Air Force has had quite a few games in the past month that have felt like a tale of two halves. Usually, it was the Falcons having to make up ground and mount a late comeback. This week, however, Air Force had to fight tooth and nail to hold its edge over Nevada. While they weren’t able to seal the deal by the end of the fourth quarter, Coach Calhoun’s squad kept its grit through three overtime periods to emerge victoriously.
If you only watched the first half, you might have expected Haaziq Daniels and the gang to roll for an easy win. Despite going down by a field goal with 6:59 left in the first quarter, the Falcons responded with a pair of second-quarter touchdowns to jump back ahead.
First, Ben Jefferson found paydirt on a four-yard scamper to cap off a 19-play, 10-minute drive. Then, DeAndre Hughes rushed for a 10-yard touchdown of his own to end a much quicker 66-yard drive. Linebacker Bo Richter picked off the Wolf Pack’s quarterback, Carson Strong, in between the two touchdown drives for the Falcons’ only takeaway of the night. Matthew Dapore drilled a 49-yard field goal attempt as time expired to send Air Force into the locker room up 17-3.
Nevada turned its first possession of the second half into a touchdown on the back of a Carson Strong pass to Cole Turner. This cut the lead to 17-10 before Air Force responded with a 9-play drive resulting in another DeAndre Hughes touchdown run for a 24-10 edge.
From there, a poorly timed Haaziq Daniels fumble turned into a 1-play, 61-yard touchdown pass from Carson Strong to Romeo Doubs, and the Falcons couldn’t find a way to respond. The Wolf Pack took advantage of the sputtering Air Force offense, tying the game with just 3:13 left to play. Strong hit his favorite target, Cole Turner, once again for a 2-yard touchdown catch.
Once overtime started, both offenses just seemed to explode. Air Force took just five plays for Dane Kinamon to punch in a 2-yard score, then Nevada matched the feat in three plays with a Toa Taua touchdown run.
Heading into the second overtime, the Wolf Pack needed just three more plays — including a false start penalty — to get Romeo Doubs into the endzone for another score. Nevada made the two-point try with the Strong to Turner connection to go up 39-31. Daniels and the gang didn’t blink, rushing five times in a row to set up Brad Roberts for the short score. DeAndre Hughes ran the two-point try to send the Friday night contest into triple overtime.
Triple OT is where it would end, as Haaziq Daniels converted the two-point try which Nevada was unable to match.
All told, the Falcons finished with 499 yards on the night — 23 through the air and a whopping 476 on the ground. They also held the Wolf Pack to 18 rushing yards on 27 attempts. Nevada quarterback Carson Strong torched Air Force through the air with 27 completions for 351 yards.
Another week, another record
This Falcons team hasn’t been shy about finding the record book. Haaziq Daniels owns the longest touchdown pass and touchdown rush in program history, and now DeAndre Hughes has his name in the books, too. The wide receiver* rushed for an unreal 279 yards, the most for a single game in Air Force history. Despite Brad Roberts’ excellent rushing season, Hughes showed out as the hot hand on Friday night.
*Hughes is listed as a wide receiver, but let’s be real here.
A road to the Mountain West title
You may not have realized it, but Air Force still has a path to the Mountain West crown. It’s tied atop the division with Boise State and Utah State, but the Falcons need a little help. They hold the tiebreaker over Boise State, which holds the edge over Utah State, which in turn holds the edge over Air Force.
All the Falcons can do to control their own destiny is defeat lowly UNLV next weekend. They need New Mexico to pull off a shocker over the Aggies and the Broncos need to fall to San Diego State. One of those things sounds likelier than the other, but who knows — this is college football, after all.
Air Force will complete its regular season campaign against UNLV on Black Friday. The Rebels enter the contest at just 2-9 with recent wins over Hawaii and New Mexico. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.