Worthman lifts Air Force over San Jose State 41-38
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Quarterback Arion Worthman threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Robinette with 32 seconds left and Air Force beat San Jose State 41-38 in Mountain West Conference play Saturday night.
But questionable clock management by the Spartans made the Falcons’ comeback a bit easier.
San Jose State (3-8, 2-5) had apparently won the game when Jermaine Kelly recovered a fumble by Ronald Cleveland at the SJSU 1 with 1:39 left.
Backed up to their own end zone, the Spartans ran just 12 seconds off the clock on three plays before punting to set up the game-winning strike for the Falcons (8-3, 4-3).
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun defended the Spartans’ decision to throw the ball on second and third downs before being forced to punt.
“They’re trying to make a first down, they’re trying to win the game,” he said. “I admire the aggressiveness. It was good football on their part. Sometimes things that are good football do or don’t work out, but it’s the right approach.”
Spartans coach Ron Caragher called a run on first down, but the Falcons were waiting and stopped it for no gain. Quarterback Kenny Potter was given a run-pass option on second down, but was pressured and had to throw the ball away.
“The way they were selling out for the run, we felt that was our best chance,” Caragher said of the pass plays that allowed Air Force to save its two remaining timeouts. “On third down we knew we needed to get the first down. We went the best (pass) route we could.”
Safety Weston Steelhammer had two interceptions for Air Force, the last one with 16 seconds left, bringing his NCAA-leading active career total to 17. He has six this season.
Potter threw 340 yards and two touchdowns and he ran for three, including a 1-yard sneak for a 38-34 lead with 3:53 left. He has 14 career rushing touchdowns, equaling Jeff Garcia (1991-93) for most by a San Jose State quarterback since 1950.
But the Falcons got the final word, leaving their coach feeling proud.
“Our strongest muscle is the one that’s inside our chest cavity,” Calhoun said. “That’s what we rely upon — the heart and soul and character of our guys.”
Worthman, making just his third start, totaled 215 rushing yards and scored on runs of 4 and 25 yards. He became the first Air Force quarterback to rush for 200 yards since Beau Morgan had 217 against Fresno State in 1996.
The sophomore completed just three passes out of the Falcons’ run-oriented, triple-option attack.
“He’s quite alert and a fast learner,” Calhoun said. “Anytime you have a guy who’s that sharp, just these experiences are immeasurable as he plays down the road.”
Air Force: The Falcons have matched the four-game win streak they also assembled to begin the season and are on their way to playing in a bowl game for the ninth time in 10 seasons under Calhoun.
San Jose State: No relief in a difficult season for the Spartans, who will finish with their fourth straight non-winning campaign under Caragher, who is 18-30, including 12-24 the past three seasons.
Air Force: The Falcons close the regular season at home next Saturday against No. 20 Boise State, which needs a victory over Air Force and a Wyoming loss at New Mexico to win the MWC Mountain Division title.
San Jose State: The Spartans end their season next Saturday on the road against long-time rival Fresno State. The Bulldogs remain winless in seven Mountain West games and dropped to 1-10 overall after a 14-13 home defeat to Hawaii, their ninth consecutive loss.