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Air Force-Nevada Preview: High Scoring Affair A Good Bet

Nevada and Air Force will meet for the third time in as many years as conference opponents, and fans should be entertained as the teams have produced high scoring exciting games in their first two match-ups.

Ethan Miller

Game Time/TV - 12:00 p.m. on ROOT Sports

Series Record - Tied 1-1

Last Meeting - Nevada 45 Air Force 42

Last Week - Air Force 48 UNLV 21, Nevada bye

Its a series that is low on history but high on scoring and action. The Nevada Wolf Pack and the Air Force Falcons are meeting for only the third time Saturday afternoon in Colorado Springs, but fans should expect a highly competitive, offensive battle when these teams meet for the third year in a row.

The Wolf Pack, currently tied for first place in the West Division with San Diego State, defeated the Falcons last season after trailing midway through the fourth quarter by 12 points.The star of that game, senior quarterback Cody Fajardo, will be anxious to go against the Falcons defense after dismantling the Falcons for 389 passing yards with three touchdowns and 81 yards rushing in last year's match-up. The Falcons and Head Coach Troy Calhoun are looking for an offensive effort like they got in 2012 when they rolled up over 600 yards of offense to defeat Nevada 48-31. The Falcons and Wolf Pack have several keys to help them gain victory in the 2014 contest.

Third Down Conversions

Nevada dominated the Falcons last year in third down conversions. The Wolf Pack converted 12-of-18 third down plays into first downs and if it got to fourth down, the Pack completed two of those in three attempts. Nevada would end the game with 35 first downs, an absolutely amazing stat that included no first downs being aided by a penalty. The Falcons could not get Nevada off the field when it mattered and overexposed a shaky Air Force defense that would give up 21 point to Nevada in the fourth quarter. Third down has been a point of emphasis for the Falcons and defensive coordinator Steve Russ this year, and the results have been positive in that regard. The Falcons are first in the conference and 20th in the nation in third down defense, only allowing a 33.6% conversion rate. If the Falcons can limit the opportunities Nevada has with the ball to half of what the Wolf Pack did in 2013, the Falcons have a great chance to capture victory on Saturday.

Cody Fajardo

Fajardo will be the best player on the field Saturday for either team, and both teams are surely building game plans around the senior quarterback. Fajardo has had a productive season, throwing for 1,927 yards with 12 touchdowns and rushing for another 589 and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He is coming off a less than stellar game on November 1st against San Diego State, but his team still won 30-14 which highlights the overall improvement of the Wolf Pack. For Air Force, it will be important to pressure Fajardo, but not give him running lanes to escape out of the pocket. Fajardo and former Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick are the only quarterbacks to throw for over 9,000 yards and rush for over 3,000 yards. Limiting the damage Fajardo does to them Saturday is an important element to raising the Falcons record to 8-2 and keeping them in the hunt for one of the top Mountain West bowl invites.

Spread the Wealth

The Falcons offense has developed into a balanced attack that has a number of ways to move the ball and score. Nevada has an improved defense that is only giving up 151.8 yards on the ground but is vulnerable against the pass, allowing 293 yards per game through the air. The Falcons will look to establish Jalen Robinette and Garrett Griffin off the play action passing game. Griffin has provided a balance to the passing game recently as he has been a more active target since junior wide receiver Garrett Brown has been injured and missed time. The passing game along with the Falcons establishing a number one tailback in Jacobi Owens (988 yards, 5 touchdowns) has helped the Falcons roll out 433.9 yards per game of offense. The offense under the leadership of senior quarterback Kale Pearson will need to match the Wolf Pack production offensively and keep the ball away from Fajardo.

Notes

  • The Falcons last three games are all against first place teams.....Nevada and San Diego State are tied atop the West Division and the CSU Rams are in first place in the Mountain with one more game played than Boise State.
  • When Air Force scores 40 or more points under Calhoun, they are 18-2.
  • In their four home games this season, the Falcons have trailed for a total of nine minutes and 57 seconds.....all against New Mexico.
  • Senior LB Jordan Pierce has recorded a tackle-for-loss in eight straight games.