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Air Force Loses Identity in 28-25 Loss to Nevada

A failed red zone opportunity late in the game dooms the Falcons in their comeback attempt, giving Nevada a 28-25 victory.

NCAA Football: Nevada at Air Force Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Ball control, time of possession and lack of penalties. If one had to describe three things that define the Air Force Falcons football program those three thoughts would be at the front of the line. Saturday, the Falcons did not live up to any of those three keys in winning football as they found themselves unable to develop a consistent running game as they fell to 1-3 on the year and 0-2 in Mountain West play with a 28-25 loss to the Nevada Wolf Pack.

Nevada’s ability to take away the middle of the field made it impossible for the Falcons to establish the fullback dive, which is the hallmark of a good triple option attack. The Wolf Pack have a large defensive line, and they took the fullbacks completely out of the game Saturday, which saw Nevada limit Air Force to 154 yards rushing total in 51 attempts. The Falcons had only 24 total yards of offense in the first half. The Falcons were able to attack the edges better in the second half with sweeps and the pitch game, and when backup quarterback Donald Hammond III entered the game to replace an ineffective Arion Worthman in the second half, the passing game became more of a weapon as well. But, in the end it would be some questionable play calling that would seal the victory for Nevada.

Air Force, despite their worst offensive game since the Army game last year, put themselves in a position to win the game late in the fourth quarter. With Hammond moving the team through passes to Marcus Bennett and Jake Matkovich down to the 13 yard line, it appeared as the Falcons would overcome and pull out a late victory. With it being second down, the Falcons decided to call three straight pass plays,even though there was well over a minute left in the game, instead of running the ball and killing some of the clock. Hammond would throw three straight incomplete passes to basically end the game. Nevada would surrender a safety to give themselves more room to kick bringing the final score of 28-25.

It was especially disappointing considering the Falcons had one of their best defensive performances of the season. University of Colorado transfer Ty Gangi did throw four touchdown passes on the Falcons, but the Falcons only points in the first half came on a 99-yard pick six return by Zane Lewis. The Falcons were able to force more punts than the past two games and limited a high flying Nevada offense to 28 points. The offensive performance was even more upsetting considering Nevada surrendered 60 points to Toledo last week.

The Falcons will need to quickly turn the page as it is Navy week coming up for Air Force. The first leg of the Commander-in-Chief trilogy will be played this coming Saturday when the Midshipmen visit Colorado Springs for a 1:30 kickoff on CBS Sports Network.