Ronnie Hillman appeared to be stopped for a short gain.

Once again, appearances were deceiving.

The San Diego State running back snuck through a hole in the offensive line and appeared to be stymied by the Air Force defense, but instead kept his feet -- and his balance -- churning forward and turning a short play into a game-changing burst.

Hillman sprinted 57 yards, putting a tidy bow on the Aztecs' Mountain West road win two weeks ago.

"It looks like the guy's tackled and all of the sudden, he scored a touchdown," Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. "He's very shifty, difficult to tackle -- you've got to do a great job wrapping him up -- and he's explosive if he gets in the open field."

It's hard not to take notice of what Hillman, a sophomore, has done this season.

After rushing for more than 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns as a rookie last year, Hillman leads the nation with nearly 139 yards per game this season and has added 10 more touchdowns.

"Every running back has a little bit different style, and Ronnie's style is to come in there, look for a seam, jump sideways and try to get into the seam and outrun people," San Diego State coach Rocky Long said. "Like all good running backs, he's got vision; he's got quickness and speed. Sometimes, he looks for a hole or looks for a seam too long.

"But I think he's an outstanding running back. I think he's one of the top two or three in this league."

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun agrees.

The Falcons have faced the likes of Hillman, Boise State's Doug Martin and TCU's stable of backs already this year. Hillman's 172 yards were a season high by an opposing back against the Falcons, who have also faced Navy.

"Tremendous quickness," Calhoun said when asked what makes Hillman so good. "He's added some weight.

"Just incredible quickness, acceleration and top-end speed. So there are times you think you're really, really close to him, about to grab him and tackle him, and he's just one of those guys you never see take a direct shot."

On Saturday, Hillman will take his shot against a Wyoming team that ranks 100th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams against the run.

Contact sports reporter Eric Schmoldt at eric.schmoldt@trib.com. ​Follow him on Twitter @ericschmoldt. Check out his blog at trib.com/cowboys

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