It was all tied up in the back-and-forth game.
But it all changed midway through the third quarter, when Liberty senior quarterback Trevor Halverson was sacked hard by the Air Academy defense. He was later taken off the field by ambulance.
It was an unfortunate situation, but the Kadets defense kept on coming up with big play after big play in a 28-14 home nonconference win Friday night.
Air Academy improved to 3-1, while Liberty remained winless at 0-5.
"I thought we played really good defensively," Kadets coach Scott Grinde said. "You gotta stop the run, and we did that."
But arguably, the key moment was the sack on Halverson, who finished 9 for 21 for 110 yards passing. He tried to escape tacklers, but then was blindsided. It was a clean hit, and the game was delayed for about 20 minutes as paramedics treated him.
His status was not immediately known after the game.
"It was a football play," Grinde said. "I feel really bad for the kid. We're never ever trying to hurt guys, but it happened and I pray for him because I hope he's OK. I hate to see that."
His backup fumbled the ball away on a sack late in the third. The Kadets got the ball on Liberty's 24-yard line and turned that opportunity into a score, thanks to a 2-yard march by junior running back Zach Martin to put Air Academy ahead 14-7.
On the next drive, Kadets' Michael Midkiff pulled down an interception that ended in a 22-yard score by Martin, who finished with 113 yards on 26 carries. Air Academy was up 21-7 early in the fourth.
Then, the Lancers ran into more bad luck. Their backup got hurt on a sack and was taken out the game, making way for third-string quarterback Daucin Dvorsky.
But the sophomore didn't back down from the opportunity, as he threw a 12-yard touchdown to Moz Doria to cut the lead to 21-14 with 3:48 left in the game.
However that celebration was cut short after Cole Edmondson ran an interception back 70 yard with seconds remaining.
"We won the fourth quarter," Grinde said.
On their possession of the game, it took the Lancers just eight players to get on the scoreboard first -- capped off by an 8-yard score from Halverson to Matthew Lively for a 7-0 lead with 5:44 left in the first quarter.
The Kadere tied it up with 4:44 left into the second quarter, thanks to junior running back Kyle Pope's 4-yard score. He spun and eluded several defenders on his way to the end zone.
The win capped off an impressive night of homecoming festivals for the Kadets, including a halftime marching band performance, a fireworks show and a show by Air Force's Wings of Blue parachute team just before kickoff.