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Nevada Visits Air Force in a Friday Night Contest

Renewing the quest for a Mountain West title

U.S. Air Force photo / Trevor Co

Air Force will try to get it’s conference championship quest back on track by hosting the Nevada Wolf Pack on Friday night at 6pm MT. The game will be televised on FS1.

This will be only the seventh meeting between the two teams, with the Falcons holding a 4-2 advantage. The series is marked by tight, high scoring matches.

Scouting the Wolf Pack

Nevada is led by what might be the tallest pair of quarterbacks in college football history. Nate Cox and Shane Illingsworth stand 6’ 9” and 6’ 6” inches respectively and are engaged in a competition for the starting position. Cox sat out last week but has been reported to be ready for this week. New head coach Ken Wilson has not yet named a starter for the game. Cox has exhibited much more mobility than Illingsworth, and is the team’s third leading rusher with 81 yards and 2 TDs. Illingsworth transferred to Nevada this year from Oklahoma State.

Nevada’s leading rusher is Toa Taua, who is in his fifth year as the Wolf Pack’s main rusher. Taua is also one of the main targets in the passing game, and has 132 receptions in his career. Devonte Lee is his backup, has been around just as long as Taua, and has been just as productive in both rushing and receiving as Taua.

The leader on the defense is sixth year senior Dom Peterson. He’s off to a hot start this year, already accumulating 5.5 TFLs, 4 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, a blocked kick, and 1 QB hurry.

Falcon Updates

The illness that plagued the Falcons last week has receded, but there are still a few Falcons who are questionable due to injury, namely Zach Larrier, Dane Kinnamon, and Jayden Thiergood. Kinnamon is currently listed on the Falcon depth chart, but Larrier and Thiergood are not.

While Thiergood has been out, Bo Richter has been playing defensive end, and against Wyoming he had a 50 pound disadvantage to his blocker. For this game, Kalawaia Pescaia has been listed at defensive tackle to provide a better matchup. Despite being somewhat smaller than a normal nose guard, Peyton Zdroik has been stout in the middle, enabling Pescaia to move to the tackle position.

I’ll be watching the cornerback positions closely moving forward. Michael Mack played last week, but was still suffering from the flu, requiring two IVs during the game. Eian Castonguay should be back this week, and word is that both Zion Kelley and Corey Collins may return to the team soon.

At tailback, John Lee Eldridge is now listed as the starter, a well deserved promotion. The Falcons are well stocked in the backfield no matter who may have to miss a few games.

Analysis and Prediction

The main objective for the Falcons will be to reestablish the dominance along the offensive line. Half the line required IVs in the Wyoming game, and the requirement will be that they prove the subpar performance was because of that, and not because of some innate problem. There is one change to the line this week, and that is that Adam Karras is listed as the starter at right tackle over Kaleb Holcomb. This may be due to Karras’ mobility, as he also played at tight end last year when needed.

Last week, Offensive Coordinator Mike Thiessen called on the passing game early in the game to counter Wyoming’s control of the line of scrimmage. Although I don’t think Nevada will duplicate the Cowboy’s success on that front, I do think that incorporating an early aerial threat could benefit the Falcons. In particular, Kyle Patterson is a big target with great hands that creates problems for a defense. If nothing else, the Falcons should make Nevada take that threat seriously with some early targets.

After the first two games, there was some talk about the Falcon’s problems with turnovers. Even with Wyoming’s control of the line of scrimmage, that problem was absent in the third game. Penalties were absent as well. Most of the errors in the first two games were a result of “garbage time” and sloppy conditions in the rain. Continuing that trend will help the Falcons win many games in the future.

Air Force is currently a 24 point favorite on Draft King and the over/under is 46 points. Last week, I thought the Falcons would have a relatively easy time beating Wyoming but that the Cowboys would cover the spread, and I was wrong on the win. This week, the game will be played in Falcon Stadium against a team that has never shown a good ability to stop the Falcon rushing attack, and I think the Falcons will again not cover the spread but win, 35-14.