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Air Force vs. Nevada: Keys to Win for Air Force

Air Force looks to rebound after their defeat to Utah State when they host Nevada in the Falcons Mountain West home opener.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Florida Atlantic Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 2:00 p.m.


Match-up History: Air Force leads 3-1

Current Records: Air Force 1-2 (0-1 MWC); Nevada 2-2 (0-0 MWC)

Last Meeting:Last year - Oct. 20th - Air Force 45 Nevada 42 in Reno

The Air Force Falcons are looking to rebound from a disappointing 42-32 loss last weekend versus Utah State when they host the Nevada Wolf Pack in Mountain West Conference action Saturday afternoon. The Falcons have some key components to clean up on both offense and defense if they are going to capture their first conference win in 2018.

Offensively, the Falcons are going to have to figure out a way to bring the big play back into their offense. The Utah State defense last week put nine defenders in the box at times to stop the Air Force running attack, which is currently the sixth best attack in college football. Last week’s starting quarterback Isaiah Sanders had a respectable 125 yards passing on nine completions, but the big play that would soften up the defense and get the safeties out of the box never happened.

The Falcons have legitimate receivers in Marcus Bennett, Ronald Cleveland and Geraud Sanders, but if neither quarterback Sanders or backup Arion Worthman, who played in the second half last week when Sanders was hurt, can push the ball down the field they will allow Nevada to plug many of the holes and lanes that Air Force tries to develop. The Falcons pitch option in the triple option has also been taken away by the lack of a down field threat, and the Falcons unveiled a speedy tailback last week in sophomore Kadin Remsberg who could bring the big play back into the offense from a running standpoint if the cornerbacks and safeties are forced to respect the play action passing game.

Defensively, Air Force has gotten back to stopping the run like they have in the past, but the pass defense has suffered greatly with the last two Air Force opponents absolutely shredding the Falcons in the air. Air Force is currently the third best team in the nation holding opponents to 72.3 yards per game on the ground. The Falcons are crowding the line of scrimmage and forcing teams to beat them in the air. It was a formula that worked very well for Air Force during their successful stretch from 2014 to 2017. This year however, the Falcons are really struggling to limit big plays in the passing game.

To go along with that, the Falcons are not forcing turnovers. The Falcons have created one more turnover than they have given away, which has not been a great formula for Air Force in its history. Over the past five years, when the Falcons force two or more turnovers they are 16-2. While this is a formula most teams thrive in, it is the Falcons and their usually undersized team that must benefit from creating turnovers to be successful. If the Falcons can create turnovers, they can really bleed the clock with their time of possession driven offense keeping opposing offenses on the bench. When the Falcons don’t turn teams over, they find themselves in shootouts far too often.

The Falcons will be motivated to be at home, where they have a record of 51-18 during the 12 year reign of Head Coach Troy Calhoun. Calhoun can also become the second coach in Mountain West history to reach 50 conference wins with his next Mountain West victory. He would join San Diego State head coach Rocky Long for that prestigious achievement. With the comforts of home and the ability to finally create some big plays versus a suspect Nevada defense, look for the Falcons to win another classic shootout these two teams have been a part of in their history. The Air Force defense will finally create some turnovers and the Falcons will come away with a 42-35 victory this Saturday.