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Air Force needed a late comeback to defeat Arizona State 36-34 in the dessert on Saturday. The Zoomies scored 12 points in the final ten minutes to cap off a stellar second half comeback.
The game was very even for the first 20 minutes with the score sitting at 10-10. For the remainder of the first half, however, Arizona State took over the game. The Sun Devils scored three unanswered tries to take a 31-10 halftime lead.
Air force had been practicing in frigid temperatures all week so a trip to Arizona was a welcome reprieve. However, it was the team’s first game of the spring and the Zoomies needed to work out some kinks. Combined with playing against a team that has had several run outs already this season, Air Force ran into some struggles in the first half.
“This was our first match coming out of 20 degree weather. The ASU guys really put up a fierce fight. They put up a great rucking game against us. They took advantage of several opportunities that were handed to them and exploited them for points. So Kudos to them for taking advantage of that early in the game,” said Air Force coach Denny Merideth.
The second half went more to plan for Air Force as they held Arizona State team to just three points. Nevertheless, the Zoomies trailed 34-24 with under ten minutes to play. Larri Dextino commanded the offense from his flyhalf position, particularly in the final minutes to lead the comeback. The Zoomies managed two tries late and it was the boot of newly minted kicker Eliot Higgins that put Air Force over the top.
“We had just a few minutes left and were down by 10 points. The guys just kept up the pressure defensively and offensively. It was just a wonderful game to watch,” Merideth added.
For Air Force, this game was a nice tune up before they host St. Mary’s next weekend. The Gaels hammered Arizona State a few weeks ago so it will sure be a tough test.
“The guys really maintained their composure under pressure Saturday,” added Merideth. It was exactly the match that we needed to come out of winter break. We are excited at showing St. Mary's that Colorado is a good place to come play rugby but also give them as good a match as they have had all year.”