Air Force's first two games.
He returned last week, showing glimpses of what he can do on the field at New Mexico.
The junior defensive back put everything together against San Diego State (1-3, 0-1 Mountain West), finishing with two interceptions, a forced fumble, a team-high seven tackles and, of course, his scoop of a fumble for a score.
He could've walked away from Air Force following his suspension. He gave it a moment's thought, but couldn't bring himself to abandon his fellow teammates and cadets.
"You don't want to let them down by leaving," Rembert said. "It seems like I'd be letting the team down, the cadet wing down, if I tried to take the easy road. I'm not a quitter. Whatever comes my way, I'm going to fight through it."
Falcons coach Troy Calhoun noticed Saturday there was an extra bounce in Rembert's step. His first home game back at Air Force (3-1, 2-0) may have had something to do with that.
"He's a very respectful young man," Calhoun said. "He's proud. I'm sure he did want to play a little better, but what he wants to do more than anything else is he wants to be second lieutenant. He wants to be a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy."
The Falcons were flying around on defense all afternoon as they recovered two fumbles and picked off four passes, including a 47-yard interception return for a score by Anthony Wright.
Wright was just keeping up with his fellow defensive back.
"When Reggie scored that fumble return, in the back of my mind I was like, 'I've got to go get me one now,'" Wright said. "Whenever he gets one, I want to get one. We're competitors."
Both of Rembert's interceptions were spectacular. He had a diving grab to thwart a San Diego State drive late in the second quarter. Rembert added another when the ball deflected off the hands and then the heel of receiver DeMarco Sampson and straight into Rembert's arms.
Rembert also helped keep standout receiver Vincent Brown bottled up _ until the fourth quarter, that is. Brown finished with 10 catches for 123 yards, most coming late in the game including a pair of touchdown catches.
By then, it was way too late for San Diego State.
"Obviously, the game wasn't what we wanted," Aztecs coach Brady Hoke said. "We've got to do a better job."
Connor Dietz filled in at quarterback for Air Force for a banged-up Tim Jefferson, who dressed but didn't play because of a sprained right ankle. Dietz efficiently led the team down the field, finishing with 64 yards rushing and another 51 through the air.
Still, the Falcons offense couldn't put the ball in the end zone.
No trouble, the defense picked up the slack.
"I kind of like that pressure," Wright said. "I want us to play well, play hard, which we did today. Let coach know he can depend on us when the game is on the line."
Aztecs quarterback Ryan Lindley played with a dinged-up finger on his throwing hand, completing 25 of 41 passes for 284 yards. He also threw four interceptions and was sacked three times.
"Air Force did a good job of taking away some of our deeper passes and I tried to force some in there early in the game," Lindley explained. "That's what happens. You learn from it. You move on and you try not to make the same mistakes twice."
In the season opener against Nicholls State, Rembert sat in the portion of the stands known as "Section 8," a bunch of jubilant Air Force cadets.
"It's nice to see stuff from a different point of view," said Rembert, who wears No. 8. "But there's nothing better than a victory in front of all the fans here at Air Force."