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Air Force uses strong second half to overcome UNLV

As was rumored, Air Force did play UNLV on Thursday night. The surprising thing was not the final score, that ended up pretty much where it was supposed to, 35-20. What was really interesting was how amazing UNLV played in the first half. UNLV jumped out to what was at one point a 17-7 lead on the Falcons and had a ton of momentum heading into halftime. Then UNLV did what UNLV does, blow it.

UNLV started the game absolutely horribly... They elected to receive the ball after winning the coin toss and then Omar Clayton's first pass was interception that got Air Force all the way down to the UNLV 8. Three plays later the Falcons were in the endzone and it seemed like the rout was on. But this UNLV team decided to not give up. Coach Hauck had this team playing the way he wanted them to - with pride.

UNLV then went 62 yards in 11 plays and 4:30 to score a surprising touchdown and tie things up at 7. Air Force was looking to score on their next possession until Nathan Walker fumbled the ball at the UNLV 2 and the Rebels were able to hold Air Force to no points on a 6 play, 58 yard drive. This next thing is absolutely astounding, UNLV actually was able to sustain a drive that lasted 12 minutes and 21 plays.

The Rebels put together their most impressive drive of the season, even though it ended in a 32 yard field goal by Nolan Kohorst, by converting third down after third down. Five straight 3rd down conversions led to an amazingly long drive, although it could have gone longer had Michael Johnson not dropped a pass in the endzone on 3rd and 7 from the AFA 15.

Air Force then had a bit of trouble, running 7 plays but only getting 17 yards and having to punt the ball away to a UNLV squad with a ton of momentum. Michael Johnson fair caught the ball at his own 16 and the Rebels were determined to get a touchdown this time down the field. The Rebels did exactly that, scoring in less than two minutes mainly due to a 11 yard pass to Michael Johnson, a 22 yard pass to Trey Mays, and a 36 yard TD pass to Phillip Payne.

At this point I was thinking "Is this really happening? Are the Rebels going to beat a good team this season?" Then all my dreams came crashing down... Air Force ran a surprisingly quick 12 play, 90 yard TD Drive that still left 1:41 on the clock for UNLV to work with. Of course the Rebels made the least of it, going 13 yards in 5 plays and ending up punting the ball so that Air Force could run out the clock with only 10 seconds remaining. And just like that, UNLV had a lead on a good football team in the 2010 season.

Second half begins and the kick returner for Air Force gets DEMOLISHED, I mean leveled. Anyway, on 3rd and 7 it looked as if Tim Jefferson was going to get the first down until B.J. Bell popped the ball lose and Alex De Giacomo recovered it. UNLV got the ball at the AFA 21 and it looked like the Rebels could push their lead to more than just a field goal. But most of you forget, we're talking about UNLV... UNLV ended up in a 4th and 3 situation at the AFA 14 and Tim Cornett came up just short of the 1st down marker. The Rebels squander yet another big opportunity.

So Air Force gets the ball back in essentially the same place they started and AFA literally ran away from UNLV. On the very next play, Mikel Hunter ran for 30 yards and two plays later Jonathan Warzeka went 54 yards for a TD. The defense that had looked good for most of the game now looked like well, the UNLV defense we've all come to know. A three and out by UNLV gives the ball right back to the Falcons and it looks like the Rebels are going back into the same pattern we've seen all season long: Give up a touchdown and give the ball right back to that offense three plays later.

Air Force ran a quick 11 play, 67 yard drive that lasted 3:39 for a TD and the lead was now 28-17, this was what we all expected from Air Force. But UNLV didn't give up, they came right back and had their own 8 play drive that led the Rebels into yet another 4th and 3 from the 15 situation. The Rebels decided to kick the field goal on this one and put the lead back within a score.

Air Force then led one of those grind it out drives at the end of the game where you grind out the clock on your way to the endzone. Air Force scored another TD on a 15 play drive that lasted 6:43 that put the game practically out of reach with only 9:33 remaining in the game. The Rebels made a valiant effort to stay in the game, a drive that lasted 10 plays and ended in an incomplete pass on 4th and 14 thrown by... Mike Clausen? I'm not sure if the stat sheet was wrong on that one, because last time I checked Clausen had moved to safety. Either way, Air Force decided to run the clock out for the remainder of the game and UNLV had squandered one of the few good halves they'd had all season.


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