In nine games last season, Thiessen threw a total of only three TD passes.
"Passing was definitely in our game plan," Thiessen said. "There were
things BYU had never seen before. We put a lot of formations in. They really
didn't know what to expect."
The Falcons (2-0, 1-0 Mountain West) capitalized on three BYU turnovers in
the fourth quarter to hold off the Cougars, who had cut the deficit to 28-23
with 8:31 left.
Air Force finished with more yards passing than rushing. Thiessen completed
11 of 16 passes for 203 yards, while the ground game generated 186 yards.
"I felt we had to throw the ball against this team because they are so big
and strong," Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said. "I felt we had to keep them
Although Air Force trails BYU 17-4 in the series, the Falcons have won three
of the last four meetings.
BYU's Bret Engemann, who threw for 447 yards and two TDs in the Cougars'
38-35 overtime victory over Virginia last week, was held in check by an
aggressive Falcons defense. He completed 18 of 40 passes for 235 yards with one
touchdown and one interception and was sacked five times.
Engemann sprained his right ankle late in the second quarter but continued
"I'm not going to make any excuses," he said. "The ankle hurts, but you
have to play through the pain. I thought it might be broken because I couldn't
stand on it, but as the game progressed it felt stronger.
"We're going to have to execute better, and I'm going to have to make
better reads next week. That's what it's going to take for us to win ball
The Cougars might have lost running back Luke Staley to a knee injury.
Staley, who missed last week's game with a concussion, was to be evaluated
Sunday for possible torn cartilage in his right knee.
BYU (1-2, 0-1) built a 20-14 lead late in the second quarter, but Air Force
fashioned an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive to take a 21-20 halftime lead.
Scott Becker ran for 18 yards and Thiessen hit Fleming for 22. Thiessen then
connected with Fleming, who made a leaping 20-yard scoring reception over
cornerback Dustin Staley with 55 seconds left in the half.
Thiessen passed 25 yards to halfback Brown in the back of the end zone to
put Air Force ahead 28-20 midway through the third period.
BYU marched to the Air Force 23 early in the final quarter, but C.J.
Zanotti's sack of Engemann set the Cougars back, and Owen Pochman kicked a
43-yard field goal.
Moments later, BYU's Brian McDonald fumbled the ball away near midfield. Air
Force appeared to squander the opportunity when it was forced to punt, but Mike
Rigell fumbled the fair catch and Fleming recovered at the 10, setting up Dave
Adams' 35-yard field goal with 2:32 left.
Two plays later, cornerback Kurt Duffy intercepted Engemann's underthrown
pass at the BYU 30.
"They spread you out and give you that play action, and they did a good
job," BYU coach LaVell Edwards said. "They put us back on our heels a little
Thiessen's first TD pass, a 13-yarder to Brown, gave the Falcons a 7-3 lead
in the first period. Barely two minutes later, BYU countered with a score.
Tight end Doug Jolley beat safety Wes Glisson on a 55-yard reception, and Luke
Staley ran 13 yards for a 10-7 lead.
On the second play of the second quarter, Thiessen and Fleming hooked up on
a 53-yard scoring pass.
BYU responded with an 82-yard scoring drive, capped by Engemann's 19-yard
pass to Rigell. Pochman's 40-yard field goal made it 20-14.
With his four TD passes, Thiessen matched the academy record shared by Paul
Stein (1965) and Rich Haynie (1972). Thiessen is only the second quarterback in
AFA's option era to throw more than two TD passes in a game.
At halftime, Air Force honored Edwards, who is retiring after this season.
Edwards, 69, has a 252-97-3 record, the third-most wins and third-best winning
percentage among active coaches. Edwards was presented with a large plaque and
was congratulated and hugged by DeBerry.