AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Safety Aaron Kirchoff returned a fumble 96 yards for a game-changing touchdown, and Air Force overcame three early turnovers to beat New Mexico 23-10 Thursday.
The Falcons (6-2, 4-1 Mountain West Conference) are bowl eligible for the second straight season under coach Troy Calhoun, 15-6 at the academy.
The Lobos (4-5, 2-3) forced three first-quarter turnovers and were about to take a 17-0 lead when Kirchoff scooped up quarterback Brad Gruner’s fumble at the Falcons 4. He sped down the Lobos’ sideline for a touchdown, cutting New Mexico’s lead to 10-7.
“It bounced perfectly into my hands, and when I looked back up, there was no one to be found, just a lot of green, and that’s exactly what you want to see when you’re returning the football,” Kirchoff said.
“If they had scored, that would have been a hard hill to carry our team up, and maybe that final score is a little different — 17-0 and 10-7 is night and day. And the momentum changed. Our sideline was going nuts, and theirs was solemn.”
The Falcons took the lead for good early in the third quarter following Glover Quin’s fumbled kickoff.AIR FORCE — 23 NEW MEXICO — 10
KEY: Safety Aaron Kirchoff returned a fumble 96 yards for a touchdown for the Falcons, who also scored a TD after recovering a fumbled kickoff by the Lobos.