The Air Force Falcons simply lined up and dared the UNLV Rebels to stop them last Saturday night in Las Vegas.
“We were like, ‘Let’s see if they can stop it,’” Air Force running back Brad Roberts said.
The Rebels never did, as Air Force rushed for 406 yards, led by Roberts’ 144 yards and four touchdowns. It all added up to an easy 42-7 Air Force victory as the Falcons climbed back on top of the Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings.
“We just kept running it,” said Roberts, who had 29 of the Falcons’ eye-opening 76 carries. “It’s awesome when you’re going behind that big ol’ offensive line. It’s pretty fun.”
The No. 6 Rebels also turned the ball over four times and were outgained, 420-179, at Allegiant Stadium. Running back John Eldridge contributed 116 yards and a touchdown for Air Force, which handed the ball off to 11 different players who averaged 5.3 yards a carry.
“Whenever you can beat someone that knows what’s coming, that’s just perfect,” said 6-foot-5, 325-pound Air Force offensive lineman Isaac Cochran. “We’ve always known we have the ability to do that to anyone. But to go out there and show it, it’s really awesome to experience that on the field.”
The state of Nevada has brought out the best in the Falcons this season. In two games against UNLV and the Nevada Wolf Pack, just 22 days apart (both games were after Air Force losses), Air Force has simply obliterated the state of Nevada’s two college football teams.
Air Force outscored the Rebels and Wolf Pack 90-27 combined and had a remarkable edge in first downs (56-20), total yards (961-421), plays (157-73) and time of possession (86:51-33:09). The two games saw Air Force rush for 867 yards and score 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Roberts had 49 carries in the two games for 267 yards and seven touchdowns, while Eldridge had 218 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries.
“We were assertive and we played hard,” said Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun, whose Falcons improved to 5-2, 2-2 and have now been ranked No. 1 for three different weeks (Sept. 12, Oct. 3, and this week) this season.
“Option football, it’s effective,” UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo said of the Air Force offense after the game. “They’re calculated. That’s what they do.”
UNLV, now 4-3, 2-2, has lost its last two games to San Jose State and Air Force by a combined 82-14. UNLV starting quarterback Doug Brumfield, though, suffered a concussion early in the San Jose State game and missed the entire Air Force game.
“We probably got a little bit lucky, to be real,” Calhoun said. “Their quarterback was out.”
UNLV linebacker Austin Ajiake did have 20 tackles, just two short of the Rebels’ school record of 22 by defensive back Quincy Sanders (Reed High graduate) against Air Force in 1999.
UNLV will take on Notre Dame this Saturday in South Bend, Ind.
“I’m just disappointed in the way we took care of the ball,” said Arroyo of the Rebels’ four turnovers.
No. 11 Nevada (2-5, 0-3), which will host No. 7 San Diego State (3-3, 1-1 after being idle last week) on Saturday, lost 31-16 at No. 10 Hawaii (2-5, 1-1). The Wolf Pack has now lost five games in a row and is winless in conference play after three league games for the first time since 2000 (in the Western Athletic Conference).
“We didn’t tackle,” Nevada head coach Ken Wilson said. “It’s the least efficient we’ve been tackling.”
No Mountain West team since the conference began in 1999 has lost its first three league games and gone on to finish first in its division or overall (the league was split into divisions in 2013).
“We’re building a program here,” Wilson said. “And we believe in what we do. We’re not jumping off the ship here.”
Hawaii got three touchdowns from running back Dedrick Parson and rushed for 223 yards on 46 carries against Nevada.
“We wanted to lean on them a little bit and put it downhill in our running backs’ hands,” Hawaii coach Timmy Chang said.
No. 2 Boise State (4-2, 3-0) and No. 4 Wyoming (4-3, 2-1) each had byes last week. Boise State, which has beaten Fresno State and San Diego State by a combined 75-33 in its last two games, will meet No. 1 Air Force on Saturday in a crucial Mountain Division game. Wyoming will host No. 8 Utah State on Saturday, also in the Mountain Division.
No. 3 San Jose State (4-2, 2-1) suffered a 17-10 loss at No. 5 Fresno State on Saturday in front of 41,031 fans. The lone San Jose State touchdown came on a 32-yard pass from Chevan Cordeiro to former Nevada wide receiver Elijah Cooks, who caught seven passes for 140 yards.
“I feel awful,” said San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan, whose Spartans were ranked No. 1 last week. “I let our team down. I let our school down. We didn’t play our best football. It’s disappointing.”
Fresno State’s David Perales had four sacks of Cordeiro and was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week. The Bulldogs’ defense also held San Jose State to just 37 yards rushing on 23 carries. Fresno State, now 2-4, 1-1, snapped a four-game losing streak.
“We were in a funky four weeks,” Perales said. “It means a lot to get back in the win column.”
“That was, really, the hottest team in the conference,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said of San Jose State. “It’s been a long, hard few weeks here. A lot of people gave up on these kids. We heard all the negative talk about things.”
No. 8 Utah State (3-4, 2-1) got by No. 9 Colorado State (1-5, 1-1), 17-13, in front of 35,009 fans at Fort Collins, Colo. Colorado State led 10-7 at halftime on a 26-yard touchdown run by former Nevada running back Avery Morrow.
Colorado State, though, rushed for just 99 yards on 34 carries while Utah State picked up 252 yards on the ground in 49 attempts. Calvin Tyler had 129 yards on 24 carries for Utah State. It was Tyler’s third consecutive 100-yard game this year, fourth of the season and 18th of his career.
Utah State finished the game with freshman Bishop Davenport at quarterback after injuries to Cooper Legas (concussion) and Levi Williams (ankle).
“Wow, that’s definitely not the way we scripted it,” Utah State coach Blake Anderson said.
Former Nevada defensive end Daniel Grzesiak had three sacks for Utah State and also forced a fumble.
“We’re just a team that doesn’t have a margin for error,” said Colorado State head coach Jay Norvell, who started freshman Giles Pooler at quarterback. Pooler was 11-of-32 for 144 yards and an interception.
“This was certainly a game we could have won,” Norvell said.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West football rankings for the week of Oct. 17:
1. AIR FORCE (5-2, 2-2). Last week: Air Force 42, UNLV 7. This week: Boise State at Air Force, Saturday.
2. BOISE STATE (4-2, 3-0). Last week: Idle. This week: Boise State at Air Force, Saturday.
3. SAN JOSE STATE (4-2, 2-1). Last week: Fresno State 17, San Jose State 10. This week: San Jose State at New Mexico State, Saturday.
4. WYOMING (4-3, 2-1). Last week: Idle. This week: Utah State at Wyoming, Saturday.
5. FRESNO STATE (2-4, 1-1). Last week: Fresno State 17, San Jose State 10. This week: Fresno State at New Mexico, Saturday.
6. UNLV (4-3, 2-2). Last week: Air Force 42, UNLV 7. This week: UNLV at Notre Dame, Saturday.
7. SAN DIEGO STATE (3-3, 1-1). Last week: Idle. This week: San Diego State at Nevada, Saturday.
8. UTAH STATE (3-4, 2-1). Last week: Utah State 17, Colorado State 13. This week: Utah State at Wyoming, Saturday.
9. COLORADO STATE (1-5, 1-1). Last week: Utah State 17, Colorado State 13. This week: Hawaii at Colorado State, Saturday.
10. HAWAII (2-5, 1-1). Last week: Hawaii 31, Nevada 16. This week: Hawaii at Colorado State, Saturday.
11. NEVADA (2-5, 0-3). Last week: Hawaii 31, Nevada 16. This week: San Diego State at Nevada, Saturday.
12. NEW MEXICO (2-5, 0-3). Last week: New Mexico State 21, New Mexico 9. This week: San Jose State at New Mexico, Saturday.